Public Finance Legislation Introduces Fairness to Campaigns (Rep. David Price)

We’ve already heard about the massive amounts of money that will be raised and spent before voters choose their next president.  The figures are astronomical – even 50% more than was collectively spent in 2004. We are witnessing a veritable arms race for campaign money.  The system is obviously out of whack, and we must return it to sanity.


Both parties’ leading candidates are spending their valuable time raising money when they should be talking to voters – and they’d be the first to lament this fact.  The fact is in order to remain competitive in this high-stakes presidential election, the current public funding system is simply untenable.


Our proposal is simple: update the tax check-off, raise the spending limits, move up the release date, and create an ‘escape hatch’ that allows participating candidates to remain competitive even if a non-participating candidate out-raises them.


This legislation would return the public financing system to its proper role – that of an equalizer.  It was public financing that allowed long-shot candidates like a former California governor named Ronald Reagan and a former Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter to run viable campaigns against better-funded, better-known opponents.


Public financing benefits both political parties equally, and most importantly, it benefits the American people, by reducing the influence of money in the electoral process and opening the field of candidates beyond those with the deepest coffers.


We’ve also included an aggressive provision in this bill to disclose the major bundlers for the presidential campaigns.  Of course, under a robust public financing system, the practice of bundling would become less relevant in the first place because candidates would be under less pressure to raise so much money.  But the disclosure provision is important for the benefit of an informed electorate.


It’s too late to affect the 2008 election, but we must act now to fix the system before 2012.  I’m confident that this bipartisan, bicameral coalition can lead the way, and I am honored to be part of it.