Public Financing Bill on the Horizon

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.’s Capital Eye blog reports that a bill establishing public financing for House and Senate campaigns will be introduced next week. Similar bills have failed in the past, but good government advocates are committed to trying again and again. The hope is that by providing candidates with federal money with which to campaign, two things will happen: (1) incumbents will be able to spend their time governing instead of dialing for dollars; and (2) special interests will have a much harder time buying influence with politicians. Here are the details, if you’re a campaign finance nerd (and if you are, high five!).

According to materials on the Fair Elections Now Coalition’s website, candidates for House races would need to collect at least 1,500 contributions from residents of their state and raise a sum of $50,000 to qualify for public financing monies. Senate candidates would be required to raise a number of contributions in a manner that correlates to the state’s population according to the formula 2,000 + (500 x CD’s), where “CD’s” equals the number of congressional districts in their state–an attempt to provide more money to candidates in large states, where campaigning is pricier.

According to the proponents’ website, House candidates who qualify would receive an initial grant of $900,000 to be split between the primary and general elections. Senate candidates would receive $1.25 million, plus another $250,000 per congressional district, to be split between the primary and general elections. Additional public monies could be tapped into through a provision that allows for the matching of additional home-state, small-donor fundraising done by the candidate, up to three times the initial amount. Supporters say this would provide enough money to run a “competitive campaign”–even if a candidate participating in the public financing system is facing a well-financed or self-financed opponent who is not participating in the system…

The money for public campaigns would be provided for by a small fee on large federal contracts, according to OpenSecrets. I’m all for it. The good government community is all for it. President Obama is all for it. And yet the bill faces opposition from not just one specific special interest, but from all special interests — anyone who wants to continue to buy influence with America’s politicians. We’ll see where it goes.


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