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Bullock to seek public financing for 2020 bid

Bullock to seek public financing for 2020 bid
© Greg Nash

Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte wins Montana governor's race Senate control in flux as counting goes forward in key states MORE (D) will apply to receive public financing for his struggling presidential campaign.

In a memo Monday, Bullock’s campaign manager Jennifer Ridder cast the decision to seek out public funds for his presidential bid as a show of the governor’s commitment to campaign finance reform, an issue that he has put at the center of his campaign since announcing his candidacy in May.

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“As the only candidate for President who is choosing to participate in the public finance process, Governor Bullock is leading with his values and defending our shared belief that our democracy should never be for sale to the highest bidder,” Ridder wrote.

The Associated Press first reported on Bullock's desire to seek public funding.

Receiving that form of financing would give Bullock’s campaign a financial boost at a critical time in the Democratic nominating contest. The Iowa caucuses are just four months away and campaigns typically look to bulk up their operations in the fall before voting begins.

Bullock raised more than $2 million in the second quarter of 2019, putting him well behind the primary field’s top fundraisers like South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE, who raised $24.8 million and $22 million, respectively.

The public campaign financing program offers participating candidates matching funds on all donations they receive up to $250. It is funded by taxpayers who opt on their tax forms to donate $3 toward the program.

But if he receives public funds for his campaign, Bullock would be limited in how much money he can spend. In 2016, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) set that spending cap at $48.07 million. The AP reported that the cap would be set at an estimated $60 million in 2020.

For years, presidential candidates relied heavily on public financing to power their campaigns. But the use of those funds has declined since the 2000 election when then-candidate George W. Bush eschewed the program.

Bullock is expected to apply for public financing after the third fundraising quarter closes on Monday night.

Still, even if he applies for the funding, his application would have to be approved by the FEC, which does not currently have enough members to hold a meeting or vote on such a matter. 

The commission needs at least one more member to have a quorum, and there is one nominee awaiting confirmation. The Senate, however, traditionally confirms two nominees at a time.

Updated at 10:31 a.m.