BIDEN Cosponsors Bill to Strengthen Presidential Campaign Public Financing System
Today U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) joined Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) in introducing the Presidential Funding Act of 2007, to strengthen the existing presidential public financing system funded by voluntary taxpayer contributions. Shortly after his election to the Senate in 1972, Sen. Biden called for public financing for campaigns in testimony before the Senate Rules Committee. He has since been one of the Senate's most ardent and steadfast advocates for overhauling campaign funding laws in favor of public financing.
"The presidential election should be about the power of ideas, not the influence of money," said Senator Biden. "To protect the integrity of the system and the voice of the people against the fundraising power of special interests, we need to modernize the public financing system before it becomes irrelevant. For over thirty years, I have fought to reform how campaigns are funded. This bill is a good first step towards putting the public financing system in sync with modern presidential campaigns."
In 2004, both major parties' presidential candidates opted out of the public financing system, raising and spending more than $500 million, before accepting their parties' nominations. In 2008, candidates are projected to raise and spend more than a billion dollars in the primary and general elections. They are smashing previous records for primary fundraising. Two-thirds of this record haul is made up of contributions of $1,000 or more.
While public funds constituted 58 percent of total campaign spending in 1976, that figure dropped to only 21 percent in 2004. Primary candidates are opting out of the public financing system in increasing numbers, threatening its viability. Until the 2000 elections, candidate acceptance of public funding was generally high. Of roughly 82 presidential candidates from 1976-2004, only eight did not participate in the primary matching fund system - half of those were candidates in 2000 and 2004. The 1:1 match on the first $250 in private contributions has not kept pace with increases in the individual contribution limits (from $1,000 to $2,000) that were instituted when the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold) became law. The result is that the value of public financing for a candidate has dropped from $1 out of every $4 for a donor who contributes the maximum, to $1 out of every $8. Because matching funds are presently not released prior to the election year, the advent of a front-loaded primary calendar has made the public financing system less relevant.
Specifically, the Presidential Funding Act of 2007 will:
* Increase the amount of matching funds for the presidential primaries from a 1:1 match for up to $250 of an individual's aggregate contributions, to a 4:1 match for up to $200 of an individual's contribution;
* Repeal the state-by-state primary spending limits;
* Increase the spending ceilings for candidates who participate in the public financing system in the primary (to $150 million) and the general elections (to $100 million);
* Increase the qualifying threshold (from $5,000 to $25,000 in each of 20 states) for public financing in the primary election;
* Change the starting date for the release of matching funds to primary candidates from January 1 of the election year to six months before the first presidential primary or caucus;
* Require the disclosure of all individuals or groups that bundle contributions of $50,000 or more; and
* Enhance the funding stream for the public funding system by increasing the check-off from $3 to $10 and indexing it for inflation.
"American's confidence and trust in the system is threatened by out of control election spending," said Senator Biden. "Selecting the leader of our country should not be a money game, and this bill would help restore the integrity of the nominating process for the most important elected office in our country."