Long-shot Republican presidential candidates are providing sweepstakes offers and cash kickbacks to donors as they race to demonstrate broad enough support to qualify for the party’s first debate on Aug. 23.

Evanston’s City Council is scheduled to vote Aug. 28 on a public financing scheme for mayoral elections that would give candidates here a powerful incentive to engage in similar practices — a nine-to-one match of public funds for every dollar they raise from small-dollar contributors.

The Council’s Rules Committee voted 6-1 on July 17 to recommend that the Council approve the ordinance, which would cost Evanston taxpayers more than $100,000 a year.

National news sites report North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is offering $20 gift cards to anyone who donates $1 to his campaign. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is giving supporters 10% of whatever they raise for his campaign. And Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is running a sweepstakes for anybody who donates $1 to win a free year of college tuition among several promotional schemes.

The GOP candidates have to have 40,000 donors — including at least 200 donors each in at least 20 states or territories — to qualify for the debate.

Under the Evanston scheme, candidates would have to collect at least 100 initial contributions of between $5 and $50 to qualify for the taxpayer match and would have to limit all contributions accepted during the campaign to no more than $150 per person or other entity.

Evanston Now emailed Mayor Daniel Biss and Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th), the two main backers of the public funding proposal, on Monday to ask whether they believe Evanston’s proposed ordinance should be amended to ban fundraising payoffs and kickbacks.

Neither of them has responded.

But Alisa Kaplan, the Evanstonian who heads Reform for Illinois, the non-profit pushing the public financing scheme for Evanston, told us her group has not seen “these types of problems in any other jurisdiction with a similar public financing program.”

She said she sees no need to amend the 18-page ordinance to include a kickback ban.

Given the city ordinance’s nine-to-one matching model, candidates could promise to, say, double a donor’s money and still come out way ahead in net campaign cash.

That math works a whole lot better for the candidates than what the GOP candidates are faced with, since they’re not getting a taxpayer match.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Watching Biss in action makes me sssssoooo glad he didn’t become governor so he could drive the whole state into the gutter like he is Evanston.

    1. Yeah. Well he’s not done trying yet. And with what Biss is doing as mayor in Evanston – it is certainly clear that it’s for the benefit of his political ambitions and not for the best interests of Evanston citizens.

      Nieuwsma is the same, imitating Biss’ playbook

  2. “She said she sees no need to amend the 18-page ordinance to include a kickback ban.” I can see no better reason to add the kickback ban than this statement of a key proponent.

  3. Great thoughts. Made me change my opinion and support this fine campaign funding proposal.
    If this passes I think I’ll run for mayor and give each donor $5 for each dollar they contribute to the campaign as long as they return 2 of the 5 to me personally. $10,000 of donations would net me $20,000 (probably tax free) and would leave $50,000 in my campaign chest which I will spend for poorly publicized political dinners at fine restaurants. Some might even be in Evanston if any remain after the parking fees, dog friendly restrictions and liquor fees. If I win the office, though, I probably would resign as I have no great desire to sit with councilmembers I consider intellectually weak in a mayoral position without any real power. Any money left in my campaign fund would go for similar political dinners, sporting event attendance (so I can be seen hob-knobbing with the people) and, if there is enough money, a new car so I can cruise by Evanston voters in hopes of getting their future votes. What a great proposal.

  4. Bet this would cost a lot more than $100,000 Evanston doesn’t have in its coffers to spend. What’s to keep any qualified by age & citizenship with “broad enough” support from running? Not much. Hey, if I were dishonest even *I* could run since it wouldn’t be difficult to get the initial $100 contributions! Sounds like a real money-maker for those who qualify even if they know they have no chance of winning.

    It passed the rules committee 6-1. Bill Smith, can you provide the figures as to who voted for this idea/scheme besides Biss & Geracaris ?

    1. Reid, who favors a different, Seattle-style “Democracy Vouchers” public financing model, cast the only vote against the proposal.
      Burns, Revelle and Suffredin were absent from the meeting. So Biss, Geracaris, Harris, Kelly, Nieuwsma and Wynne voted for it. Nieuwsma did note several reservations he had about the plan and tried to postpone the vote.
      — Bill

  5. Before there was an Evanston, P. T. Barnum’s view was that there is a sucker born every minute. Today, we Evanstonians are viewed by the alders as suckers. Why is tax money needed to fund aldermanic campaigns? Are the alders’ wimps, afraid to ask for support and raise all of their own campaign funds? I paid for my successful campaign with donor support and personal funds. And we used tax money for important projects, building a new library and the relief sewer system.

  6. How about taking that money (which can always be spent on other things) and spend it instead on a more worthy civic cause that falls under the government’s purview like providing additional funding resources to conduct academic interventions for academically underperforming grade school youth who are financially underprivileged? Wouldn’t that be more Progressive as well as a more worthy way to spend taxpayers’ money than paying people to run for public office?

  7. This is just such great news! Surely it means that Evanston is awash in money and can, at long last, easily and fully pay for all the affordable housing that is needed and all the reparations that are deserved, while still being able to replenish the staffs of first responders and maybe even ensuring that everyone’s sidewalk is shoveled this winter.

    On the other hand, why is Evanston even considering taking a penny of taxes paid and giving it to politicians, especially those not supported by the taxpayer? While this is touted as a reform, is there any evidence that this subsidy is necessary to encourage more candidates to run for office or will improve the quality of those who do? Or is this another solution in search of a problem? And is taking taxpayer property to subsidize someone else’s speech is legally permissible? Other public financing schemes seem to be based on a dedicated fee or require permission indicated by the taxpayer. The Supreme Court’s latest decisions on the impropriety of unions using certain funds for political activities suggests this effort, though different, is at least questionable.

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