Fighting for Equity Through Campaign Finance Reform

November 7, 2018

Common Cause Illinois has an innovative, pragmatic and comprehensive pro-democracy agenda. It leads and defines the democracy reform movement, promoting solutions already succeeding in some communities to shift power to the people. Voqal’s support enabled Common Cause Illinois to build a movement around campaign finance reform that is heavily grounded in equity.

Early in 2018, Common Cause launched a campaign around Money in Politics in Evanston, a progressive suburb of approximately 75,000 people just to the north of Chicago. Many traditional partners in the area were motivated by Common Cause’s small donor matching bills, and urged Common Cause to focus on lobbying the city council and the mayor. However, as Common Cause began knocking on doors, it became clear that the Evanston government wasn’t working for everyone. It further understood that simply expanding the floor for the donor class wouldn’t make much of a difference for the black and brown residents of the city’s Fifth Ward, who had no interest in donating their hard-earned money to politicians that didn’t care about their needs.

In response to this reality, Common Cause launched its Equitable Evanston campaign in partnership with the Evanston Collective, a coalition that supports and empowers black families and ideas. The thrust of this campaign was two-fold. First, it focused on appointed boards – the layer of local government that had the greatest impact on their daily lives. Second, it positioned campaign finance reform measures as a means of improving equity. The campaign also shifted its policy focus from small donor programs to voucher programs that empower all of the city’s residents.

As a result of this campaign, the City of Evanston created an equity commission to assemble and produce historical diversity data on appointments. The mayor also publicly committed to greater transparency and inclusivity.

Common Cause Illinois’ work to advance meaningful public policy like campaign finance reform, is vital to creating a more engaged public. Voqal is proud to support this effort and looks forward to Common Cause’s continued work to create a more equitable democracy in Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois.