Public financing of elections

We support a voluntary system of public financing of elections, with both candidates and taxpayers having the option to participate, without being required to participate.

Money has corrupted our political system. Both of our major political parties have been corrupted by campaign contributions, especially from corporate interests. The idea of getting money out of politics has broad appeal, but there is one major and important obstacle to doing so – the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Offering candidates the option of public financing of their campaigns in exchange for their acceptance of limitations on accepting large contributions is one way to limit the corrupting influence of money. We can and should put an end to “dark money” being spent to influence voters. We already require candidates to identify donors who contribute more than $200 to their campaigns. The same disclosure requirements should apply to super-PACs operating as 501 (c) 4 organizations.

Legislation that has been introduced in Congress:

“The Government by the People Act” [H. R. 20] establishes a program for small individual donations to campaigns for public office. It allows: (1) individual taxpayers a refundable tax credit of 50% of qualified congressional House campaign contributions (i.e., cash contributions by an individual to a candidate for the House of Representatives or a political committee established and maintained by a national political party, to be known as “My Voice Federal” contributions); and (2) individual taxpayers to designate a portion of any overpayment of tax as a contribution to the Freedom From Influence Fund.

Major party platforms on this issue:

The Democratic Party platform:

“We will fight for real campaign finance reform now.” And “we need to amplify the voices of the American people through a small donor matching public financing system.”

“Our vision for American democracy is a nation in which all people, regardless of their income, can participate in the political process and can run for office without needing to depend on large contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.”

The Republican Party platform does not, to the best of our knowledge, call for any legislation on this issue.

Polling on this issue:

Public funding of congressional elections is supported by 49% of voters, with 26% opposed and 23% neutral. This included 59% of Democratic voters, with 16% opposed and 22% neutral; 44% of independent voters, with 26% opposed and 28% neutral; and 41% of Republican voters, with 35% opposed and 21% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

A tax rebate for the first one hundred dollars in small-dollar donations taxpayers give to congressional campaigns is supported by 45% of voters, with 33% opposed and 20% neutral. This included 49% of Democratic voters, with 26% opposed and 23% neutral; 41% of independent voters, with 40% opposed and 17% neutral; and 43% of Republican voters, with 37% opposed and 18% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.).

Rationale

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.