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Progress for Fair Elections

September 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Publicly-funded congressional campaigns are about to move one step closer to becoming a reality. The Fair Elections Now Coalition announced this afternoon that the House Committee on Administration has scheduled a mark-up session of Rep. John Larson’s [D, CT-1] Fair Elections Now Act, which would allow federal candidates to finance their campaigns with public funds rather than having to spend their time fundraising from special interests and corporations. The bill has been sitting in Congress for four years. This will be the first time it has advanced in the lgislative process at all, and it will likely lead to a full House vote in the coming weeks.

In January, former OpenCongress research assistant Eric Naing provided a great overview of what congressional campaigns under the Fair Elections Now Act would look like:

First of all, candidates have to qualify to receive federal dollars. House candidates need to raise $50,000 from at least 1,500 contributors from the state in which the candidate is running. These contributions can be no greater than $100. The amount of money and number of contributors required for Senate candidates depends on the population of the state in which the candidate is running.

Once they qualify, Congressional candidates would have access to a certain amount of federal campaign dollars depending on what office they are running for and in what state. House candidates can receive what amounts to $900,000 total. Senate candidates can receive $1.25 million along with an additional $250,000 for each Congressional District in that candidate’s state. In either case 40% of the money would go toward the primary and 60% would be for the general election.

Candidates would also be able to receive additional matching funds for small donations if they face a wealthy or self-financing opponent. Also available would be vouchers and discounts for advertising costs.

Public Campaign predicts this public financing program will cost around $700 to $850 million per year. The costs in the House would in part be paid for by the sale of broadcast spectrum. The Senate costs would be paid for with a fee on large government contractors.

The skeptic in me wonders: Why, after four years, are the Dems scheduling a committee vote now — and likely a full House vote — with so few legislative work days left before a highly partisan election? Is it just that it’s a safe time to take this popular vote, knowing full well that there’s no way the Senate will have time to take this up before they adjourn for the year? But there’s also definitely more to the story. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United that corporate donations cannot be limited really accelerated the drive for campaign finance reform both in and out of Congress. Whereas the Fair Elections Now Act had just 2 co-sponsors in the House in the previous session of Congress, it now has 164, including a handful of Republicans. Groups like Public Campaign and Fix Congress First have been working harder than ever to round up support for this district-by-district. Let’s see what happens.

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Comments

  • beenblue 09/16/2010 5:19pm

    I sure hope this does not turn into, shooting fish in a barrel..

  • Ja4ed 09/17/2010 7:58am

    “Candidates would also be able to receive additional matching funds for small donations if they face a wealthy or self-financing opponent.”

    At least this part of the bill is unconstitutional. It is an abridgement of free (political) speech. In 2008, The Supreme Court already ruled as such in Davis v FEC.

  • Comm_reply
    mouseissue 09/17/2010 8:49am
    Link Reply
    + -3

    I agree Ja4ed!!!

    Like most all bills proposed by the left, this so called “Fair Elections Now Act” actually will do the opposite of it’s namesake. It compromises campaign fairness especially for senators.

    This bill would provide far more money for senators campaigning in high population states with many legislative districts (which are typically Democratic). Therefore, it would dramatically tilt campaign money toward the left (Democrat) paid for by ALL taxpayers.

    Proposing something like this so close to an election should be considered “vote tampering” thru legislation. The Dems know they are in trouble and are willing to do ANYTHING (ethical or not) to save their miserable butts in November. There are some scummy Republican RINOs in the same boat who would get advantage from it as well.

    Not to mention, cause EVEN MORE FEDERAL SPENDING at a time it should be drastically cut!

    This piece of sh_t better not become law!!!

  • Comm_reply
    beenblue 09/18/2010 2:23pm

    Tell me how the FAR RIGHT is going to make it better, since we would`nt be in this economic meltdown with out their deregulation, and les affairs market,and causing a recession after 9/11 so as to give the wealthiest 3% their tax break, and talk about rigging an election George Bush pulled that off twice. The Dem`s are`nt perfect, just the lessor of two evils.

  • Comm_reply
    beenblue 09/18/2010 2:36pm

    P.S. Bill Clinton left office with a surplus, and if Al Gore had been the President after Bill, we would`nt be in this mess, and I doubt that the twin towers would have been demoed, and we would not be chasing ghost in the desert and pissing away trillions of dollars a year on a war that can`t be won.

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 09/19/2010 5:19pm
    Link Reply
    + -1

    “P.S. Bill Clinton left office with a surplus”

    Republicans controlled congress for 3/4 of his two terms, so what point exactly are you trying to make here?

    “Al Gore had been the President after Bill, we would`nt be in this mess…”

    We would be in the exact same mess as I seriously doubt Al Gore is a fan of extracting the heavy hand of government from the private sector.

    “…and I doubt that the twin towers would have been demoed”

    And you have just lost all credibility.

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 09/19/2010 11:17pm

    The “Heavy hand of government” had nothing todo with the crash. In fact it was the deregulation that allowed the banking industry to use consumer banking deposits for their wall street casino, it was also deregulation that allowed the banking industry to leverage themselves to the moon and back, it was also deregulation that allowed the banking industry to create bets against its own customers through the derivatives madness of CDO, CDS, naked CDS, etc.

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 09/20/2010 1:34pm
    Link Reply
    + -1

    Like hell it had nothing to do with the crash. What do you think happens when the government removes accountability from a vast portion of the private sector by guaranteeing ridiculous home loans and bailing out the same firms that then leverage themselves to the moon and back? These financial firms would never have engaged in this reckless behavior if they had had any reasonable expectation of being held accountable. The crash was reality intruding on the fantasy land that government and financial sector created. Watch — despite your cherished regulation, the next one will be worse.

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 09/20/2010 3:04pm

    Fanni and Freddi are a problem, but they had very little todo with the crash. The government GSE’s only guaranteed 15 and 30 year fixed rate loans of about $250,000 and less along with requirement of a 20% down-payment or mortgage insurance, and what exploded causing the crash where all kinds of crazy nonsense involving types of loans that the government had no preview in stuff like ARM loans, Balloon loans, option ARM loans, Jumbo loans, etc. The government did not guarantee these loans, the government did not issue these loans, and the government did not participate in derivatives related to these loans until 2007 when Bush saw the beginning of the crash start to happen and start trying to prop the market out of fear of what would happen to republican electability if every American lost the total of their 401k retirement savings.

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 09/20/2010 3:54pm

    “The government did not guarantee these loans, the government did not issue these loans, and the government did not participate in derivatives related to these loans”

    No, but the government did (with the CRA) effectively coerce banks into granting ridiculous numbers of subprime mortgage loans to borrowers without the ability to pay; banks cooperated lest various government agencies oppose future branch openings, mergers, etc. Let’s also not forget the distortion caused by years of extremely low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve (itself created by an act of Congress) or the complete removal of our currency from a commodity standard and the associated inflation we’ve experienced since. The government has a hell of a lot to do with the state of our economy, yet we’re supposed to ignore that and blame it on private sector entities that the government does not allow to fail? Excuse me?

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 09/20/2010 4:22pm

    The explosion in sub-prime loans was created by the banks being able to package the loans into CDO’s and sell them to some third party relieving themselves of any liability related to the repayment of those loans packaged into those CDO’s. This behaviour was further enabled by credit default swaps, and by the credit rating agencies being paid by the seller of the derivative rather then the buyer of the derivative.

    When we ended leverage requirements while at the same time allowing the merger of consumer and investment banking we created a situation where the profitability of banking was determined by the quantity of financial activity as opposed to the quality of financial activity.

    As to the CRA, I really don’t see what you problem is with making redlining illegal, or enabling black(or any minority) people to qualify for home loans under the same terms as white people.

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 09/20/2010 6:22pm

    You’re describing symptoms of the underlying problem. Why is it so hard for you to believe that government actions distort the free market and have many unintended consequences? You could make the argument that this activity is fraud, though even then you cannot remove the government from the picture. It really is the elephant in the room.

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 09/20/2010 6:51pm

    You are correct I am describing symptoms, Symptoms of a problem of a complete lack of reasonable limits on the financial industry. We need someone to stop the banks from leveraging themselves into the sky, we need someone to stop conflicts of interest so that banks can’t bet against their own customers, We need a central bank so that we don’t have yearly market crashes following the cycle of the seasons as they did pre 1830 due to money moving out of the cities into the farms and back, we have to realize that commodity based currency is no longer a place we can return to as the rest of the world won’t do it and would eat us alive via speculation and manipulation of the value of that commodity its bad enough what china does as is setting the w’on to $2.4 US dollars. We need a regulator.

    I won’t go advocating for something silly like Keynesian economic theory, nor should we turn to the Austrian and Neo classical religions for answers. We need a new economic theory.

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 09/17/2010 3:49pm

    Davis v. FEC was about allowing special fund raising privileges based on one of the candidates spending more then $350,000 dollars of their own money.

    The provision in the fair elections now act is modelled around public financing laws that have been found constitutional by the supreme court(Not necessary the Alito court mind you), Such laws exist or have existed in New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc.

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 09/20/2010 6:22pm

    You’re describing symptoms of the underlying problem. Why is it so hard for you to believe that government actions distort the free market and have many unintended consequences? You could make the argument that this activity is fraud, though even then you cannot remove the government from the picture. It really is the elephant in the room.

  • Comm_reply
    nmeagent 09/20/2010 6:22pm

    You’re describing symptoms of the underlying problem. Why is it so hard for you to believe that government actions distort the free market and have many unintended consequences? You could make the argument that this activity is fraud, though even then you cannot remove the government from the picture. It really is the elephant in the room.

  • Comm_reply
    DeborahJBrown 09/27/2010 5:40am

    I hate this ridiculous Blame Game. The truth is no one party EVER controls everything. The whole point of “the blame game” is to avoid resolution of issues. Right now, it’s the Republicans who need to stop filibustering everything. That’s just child-like and STUPID beyond comprehension. About the only way to accomplish anything at all is for representatives to find a way to work together to represent THE PEOPLE. I believe it would go a long way if legislation were passed to BAN corporate donations to political campaigns. I also think it might help if laws were passed to place caps on amounts that can be contributed to campaigns by individuals and violations should be treated as a federal offense with huge fines and mandatory jail time. Maybe then it could be a government “of the people, for the people.”

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 09/19/2010 11:18pm

    You are right however Al Gore would have had no difference on this front as it was Clinton that signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act into law and deregulated the banking industry.

    The act clearly the biggest step in movement for the supply side economic theorists or as Bush Sr. correctly referred to it Voodoo economics. Well they had their way the cost of credit went way down, hell its still free right now through the fed window. We can clearly see they where wrong, and we are now suffering this poor economy because of it. Its time to face the facts, supply side theory, efficient market theory, and all that other randian hoopla is nonsense.

  • Comm_reply
    beenblue 09/20/2010 8:32pm

    The invasion of Iraq, the illegal no bid contracts to Halliburton,& a dozen other contractors, the Patriot Act, domestic phone & computer surveillance, the loss of Habeas Corpus, the disregard of the bill of rights, the complete meltdown of our economic system that went pandemic, the implementation of homeland security with our borders wide open, THAT`S BIG GOVERNMENT AND THE MISUSE OF POWER,I doubt Al Gore would have brought us here, and your opinion on the matter would be hypothetical. The Republican Party hijacked this country and set the world on on fire and that`s a fact, and they have offered no help in the recovery of this nation to date. And your no economist !!!!

  • Comm_reply
    luminous 09/20/2010 9:13pm

    That is the great thing about economic theory, one side of the political aisle supports an economic “theory” that depends on the rejection of empirical data collection, tests and observations to confirm the “theory” instead dependent on “self evident axioms”, and the other side of the aisle… well its hard to figure out if they have a theory persay their’s Keynesian economics but that seems very scatter brained at best.

    As to the rest of your comment, its hard to say I hate to get into heavy speculation on many of those things, I can say however that the largest contributing factor to the melt down happened on Clinton’s watch with the deregulation of the banks via the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act.

  • Comm_reply
    beenblue 09/21/2010 12:21pm

    I appreciate your position, and the application of your facts that you present, and that your willing to avoid heavy speculation during these conversations, as you know politics, and religion are very flammable subjects and are driven by passions to an extreme. In regards to the deregulation, both sides share in the blame, but the coup de gras was under the Bush- Chaney watch, and the application of Milton Friedmans economic theory of an laissez faire market was implemented under their watch as they intentionally crippled the government, so as to bring in privatization of certain functions in the government, such as Brown and Root doing the cooking, and laundry for the military at an extreme cost to the tax payer. We have been invaded by inept private contractors who are not held responsible for their contractual obligations, I believe the whole system is antiquated for the 21 century.

  • Comm_reply
    FlaVoter 09/19/2010 3:25pm

    It should provide more money for high population states because high population states are a greater source of federal tax revenue than low population states (ie, the larger states pay more in tax dollars than they receive). Look at the map on page 2 of this document.

    http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/sr139.pdf

    It shows how many federal dollars go into each state for each dollar that goes out (ie federal tax burden/expenditure ratio). Texas is the exception, but most of the reliably red states are receiving more tax money than they are paying (ie, they show more than one dollar coming in for every dollar going out).

  • Comm_reply
    FlaVoter 09/19/2010 3:35pm

    Why are we redistributing wealth from California and sending it to Alaska? Sounds socialist if you ask me. Too much federal spending is tilted towards the Red States. I support the Fair Elections Now Act. However, if this were put into place, there is some irony: Californians, New Yorkers, and Floridians, would end up financing the Mike Huckabees, Jim DeMints, Haley Barbours, and Sarah Palins of the world. The states with the most fervent Tea Party activity are bigger beneficiaries of federal money. Perhaps these are places where we should start making cuts so that we can balance the budget.

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