The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) late Monday estimated that a bill eliminating taxpayer funding for presidential elections would save $617 million over the next 10 years.
H.R. 359 is due on the House floor this week and will be debated in the Rules Committee on Tuesday morning. It amends federal law to end the option on income tax forms to earmark part of one's taxes for the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF). It would also shut the fund and transfer remaining balances to the Treasury.
The bill is opposed by good-government groups, which argue that eliminating the option of forgoing private funds in the general-election campaign in order to take federal funds would drive candidates further into the hands of lobbyists.
The CBO estimates that the bill would save $215 million in the 2012 election cycle.
For the 2008 presidential election cycle, outlays from the PECF totaled $135 million, the CBO states, even though President Obama ultimately opted out of using $85 million in federal funds.
Acceptance of federal funds forces candidates to agree not to use private donations in the fall campaign, thereby effectively capping the amount they can spend. McCain in the 2008 campaign blasted Obama for pledging to use federal funds and then abandoning his pledge.