Montgomery Co. Public Election Fund Successfully Encourages and Empowers Small Donors

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

New Report Analyzing Fundraising Data Released After the First Reporting Deadline for Candidates in the 2018 County Elections

Maryland PIRG Foundation and Common Cause Maryland

Early signs indicate that the Montgomery County Public Election Fund is working as intended. In a report released today by Maryland PIRG Foundation, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Common Cause Maryland and Frontier Group, the data revealed that the small donor matching program is shifting fundraising practices in the county- moving candidates towards fundraising from average people and away from mega donors.

“It’s fantastic to see that the Public Elections Fund is working! Candidates are able to run without relying big money donors and corporations. The majority of the candidates are using the system and their fundraising is coming from thousands and thousands of local, small donors.” – Joe Ready, Democracy Program Director, Maryland PIRG

The report analyzes fundraising data from the first campaign finance reporting deadline for candidates in the 2018 county elections. It looks at early data from 57 candidates for county office, 37 of which have announced their intentions to seek matching funds and 9 of which have already qualified and received matching funds. 

“We’re extremely excited to see that this preliminary fundraising data matches up with our expectations for the program,” said Common Cause Acting Director Damon Effingham. “Veteran and first-time candidates from diverse background are running competitive campaigns based on the power of their ideas and community support, as opposed to the size of their bank accounts.” – Damon Effinghamm Acting Director, Common Cause Maryland


  • Candidates who participated in the matching program and have received money from the matching fund received 92 percent more contributions from individuals on average than non-participating candidates (611 vs. 319).
  • Candidates in the matching program raised 58 percent more of their contributions from small donors (99.5 percent vs. 63 percent).
  • Small donations accounted for 94 percent of total fundraising dollars raised by candidates receiving matching funds, versus only 8 percent for those not participating in the program. 

Report Methodology

Data on candidates’ donations were obtained from the Maryland Campaign Reporting Information System. Candidate committees were separated into three categories: candidates using the matching system, candidates who intend to use the matching system but have not yet received matching funds, and candidates who are not using the matching system.  A number of calculations were performed and repeated across the following categories within the three types of candidate committees: all candidates in the category, candidates running for county executive, candidates running for county council at large, all candidates running for district seats, candidates running in each district, candidates who are incumbents and candidates who are not incumbents. For more details, see report. 

For More Information

Find data analysis report, Fair Elections in Montgomery County: Matching Program for Small Contributions Delivers Promising Results, 

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Maryland PIRG Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being. 

Common Cause Maryland is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that works in the public interest, and empowering ordinary citizens to make their voices heard. Founded in 1974, Common Cause Maryland is one of the state’s most effective watchdog groups and has been a strong force for reform at the state and local levels. 

Frontier Group provides information and ideas to help citizens build a cleaner, healthier and more democratic America. We address issues that will define our nation’s course in the 21st century – from fracking to solar energy, global warming to transportation, clean water to clean elections. Our experts and writers deliver timely research and analysis that is accessible to the public, applying insights gleaned from a variety of disciplines to arrive at new ideas for solving pressing problems.