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Public Funding of Presidential Campaigns

We will now consider a bill in Congress that proposes ending the program for public funding of presidential campaigns.

As you may know, in the 1970’s, the federal government established a program to make presidential campaigns less dependent on private contributions by providing them government funds. Presidential campaigns receive these funds, though, only if they agree to limit the total amount of money they spend in their campaign, and the amount of money they get from private sources. The program is funded by taxpayers, who check a box on their IRS tax forms directing $3 to the fund for this purpose. Contributing to the fund does not increase an individual’s taxes or reduce any refund they are owed.

For some time, all major presidential candidates adhered to the spending limits and received the funding. With time, though, some candidates found they could raise so much more money through private sources that they chose not to accept the limits on their spending, even though they would have to forego the public funds. By the 2016 election, all of the major candidates chose to exceed the spending limits, foregoing the public funds. Thus, the fund has been rarely used and now has nearly $300 million available.

The legislation proposes to end the Federal program providing public support for presidential campaigns. The $3 check off on taxpayers’ IRS forms would be ended and the unused funds would be directed to pediatric research or deficit reduction.