Public Campaign Financing: Congressional as Well as Presidential

Photograph by Scott Eells/Bloomberg

People celebrate the news that President Barack Obama has won re-election in New York.

Following the first privately funded presidential election since the Watergate scandals that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, some House Democrats are trying to make public financing more attractive for those seeking the White House — and expand the system to include candidates for Congress.

Similar legislation has gone nowhere in Congress in recent years, even when Democrats controlled both houses from 2009-11. Nor has President Barack Obama pushed to overhaul campaign finance laws, as in 2008 he became the first major-party nominee to shun federal funding for the general election since the current system first was put into effect for the 1976 races. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney also rejected public financing, making it the first election in which neither major-party nominee participated.

The bills introduced today would provide increase public funds for presidential candidates and provide them for congressional candidates as well, offer tax credits for small donor, and impose new rules to separate candidate committees from aligned super-political action committees, often run by former aides to the candidates.

They were developed by a House Democratic task force chaired by Rep.John Larson of Connecticut that has been looking at ways to overhaul campaign finance laws.

“American elections have gotten to be entirely too focused on raising and spending massive amounts of money,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine. “Politicians need to spend less time on the phone asking for contributions and more time talking to the people they represent.”


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