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The Damaging Influence of Outside Money on Local Elections

The increasing influence of outside spending on municipal elections is creating imbalances in leadership. Cities have powerful models to fix that.
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REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

In the current contentious U.S. political climate, concern about the influence of wealthy campaign donors on elections is growing. This is also very much an issue in local elections, which appear to be increasingly influenced by outside money. 

As new research from the Brennan Center for Justice reveals, that influence is particularly troublesome for populations that have historically been discriminated against. People from these populations become discouraged from running for local offices because they feel they can’t match the resources of wealthy candidates and their campaign donors, who tend to be white men. This is the finding explained in the research brief “A Civil Rights Perspective on Money in Politics,” from the Brennan Center. The report also shows that issues prioritized by minority communities often go unaddressed because even local elections end up serving the interests of wealthy donors. From the brief: