Showing posts with label reform. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reform. Show all posts

Friday, February 4, 2011

Presidential Election Funding Bill Introduced in the US House

Occasionally FHQ will wade into discussions on campaign finance or campaign finance reform and typically those instances are reserved for times a consequential loophole has been discovered and utilized or when new legislation is introduced to deal with the perceived problems within the system. And hey, go ahead and throw in a reference or two to the Citizens United decision while you're at it. But as was the case with the congressional election funding system proposed during the 2009 session of the 111th Congress, David Price's (D-NC, 4th district) revamped presidential election funding bill (HR 414) that was introduced on January 25 is likely going nowhere fast. This is even clearer given that the Republican Party now controls the House and furthermore that the party just voted to eliminate the system altogether as a means of cutting costs.

But let us set those realities to the side for a moment and look at the new provisions within the bill on the merits. The key with any bill on the campaign finance front is that it offer prospective candidates enough of a carrot that they voluntarily opt into the system in the first place. In other words, if a candidate has to think about whether he or she can out-raise the new limits then the battle has already been lost. Here are some of the highlights:

In the primaries phase:
  • The dollar for dollar match from the federal coffers jumps to a 4:1 ratio. For every dollar raised, the federal government matches with four. This was the same ratio that was used in the congressional funding system from 2009.
  • The US government will match up to $100 million. If, as a candidate, you can raise $25 million, then you get $100 million from the government funding system. That $125 million sum -- which would/could be available six months prior to the first delegate selection event -- sounds reasonably sufficient until you see that Obama was able to raise that $25 million in the first quarter of 2007 and was just getting started at that point. In a crowded field with multiple frontrunners that might work, but that doesn't happen all that often.
  • Contributions limits are adjusted based on inflation, but the overall caps on what the government will match do not.
In the general election phase:
  • The bill includes a repeal of federal funding of national party conventions. This is strange to me. I get the intent, but if you are going to argue that the parties should fund this, should not the argument also be made that parties should handle the funding of candidates as well? Both are party business after all. [Yes, there are several attendant conflicts on the latter point, but it should not go unmentioned.]
  • To receive any general election matching funds a candidate must have participated in the primary matching phase.
  • The cap on what the government will match is $150 million ($50 million plus a 4:1 match capped at $100 million). That's approximately double what McCain got in 2008 and about the same amount that Obama raised in September 2008 alone.
The campaign finance system may be worth saving, but it will ultimately take more than baby carrots to entice candidates into the program in the first place. There is a lot more to this bill (have a look yourself), but given the comparatively low caps and the fact that the Republican-controlled House will never go for this, HR 414 is destined to die in committee. Still, it represents something interesting at which to look.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Links (12/10/09)

1. John Thune has your gubernatorial presidential aspirations right here. the Senate. The South Dakota senator is still FHQ's 2012 darkhorse of the moment. I still think 2016 is more likely, though. If Thune is anything, it's shrewd.

2. South Carolina Republicans are like Idaho Republicans: They want closed primaries in the presidential delegate selection races in the Palmetto state.

3. Local fare: Cal Cunningham's chances in North Carolina depend on DSCC investment. his primary race against Elaine Marshall first (to even have a shot at Richard Burr).

4. State of Elections has another great redistricting reform post up. Read away.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Whither Campaign Finance? The Fair Elections Now Act

It's funny that campaign finance came up here yesterday; the same day that a bipartisan group of senators and representatives announced a new piece of legislation to provide public financing of congressional elections.

For starters the system being proposed by Senators Durbin (IL-D) and Specter (PA-R) and Representatives Jones (NC-R), Larson (CT-D) and Pingree (ME-D) does not address presidential campaign finance at all. Yes, after Obama became the first presidential candidate to opt out of the federal matching funds system in the general election, that leaves a pretty big elephant (er, uh donkey?) in the room. Still this legislation is notable because it severely cuts back the cap on individual contributions for congressional candidates wanting to qualify for federal funding.

How does one qualify, you might ask?
In the House, for a candidate to receive access to $900,000, he or she must raise at least $50,000 dollars from 1500 contributors ($33/contributor) in amounts no greater than $100. 40% of that $900,000 can be spent in the primary campaign while the remainder is left for the general election.

In the Senate, things are slightly different because of the greater disparity in terms of numbers of constituents per senator. Senators can collect $1.25 million plus $250,000 for each of his or her state's congressional disticts by raising money (Again, in amounts no greater than $100.) from 2000 contributors and an additional 500 others from each congressional district. In this case, one-third of the federal money could be used in the primary campaign with the remainder left for the general election campaign.

Additional money can be raised in amounts up to $100 from home state residents and matched at a 4:1 rate by the government.

This is a novel idea (one that has been tried at the state level), but there are obviously some questions that would arise should this be attempted at the national level.

1. If the balance constitutionally is between free speech and potential undue influence of money, does a $100 limit contributions not overprotect against the latter at the expense of the former? This would be a major issue in any challenge to this legislation if it were to become law. But to even get to that point it will likely have to survive the journey through two chambers packed with incumbents that would be lukewarm to the idea on average.

2. The constitutional questions are answered to some extent by the voluntary nature of the system. If it were a requirement that all candidates for congress adhere to these rules, the shouts of opposition would be much louder. But honestly, who is opting into this system if it isn't required?

3. What happens to the money in the event that a candidate runs unopposed in either (or both) the primary or general election? Is that money automatically forfeited or can primary money be carried over to the general election? (This one comes with an assist from occasional commenter, Greg.)

4. Timing. The timing of this announcement isn't the best. But you can't wait on the economy to turn around when reform is at stake necessarily. Still, more taxpayer money to politicians isn't something very many people/voters want to hear about at the moment. There's a reason fewer and fewer people check that $3 box on their tax forms every year.

This will be an interesting test case to follow because the other shoe is really going to drop when and if this process or something similar is extended in some way, shape or form to the financing of presidential campaigns.

UPDATE: Politico has more on the newly dubbed Fair Elections Now Act.

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