“We already pay for congressional campaigns, we just label it ‘the national debt.’ Interests that donate to campaigns often get what they want from legislation, and we all pay for that; by comparison, public financing seems like a bargain.”- Lee Hamilton
Federal public funding legislation enjoys bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, with over 120 cosponsors. The bills would create a modern system of public funding of Presidential and Congressional elections based on small donations from citizens:
To provide a voluntary public funding system for Senate and House elections
To update the system of public financing for Presidential elections
Fair Elections Provisions
Fair Elections is a new and innovative approach to the problem of special interest money in American elections. It combines what works in our current campaign finance system – citizen small donations – with matching public funds to ensure competitive campaigns. And it rejects what doesn’t work: big money from lobbyists and special interest groups seeking access and influence in government. In five states from Arizona to Maine, Fair Elections is ushering in a new, more accountable politics.
For nearly a decade, five states have been pioneering a sweeping new alternative to traditional big money campaigns: Fair or Clean Elections public funding of legislative, executive, and judicial campaigns. In Maine (since 2000), Arizona (2000), and Connecticut (2006), candidates for any state office may qualify with small donations to receive sufficient public funding to mount a competitive campaign; in return, candidates limit spending and say no to special interest contributions.
The Americans for Campaign Reform report, “Does Money Buy Elections?” (January 2008), analyzes the relationship between campaign spending and election outcomes for incumbent, challenger, and open seat candidates for U.S. House from 1992-2006. It finds a competitive spending threshold below which previously unknown candidates are unable to effectively compete and beyond which additional spending produces diminishing marginal returns.
The healthcare industry — including HMOs, health professionals, hospitals and nursing homes, and pharmaceuticals — contributed $825 million to candidates for federal office from 1990-2008. The healthcare industry spent $3.4 billion to lobby the federal government on health policy matters from 1998-2008, including $480 million in 2008 alone.
Individuals, lobbyists, and political action committees in the pharmaceutical industry contributed $167 million to federal candidates from 1990 to 2008. Members of the House and Senate received an average of $25,277 and $81,891, respectively, in pharmaceutical industry contributions in 2008.
Defense industry earmark recipients contributed disproportionately to Members of the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, the primary defense appropriators, regardless of party. Defense industry earmark recipients contributed disproportionately to Members of the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, the primary defense appropriators, regardless of party
Individuals and PACs in finance, insurance, and real estate have contributed over $2 billion to federal campaigns since 1990, the largest sector by a factor of two. Wall Street contributions increased five-fold from $60 million in 1990 to $311 million in 2008. Members of the U.S. House and Senate received an average $142,663 and $1,042,663, respectively, in Wall Street contributions as of July 28, 2008.
The energy industry, including oil and gas, electric utilities, mining, and waste management, contributed $455 million to federal candidates between 1990-2006. The energy industry spent $2.3 billion to lobby the federal government between 1998-2008.
Less than 0.5 percent of the U.S. population contributed $200 or more to federal candidates in 2008, or 82 percent of total itemized contributions. Less than 0.1 percent of Americans contributed $2,300 or more in 2008, or 60 percent of the total.
Incumbent candidates for the House raised an average of $1.4 million in 2008, more than four times the amount raised by challengers and more than twice the amount raised by open seat candidates. Incumbent candidates for the Senate raised an average of $8.7 million, almost six times more than challengers and nearly four times more than open seat candidates.
A poll by Arizona Advocacy Network and Public Campaign of 500 likely 2012 Arizona voters shows strong support for the Citizens Clean Elections Act—with a majority supporting the current law with no description and almost three out of four supporting with a basic description. Additionally, Arizona voters are strongly opposed to efforts to repeal—with almost two thirds of voters opposing a repeal and a majority saying they would be less likely to vote for a state legislative candidate who supported a repeal.
Introduction We are not fiscal experts. We are campaign reformers concerned about our nation’s current deficit crisis who see a structural barrier to achieving long-term fiscal sustainability in Washington: the undue influence of special interest money on government and the basic conflict of interest it creates for Members of Congress. By exploring a range of [...]