Poll: Should Taxpayers Fund Political Campaigns?

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In this week’s episode, Bill talks with two fair elections advocates working to get big money out of political campaigns. One approach they support is public financing for elections. In New York City, for example, if you’re running for city-wide office or city council, any private contribution you receive up to $175 is matched six to one by a public fund. Candidates who have participated in the system say that the majority of their campaign funds comes from small donations made by fellow residents. The advantages are that middle class candidates without access to big donors are able to run to for office, and a more diverse group of voters will get involved in the process by supporting candidates with small donations.



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  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    People should contribute by choice, directly if interested. Congress is so immoral that they will cut off the milk for babies fund to put more cash in their own pockets. I did make a political donation directly to my candidate, but do not think that it is fair to tax me and give the money to anyone who I may not support.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.elgee.5 Pat Elgee

    Excuse for the second post, but it occurs to me that in this digital age, there may be a better way to get to know who is running. We have the internet. Elections do not have to be so expensive! Obama used it wisely on his first run for President. On his second run, spent more money. Romney, spent big buck on mud slinging ads for the nomination, then running for President as well. I think that candidates should make a good tape, have it on some US government site on the internet where they state their platform, then use shoe leather for personal appearances. I hate that international companies like oil companies give so much money, because then they own the politician. And it shows!

  • Anonymous

    You have a good idea, but it is also important to remember that the entirety of the country may not be in the same situation as us. It is not even close to 100% of people having Internet access, and broadband access (necessary for things like video) is a significantly lower percent.

    Relying upon libraries sounds good, but consider some poor person working two or even three jobs in order to barely make the ends meet. Perhaps they have one or two kids that need looking after. They may very likely have to rely upon public transportation which requires significantly longer to get someplace (in most cities) than just jumping in your own car. How difficult would it be for them to pop over to the library and spend a few hours surfing in order to find out about the candidates.

    These are all classic situations that ALEC and the GOP have targetted for voter disenfranchisement. They use propaganda campaigns to make their voter suppression tricks sound “perfectly reasonable” to middle class voters given the type of lifestyle that the typical middle class lives — only one job, the ability to take time off to vote and get voter ID, and their own car that makes accomplishing all those tasks significantly easier and “no big deal” for them.

    So this isn’t meant to “shoot down” your concept. It’s a good concept. But it’s also important to realize that it won’t work for everyone.

  • Amy

    Election season should only be 3 months. Every candidate should get a predetermined amount of air time on TV and ad space in newspapers for free. Local papers already run position papers for local elections. We don’t need to be hit over the head with negative ads for 10 months before each election.

  • oni

    There should be a limit on the amount of $ and time that can be spent/bought by each candidate.

  • Steve

    Public campaign financing in Arizona helped us to elect a number of people who would not otherwise have participated. We now have one of the worst governments in the country. I’m not sure if that has to do with public financing as much as it does with term limits, but I don’t think public financing alone will give us good government.

    On the other hand, I love the idea of limiting the campaign season, and it would be a huge relief if our representatives could spend time actually working on issues instead of constantly raising money. And if we have public financing, there should be cost controls on broadcast and print advertising so the taxpayers are not simply filling the coffers of the corporate interests running the media.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000357460804 Nora Edwards

    I prefer to donate to my candidate. The income tax checkoff distributes the money evenly between the two big parties. I’d prefer my dollar go to the minor party of my choice.

  • David G. Martin

    I totally agree with this article that political campaigns finances need to change. I believe that the best place to start is overturning the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission ruling.

  • Markus Maleek

    Our government is supposed to be by, of, and for the people. Therefore, the people should pay for the elections. It is the only way to ensure that elected officials will truly keep the interests of the people at heart.

  • Teresa

    Seriously!! Are we really debating this? This idea is unnecessary and expensive. Just eliminate contributions from Corporations and limit the dollar contribution per person allowable. Remember that all tax dollars come from hard working Americans that are trying to support themselves and their family. Any tax should go to a good cause. Funding a politician is not a good cause. (I’m an independent middle class voter that will soon need a government subsidy if I’m taxed anymore.)

  • H. P.

    No private $$$$ at all. Not even the candidates own money. A candidate needs to collect x amount of signatures to qualify for public funds. Every candidate would get the same amount, a nice even playing field.

    Pete G

  • Robin Kuykendall

    We’re presuming the campaign is WORTH all that money. We need to follow the money better & lower the premium.

  • Robin Kuykendall

    Yes! Free access might really help us out here.

  • jcaimbridge

    The problem I see with that is that
    (1) the already-wealthy will have a considerable advantage in running for office over citizens that better represent the public
    (2) part of the problem is that wealth will inevitably find a way into the political system. There are certain perks to being wealthy (in terms of influence) that cannot be legislated out of existence. Therefore, I believe we need a public funding system to overshadow that.

    Also, please note just how inexpensive a system like this will be. The recently proposed campaign finance system in NY is expected to increase the tax burden by a mere 0.02% ( http://expertscolumn.com/content/assemblywoman-sandy-galef-and-panel-propose-publicly-funded-elections-balance-new-york-state ).

  • jcaimbridge

    We absolutely need a system of public funding. Desperately, actually. The current system of campaign finance gives the wealthy a massive leg up in terms of influence. Understandably, most that see this are just disgusted, and then the knee-jerk reaction is to ban all (or something close to all) contributions. But this isn’t so great either because the wealthy naturally have an advantage as far as influence goes (just by being wealthy. The money will find a way, and you can’t legislate that influence out of existence). So you need to give the public–average citizens–a way to overcome this.

    Also, it’s simply a fact of life that good campaigns cost a lot of money, so something like banning all contributions would favor the already-wealthy millionaires in terms of electability–people that don’t represent the public very well.

    It also helps that a system of public funding makes people more involved in the political process (they now have some skin in the game). Given the current levels of apathy, this can only be a good thing.

    Lastly, these public financing systems really aren’t that expensive. The one being proposed in NY would only raise the tax burden by 0.02% ( http://goo.gl/Txb2u ). Compared to the “Cost of Corruption,” this is *nothing*. Further proof of this is the “return on investment” that the wealthy reap from their contributions, which is usually measured in something >1000% (in some way or another, the benefits they reap are at the expense of the public).

  • BlueberryT

    Taxpayer funding would only work if there were tight limits on outside spending and a more limited period for campaigns.

  • RobinOfTheWest

    Take the money out of politics and the power to run this country away from special interests.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Victor-Jacinto-Cano/1547466787 Victor Jacinto Cano

    make it mandatory that the public air waves provide free equal time, turn control of the debates back over to the League of Women voters, and use instant run off style voting

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqblOq8BmgM

  • http://www.facebook.com/natacha.sochat Natacha Sochat

    we need to stop the ridiculous wasting of money and the incessant manipulative ads that are created by the special interest groups that want to control our democracy. I think most Americans are sick and tired of the prolonged campaigns and the stupid ads. We need to stop the practice that elected officials spend obscene amounts of time fundraising rather than working for our country to have fair public policies, and solving our problems. Democracy is only as good as it is responsive to the people, and not only for the special interests that always find ways to cheat the system.

  • blubird106

    We should not allow special interests to donate to a campaign for the very same reason we don’t allow foreign governments to donate. Please don’t try to tell me that someone who donates millions of dollars like the Kochs, is not expecting some return on their money. Bludgeoning us over the head with political ads every 30 seconds for 6 months is not a way to involve most people in anything political, except for the utter relief felt when it’s over.

  • JR

    Wouldn’t it be great to place a fifty million dollar cap (of public money) on all political campaigns and outlaw contributions from corporations, PAC’s and other political interest groups. Also, allow only the individual’s campaign committee to advertise for their candidate, for a very limited period of time, and not mention the shortcomings of their opponent(s). The experience would be relatively cheap, short in duration and without malice.

  • Susanna

    I agree there should be political campaign limits. One registered vote should equal a restrictive amount at the local, state and federal level.

  • Strawman411

    I have long been a strong defender of the First Amendment’s protection of speech, even (especially) unpopular speech.

    But, in view of those protections having had long-settled limitations — the old example of “shouting fire in a crowded theater” being one — I am coming around to accepting that the popular concept of “money = speech” needs examination.

    In short, if we cannot regulate the corruptive influence of money out of electoral politics, this experiment in democracy is doomed.

    We face a daunting battle, though, as every vested interest will fight to the death to maintain the status quo.

    I now believe an inclusive (not two-party) publicly funded election campaign system is our only hope.

  • peter

    Amy has it right.

  • Michelle Shaffer

    After seeing Jimmy Carter on Piers Morgan the other night, I am more convinced than ever that we need to reform campaign financing.

  • 101st vet

    Electing to have $3.00 go to the public financing on your tax return should be a no brainier. It doesn’t increase or decrease your tax liability, so why not!