CHICAGO (CBS) — A consumer watchdog group was warning that voices of small donors have been swamped under a tide of big money washing over the mayor’s race in Chicago.

Illinois Public Interest Research Group director Abe Scarr said campaign finance records show contributions of more than $1,000 account for more than 86 percent of all money flowing to the five mayoral campaigns, while less than 2 percent of the dollars came from small contributions of less than $150.

He said the trend can and has been changed elsewhere – including New York City and Montgomery County in Maryland – through small donor empowerment programs.

“Provide a number of incentives for people to give small amounts of money, like a tax break for giving a $25 contribution,” Scarr said.

He asserted officials elected with financial support from many small donors, rather than a few large donors, likely will be more responsive to the needs of all citizens.

Scarr said empowering small donors would encourage candidates to pay more attention to the needs of all voters, not just people with big checkbooks.

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