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Publicly funded elections

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Publicly funded elections purportedly reduce corruption by funding elections with federal tax revenue or income tax donations as opposed to corporate campaign contributions or individuals with disproportionate wealth. The purpose is to remove undue monetary influence on politicians. It is an attempt to move toward one person one vote in a democracy.

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  • ✪ Political Campaigns: Crash Course Government and Politics #39
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Hi I'm Craig and this is Crash Course Government and Politics. And today we're going to try and untangle the mess that is the American political campaign. One of the things about the American political system that often confuses people who don't live in America is the way that our politicians run for office. There are two aspects in particular that stand out about American political campaigns: their length and their expense. We're going to look at both of these today and see that they're related but before we do we are going to answer a burning question: why do we need political campaigns anyway? [Theme Music] If you ask one hundred people about the reason why we have political campaigns, you'll get well, not a hundred but at least more than one answer. And you might work for Family Feud. Probably the best answer to this question though, is that we have political campaigns to provide voters with information they need to choose a candidate to represent them. So how do political campaigns provide information? And what is a political campaign anyway? Let's go to the Thought Bubble. A campaign is an organized drive on the part of a candidate to get elected to an office. It's also the way we refer to the organization itself. For example, in 2012 we had the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign. And each consisted of a campaign organization made up of thousands of staffers and volunteers and all of their activities. Most campaigns are temporary, geared towards an election although both parties do have permanent professional campaign organizations. At the top level are the national committees, the DNC and the RNC. Can you guess what they stand for? These organizations coordinate all national campaigns, especially those for President. Each house of congress has a Republican and Democratic campaign committee. The individual Senate and Congressional committees are headed up by sitting members of the Senate and the House, and because these committees give money to candidates, their leaders are very popular. I find that I'm popular when I make it rain at parties. Campaigns provide information in a number of ways. The main thing they do is communicate with the public, usually through the media which we'll discuss in greater depth in future episodes. The main stage of political campaigns is the organized event where candidates can present information about themselves and their policies directly through voters and speeches. These are known as stump speeches, although only rarely these days do candidates actually speak on stumps, they have podiums and stages now. In addition to these events, candidates present the information by appearing on the TV, in debates, at town meetings, and in "impromptu" photo opportunities. They like to appear with military hardware, too, although sometimes this can backfire, as in the case of Michael Dukakis in 1988. Campaigns can spread their messages through direct mail, press releases, news coverage, and through advertisements, often on the TV, which is like the internet, only less interactive and has a lot of real housewives on it. Thanks, thought bubble. Nowadays, there are many more ways that candidates can reach out to voters. One way is through email. If you've ever given money to a candidate or a campaign, you can expect emails in ever-increasing numbers as election day approaches, and we all love that. Candidates now take to Twitter to blast out information and individual candidates and their campaigns often have Facebook pages. There are even campaign ads made specifically for YouTube, although how their advertising algorithm works is beyond me. It's weird to get a campaign ad for the Michigan Senate if you don't live in Michigan. One other way that campaigns communicate information is through raising money. Of course, they need money to pay for all the campaign ribbons and buttons and PA systems and folding chairs and tour buses and stump speeches and axes to chop down trees so they have stumps to speak on. These things ain't cheap. Even more expensive are advertisements on the TV. A sitting president has an advantage here in that he can usually get on TV whenever he wants and he'll have a chance to clarify his positions in the State of the Union Address. But even he has to spend money on ads. And raising money is another way to present voters with information because campaign solicitations usually come with some policy piece attached to them. Almost every solicitation you get will be somewhat targeted to one of your interests and tell you, or try to tell you, where the candidate asking for your money stands on that issue. So you may have gotten a campaign solicitation and wondered, "Hey, why you need my money?" The unhelpful answer is that they need your money because campaigns are expensive. But then you might ask, "why are they so expensive?" Good question. Campaigns are expensive because they're huge, especially presidential campaigns; they need to reach 220 million people of voting age. Another reason they're expensive is because they're super long. Democrat and Republican candidates raise money, give speeches and create political action committees years before the election. It's ridiculous. I blame the eagle. Campaigns are also expensive because Americans expect them to be personal and this takes time and money. We like to see our candidates in person and have them show up in small towns in Iowa and New Hampshire, even though those states don't matter all that much in the grand electoral picture. Another reason campaigns are so expensive is that they rely increasingly on the TV and other visual media that cost a lot of money to produce. Gone are the days when William McKinley could sit on his porch in Ohio and have reporters come to him. Nowadays, even when candidates get free exposure by appearing on nightly comedy shows, like The Daily Show, it still costs the campaign in terms of time, travel and probably wardrobe and makeup so that they can look as good as I do. No makeup. Minimal wardrobe: no pants. Sorry, Stan. How expensive are campaigns anyway? Eh...very! In the 2008 presidential campaign both candidates together spent three billion dollars. In 2012 the candidates spent about a billion dollars each, and outside groups spent a further four billion. And congressional elections weren't much cheaper, except when you consider that there were a lot more of them. Combined, congressional races in 2008 cost about one billion dollars. All the money that gets spent on campaigns leads us inevitably to campaign finance rules, which were set up by Congress after 1970 and refined by the courts. We have campaign finance legislation because all that money pouring into campaigns sure looks like it raises the potential for corruption. Whether or not an individual's campaign contributions can sway a congressman's vote is highly debatable but it certainly gives the appearance of impropriety when a congressman who receives millions of dollars from the oil industry then works hard to weaken regulations on oil companies so that they can make more profit. Campaign contributions are not bribes, but they sure look like them to lots of people. Recognizing that campaign contributions could potentially influence the political process, congress passes the Federal Election Campaign act of 1971. This was the first law that put limits on campaign spending and donations. It was further refined by the McCain-Feingold Campaign Law in 2002, and by court decisions that refined the rules for campaign spending and donations and provided a legal rationale for these limits. Until recently, the most important case on campaign finance was Buckley V Valleo. This case established the idea that limits on campaign spending were problematic under the first amendment because limiting the amount someone could spend on politics was basically limiting what that person could say about politics. Freedom of speech, y'all! According to the rules, individuals were allowed to donate up to $2500 per candidate and their was a total limit to the amount an individual could give. Donations to a party committee, which because they don't go to a specific candidate and thus seem less like bribes, were limited to $28,500. Individual donors were also allowed to give up to $5,000 to a political action committee, or PAC. But it gets more complicated. Individuals and PACs are allowed to give unlimited funds to a 527 group, named after its designation in the tax code, that focuses on issue advocacy. The most famous 527 group in recent political memory is probably Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which spent more than 22 million dollars to raise awareness around the issue of whether 2004 presidential candidate, and later Secretary of State John Kerry was completely honest about his Vietnam War record. If this sounds like it was more of an organization against the candidate himself, well you can see why the line between "issue advocacy" and support for a political campaign can be kind of blurry. Now here's something important: these limits are on contributions to candidates and campaigns, not on spending by candidates and campaigns. What this means is that a candidate and their campaign can spend however much they raise. So if a candidate running for office has one billion dollars, they can spend one billion trying to win. There's no concern about self-funded candidates bribing themselves, and you often see very rich people spending a lot of their own money trying to win office. So Buckley Vs. Valleo set up the basic distinction between campaign donations, which could be limited, and campaign spending, which couldn't. This distinction was undercut by the Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United Vs. the Federal Election Commission in 2009. This reaffirmed the idea that money is the equivalent of speech and struck down many of the limitations on campaign donations. The Citizens United decision cleared the way for Super PACs. These organizations are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to promote a candidate or publicize a cause, but they may not directly contribute to a candidate or coordinate with a campaign. In the 2012 election, there were over 500 registered super PACs and 41 of them spent over half a million dollars. The largest seven had spent over 256 million by the end of August, one of the reasons that the 2012 election was the most expensive ever, clocking in at around 6 billion. Now this sounds like a lot of money, right? It is. Gimme it. But a little context: the total spent on house and senate races was around 3.6 billion dollars, which was less than half of what Americans spend annually on potato chips. So when you look at it this way, the amount we spend on elections doesn't seem like so much, which may make us rethink the idea that money is corrupting American politics. Or maybe not. Maybe potato chips are corrupting American politics. Certainly corrupting my belly. American political campaigns are big and high stakes and raise questions about the influence of money in politics that are tough to answer. On the one hand, it does seem like there's the potential for very rich people to have a lot of influence on the elections. On the other hand, limiting a person's ability to register his or her preference of a candidate through spending on that candidate does seem like a limitation on their political speech. One of the arguments for limits on campaign contributions is that forcing candidates to raise money in small amounts from a large number of donors will make them reach out to larger numbers of constituents, and appealing to large numbers is the essence of Democracy. But it's also time consuming for a politician to reach out to all those potential donors and congressmen already spend a considerable amount of time raising money when they should be legislating. And watching Real Housewives. And eating Little Caesar's. There's a lot to do. But this is the system we have, and unless congress passes a law limiting campaign expenditures, or shortening the campaign season, we can expect campaigns to remain long and get more and more expensive. Thanks for watching, I'll see you next time. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was made with the help of all of these campaign financiers. Thanks for watching.


In the United States

Methods of publicly funded election legislation have been adopted in Maine, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Massachusetts. In addition, public funding of elections have been incorporated at the municipal level in several cities.[citation needed] Wisconsin's 33 year old program was defunded by the state legislature in 2011 by Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature's joint finance committee. California recently overturned its ban on publicly funded elections, but charter cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles were already exempt from the ban and already have some form of public financing.[1]

Some of these laws have run into constitutional problems in the courts. When the Citizens United v. FEC decision defined money as a form of speech, the movement toward limiting campaign spending and publicly financing campaigns was stopped in several cities and states, although many of the core programs were kept in place. Some portions (such as state supplemental funds for publicly financed candidates whose opponents outspend them) of the Vermont system were found newly unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Randall v. Sorrell., but the core program of full funding of governor and lieutenant governor candidates remains in place. Portions of Connecticut's statute were held unconstitutional in 2009, on the grounds that it unfairly discriminated against third party and independent candidates, but the core program of full funding of constitutional and legislative candidates remains in place.[2] In July 2010 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld portions of the district court's order but allowed the core program to continue.[3]

On June 27, 2011, ruling in the consolidated cases Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett, the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional the matching-funds provision of the Arizona law.[4] The decision cast doubt on the new constitutionality of similar provisions in Maine, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. As a result, the Wisconsin legislature eliminated funding for its judicial elections in 2011.[citation needed]

Voters have not supported publicly funded elections in several referendums. In Massachusetts the system was repealed after a 2002 advisory initiative in which voters voted nearly 2 to 1 against using government funds to pay for political campaigns. Portland, Oregon's program was narrowly repealed by voters in a 2010 referendum.[5] In 2008, a Clean Elections bill, the California Fair Elections Act (AB583) passed the California Assembly and Senate and was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Because of the ban on publicly funded elections, the law had to be approved by voters in an initiative in June 2010. On June 8, 2010, California voters decided against the measure by 57% to 43%.[6] An earlier Clean Elections ballot initiative that suggested funding elections with a business tax, Proposition 89 was also defeated in California in 2006, by 74% against to 26% in favor of a corporate tax to fund elections. A Clean Elections ballot initiative in Alaska failed by a 64% to 35% margin in August 2008.[7]

In 2013, North Carolina repealed its popular "Voter Owned Elections" program of public financing of judicial campaigns with 900 people arrested at the Moral Monday protests in Raleigh.[8]

Comprehensive public funding systems have been in effect in Arizona and Maine since 2000. In Maine, since enactment, approximately three quarters of state legislators have run their campaigns with government funds provided by the state program.[9] In Arizona, a majority of the state house[citation needed] and both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor ran publicly financed campaigns in 2006. There has not yet been a statewide election in Maine in which both the Republican and Democratic candidates were financed through the public financing system.[citation needed]

Seattle voters approved the Democracy voucher program in 2015, which gives city residents four $25 vouchers to donate to participating candidates.[10]

In Other Countries

The United Kingdom, Norway, India, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden are some jurisdictions where methods of publicly funded election legislation and the reasons for the need of alternatives to privately funded campaigns have been considered.

Clean Elections: Differences from traditional reforms

"Clean Elections" is the name supporters have given to some public financing efforts, used most prominently in Maine and Arizona.

Some Clean Elections laws provide a government grant to candidates who agree to limit their spending and private fundraising. Candidates participating in a Clean Elections system are required to meet certain qualification criteria, which usually includes collecting a number of signatures and small contributions (generally determined by statute and set at $5 in both Maine and Arizona) before the candidate can receive public support. In most Clean Elections programs, these qualifying contributions must be given by constituents. To receive the government campaign grant, "Clean Candidates" must agree to forgo all other fundraising and accept no other private or personal funds. Candidates who choose not to participate are subject to limits on their fundraising, typically in the form of limits on the size of contributions they may accept and the sources of those contributions (such as limits on corporate or union contributions), and detailed reporting requirements.[citation needed]

In the US, in order to comply with Buckley v. Valeo, participation by candidates is not legally required. Originally, many Clean Elections programs provided that publicly financed candidates who were outspent by a privately funded candidate could receive additional funds (sometimes called "rescue funds") to match their privately funded opponent, up to a cap, with the intent of assuring that a candidate running with private funding would not outspend his government funded opponent. However, in Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, the U.S. Supreme Court held that such "rescue fund" provisions unconstitutionally burdened the rights of speakers by intentionally limiting the effectiveness of their own speech. Thus since Bennett clean elections systems in the U.S. have been forced to abandon the "rescue funds" approach.

US supporters

In the US, SB 752, the Fair Elections Now Act, calling for publicly funded elections in U.S. Senate campaigns, was sponsored in the 111th Congress (2009–10) by Senators: Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (D-PA).[11] A companion bill, H.R. 1826, was introduced in the House, sponsored by John Larson (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and Walter Jones (R-NC). Unlike the Clean Elections laws in Maine and Arizona, H.R. 1826 did not include the "rescue funds" provision, perhaps due to concern about constitutionality in the wake of the Davis decision. Neither bill moved out of committee.[citation needed]

Others who have endorsed clean elections include:

See also

Country-specific (International):


  1. ^ Lueders, Bill (2011-06-30). "Campaign financing dead in Wisconsin". Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  2. ^ "Connecticut Campaign Finance Law Ruled Unconstitutional". Wall Street Journal. 28 August 2009. Archived from the original on 14 September 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  3. ^ Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield (2d Cir. 13 July 2010). Text
  4. ^ Vogel, Kenneth P. (2011-06-27). "Narrow ruling on campaign finance". Politico.
  5. ^ "November 2010 General Election - Official Results". The City of Portland Oregon.
  6. ^ Kanalley, Craig (2010-06-09). "Huffington Post". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  7. ^ "2008 Primary Election Results". Anchorage Daily News. 21 October 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  8. ^ Smith, Adam (2013-07-26). "North Carolina Legislature Repeals Popular "Voter Owned Elections" Program". Public Campaign. Archived from the original on 2013-10-09.
  9. ^ "Maine Ethics Commission: Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA)". Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  10. ^ Young, Bob (November 3, 2015). "'Democracy vouchers' win in Seattle; first in country". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  11. ^ "S. 752: Fair Elections Now Act". Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "April 13, 2009". The Nation. 2009-04-13. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  16. ^ John Edwards for President-One Democracy Initiative: Returning Washington To Regular People Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Sen. McCain Embraces Clean Elections In Arizona Big Boost To Public Financing Seen". 12 June 2002. Archived from the original on 2011-05-25.
  19. ^ "Dialing for Clean Dollars". Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  20. ^ "Candidate Challenge: John McCain". YouTube. 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "One New York" (PDF). State of the State 2007. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-26. Full public financing must be the ultimate goal of our reform effort.

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This page was last edited on 19 November 2019, at 01:31
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