A public financing option for candidates
This initiative would create The Missouri Elections Trust Fund. Taxpayers in Missouri would have the option of checking a box on their state income tax form that would designate $5 from the state income taxes they have paid to this fund. (Doing so would not increase the tax liability or decrease the amount of any refund owed to taxpayers exercising this option.)
The funds collected through this program would be distributed only to candidates who voluntarily agree not to accept contributions from corporations or contributions over $1000 and to raise at least half of their money from contributions of $100 or less. The size of the match would depend upon how many taxpayers elect to contribute to the fund and how many candidates agree to the conditions attached to receiving public funds for their campaigns.
Some people contribute money to political campaigns because they believe in the candidate or the cause and want to contribute. Some people (primarily the “artificial persons” known as corporations, and some extremely wealthy individuals) contribute huge amounts of money designed to gain access to, and influence with, our elected representatives.
Determining the exact point at which a line is crossed from support to bribery, is somewhat subjective. However, it is clear to even the most casual observers that money has corrupted our system and that corporate interests (Wall Street, mega banks, and mulit-national corporations) have gained effective control of our government. Government of, by, and for the people has been perverted into government by and for corporate interests.
There are two problems with limiting campaign contributions. Particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s misguided decision in the Citizens United case, these limitations (at least until the Constitution is amended or the Supreme Court acknowledges that corporations are not people and that money is not speech) can be viewed as violations of the First Amendment freedoms of wealthy individuals and corporations.
This proposal comes at the problem from the other side, giving candidates the option of receiving public funds in exchange for voluntarily accepting limits on the size and nature of campaign contributions. This proposal, if adopted, would make it very easy for voters to determine which candidates are beholden to moneyed interests and which candidates would be more likely to represent the public interest.
The cost to taxpayers of the tax breaks and other preferential treatment given to large (usually corporate) donors is far greater than the amounts that would be raised and spent under this proposal.
This petition has been approved by the Secretary of State for circulation in Missouri. If enough signatures are obtained by May 16, 2018, it will be on the ballot on November 6, 2018. If approved by the voters, it will be effective 30 days later.
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This is the full text of this proposed law:
Be it enacted by the people of the state of Missouri:
Two new sections of the Missouri Revised Statutes, to be known as sections 130.230 and 143.990, are enacted to read as follows:
130.230. 1. “The Missouri Elections Trust Fund” is hereby created to provide public financing for candidates for office in Missouri who agree to accept the conditions specified herein, and who subsequently meet those conditions.
2. The Missouri Elections Trust Fund will be administered by a board, to be known as the “Missouri Elections Trust Fund Commission” consisting of seven members, to be nominated by the governor and approved by the senate. The Missouri Electors Trust Fund Commission shall, within one (1) calendar year of the effective date of this section, promulgate rules necessary for the administration of this section, including a method for the expenditure of the funds collected.
(1) No individual may be appointed to the Missouri Elections Trust Fund Commission who is:
(a) a government employee;
(b) a registered lobbyist, or who has been a registered lobbyist at any time during the 5-year period preceding their appointment to the commission;
(c) an officer or employee of a political party or political campaign;
(d) an elected official, senator, or representative.
(2) Members of the Missouri Elections Trust Fund Commission shall be appointed for a term of five years; except the second and third classes of the first seven members to be appointed, who shall be divided into three classes, as follows;
(a) The first three members to be confirmed shall serve a full five-year term;
(b) The fourth and fifth members to be confirmed shall serve a three-year term;
(c) The sixth and seventh members to be confirmed shall serve a one-year term.
(3) Members of the commission may be removed from office if convicted of fraud or mismanagement of funds administered by the commission, or conviction of a felony.
3. Members of the commission will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses at the prevailing rate for other employees and officers of the state of Missouri.
4. The funds collected under this program will be distributed only to candidates who accept and meet the conditions required to qualify for public financing.
5. Candidates accepting public funds must agree to and meet the following conditions:
(1) Not to accept contributions from corporations or political action committees that accept corporate contributions;
(2) Not to accept donations totaling more than $1000 from any individual or other source, excluding a political party of which they are a member, during an election cycle (“election cycle” is defined as the period between two general elections for the same office); and
(3) That at least one-half of the money raised, or in-kind contributions received, by the candidate will come from individual contributors who contribute a total of $100 or less to the candidate during an election cycle.
6. The funding provided to eligible candidates will be in the form of matching funds, with the ratio of the match relative to the amount of money raised by candidates to be determined by the commission based on the total amount of money raised by all candidates who have elected to accept public funds and the total amount of money available from the fund during each election year.
(1) Thirty-five percent of the funds available shall be distributed on the first day of June of each general election year, based on total monetary contributions received during the election cycle up to the date of the quarterly report filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission for the quarter ending on the thirty-first day of March. (In-kind contributions are not eligible for matching funds.)
(2) The balance of available funds shall be distributed on the third Monday in September of each general election year to eligible candidates in the general election, based on total monetary contributions received and reported through the thirtieth day of August.
7. When a candidate or committee files a termination statement and disclosure report with the Missouri Ethics Commission, any and all funds remaining after repaying any debts owed by the campaign committee are to be paid over to the Missouri Elections Trust Fund, up to and including an amount equal to the full amounts of matching funds received by said candidate.
8. All subsections and all clauses of this Section, and the phrases, and the words within them, are severable. If any of the provisions within them are found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be unconstitutional or unconstitutionally enacted or invalid, the remainder of those provisions shall remain valid and the application of such provisions shall not be affected thereby.
143.990. 1. In each taxable year beginning on or after January 1, 2018, each individual or corporation having paid state income taxes in the amount of twenty-five dollars or more may designate that five dollars of the tax paid shall be paid over to the Missouri elections trust fund as provided in section 130.230. In the case of a husband and wife with a filing status of married filing combined having paid state income tax in the amount of fifty dollars or more, each spouse may designate that five dollars shall be paid to the fund.
- The option to contribute to this fund, as authorized by this section, shall be clearly and unambiguously printed on the same page of each income tax return form provided by the state upon which the amount of the amount of tax owed is indicated, and shall include the following statement: “Contributing to the Missouri Elections Trust Fund will not increase the amount of tax owed or reduce the amount of overpayment to be refunded.”
- The department of revenue shall deposit the contributions made pursuant to this statute into the Missouri Election Trust Fund as created in section 130.230.
- All subsections and all clauses of this Section, and the phrases, and the words within them, are severable. If any of the provisions within them are found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be unconstitutional or unconstitutionally enacted or invalid, the remainder of those provisions shall remain valid and the application of such provisions shall not be affected thereby.