MapLight Releases New Analysis: “Campaign Cash: The Outsized Role of Money in Oakland Elections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, March 2, 2022
CONTACT: Irene Rojas-Carroll, [email protected]

OAKLAND, CA – High-dollar donors and special-interest groups continue to play a major role in funding candidates in Oakland’s local elections, with just half of the donations coming from city residents and those in-city contributions coming mainly from wealthier, whiter neighborhoods, according to a new analysis unveiled today on a online panel discussion with democracy advocates.

President and Co-founder of MapLight Dan Newman joined Oakland Rising Executive Director liz suk and Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda during today’s virtual conversation to underscore the need for ‘democracy dollars’ and other solutions for effective local government in Oakland.

“Every Oaklander deserves effective local government, with elected officials accountable to us for the decisions that affect our lives,” said suk. “But this new analysis shows that the endless need to fundraise is a barrier to getting into office and getting things done in Oakland. We need to enable local officials to make real connections with constituents and do the work we elect them to do: make Oaklanders’ lives better. The people of Seattle did it, with an innovative ‘democracy dollars’ program that empowers voters of all backgrounds to move money to candidates they like, and candidates to work hard for their constituents rather than spending time pandering to big money. Now it’s our turn to show the rest of the country real local democracy that reflects our diversity and our values.”

“Money in politics influences who runs for office, who they talk to, who wins, and what policies get enacted – at every level of government,” said Newman. “Our research found that more than forty percent of fundraising in Oakland city races in 2020 came from high-dollar donors giving $500 or more, and campaign contributions came disproportionately from Oakland’s richest and whitest neighborhoods. That leads to policies that benefit the wealthy and well-connected, rather than the majority of Oaklanders that are simply trying to get by, take care of their families, and feel safe in their communities.”

“Based on my experience in Seattle, where I ran for office and won using a new program that expanded the number of people who could donate to local campaigns, I can say definitively that we have the power to fix the fundraising problem in local elections,” said Mosqueda. “We did it in Seattle, and the people of Oakland can do so too. It’s a win-win: with ‘democracy dollars,’ Oakland can boost the power of small donors and allow community-supported candidates to run competitive campaigns without having to cater to wealthy donors and special interests.”

To learn more about ‘democracy dollars’ and other solutions for effective local government in Oakland, visit

Fair Elections Oakland includes Oakland Rising; the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus; Bay Rising; CA Common Cause; League of Women Voters Oakland; and MapLight.