House Democrats Introduce Bill to Publicly Fund Campaigns

The legislation is aimed at limiting the role and influence of large groups and corporations on House elections, say the bill’s sponsors.

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last week introduced H.R. 20, the Government by the People Act, to create a public financing option for House elections.

According to supporters, the legislation aims to encourage contributions from small and local donors and limit the influence of Washington groups and corporations.

In order for candidates to qualify for the public financing program, they would have to raise half of their funds from within their state and accept a maximum of $1,000 per donor. Contributions of $150 or less would be federally matched at a rate of 6 to 1. The federal match would increase to 9 to 1 if candidates limit donations at $150 or less. Donors to these campaigns would be eligible for a $25 tax credit.

In the final 60 days of a campaign, candidates could also receive an additional $500,000 matching donation if they raise $50,000 in small donations during that period. Sarbanes told the Center for Public Integrity that the matching funds would be paid for by closing tax loopholes affecting “industries that have all this influence.”

In a joint op-ed in the Washington Post on February 4, Sarbanes and Pelosi wrote that the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision has drastically increased the amount of special-interest spending on elections.

“Most members of Congress would leap at the chance to fund their campaigns without having to turn to a familiar cast of big donors and entrenched interests,” Sarbanes and Pelosi wrote. “Today, that’s virtually impossible. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can and must break the grip of special interests on our politics.”

The legislation has 128 cosponsors; 127 are Democrats. The bill has also gained support from prominent labor unions and progressive groups.

It is unclear what impact the legislation would have on political action committees, but according a Center for Public Integrity report, candidates would be eligible for matching funds for PAC donations only if the PAC limits contributions to $150 per person per year.

(photo by KrissZPhotography/Flickr)

Chris Vest, CAE

By Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE is vice president, corporate communications and public relations at ASAE. MORE

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