With what are sometimes years and years of fundraising under their belts, incumbents are able to accumulate considerable campaign "war chests" that they can use to fend off less well-funded challengers. Our elections process should not be a money-raising battle--it needs to be a competition of ideas, with the American people choosing their candidates based on these ideas rather than their bank accounts. I have introduced a bill, H.R. 2788, the "Competitive Elections Act," which would require all candidates to start off with the same balance in their campaign treasury: $0.
The Nuts and Bolts
The Competitive Elections Act amends Title III of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 by inserting Section 315B, ensuring that every candidate running for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate must zero out their campaign accounts each election cycle. This will require all Congressional candidates--incumbents and challengers alike-- to start off on a level playing field.
The Exception for Self-Funders: Once expenditures from personal funds made by any candidate during the election cycle exceed and aggregate amount of $100,000, that candidate is subject to the new reporting requirement. After the initial statement, which must be made within 24 hours of reaching the aggregate amount, the candidate must file an additional statement each time the candidate makes or obligates to make expenditures from personal funds during the election cycle in an aggregate amount that exceeds $50,000. All subsequent filings are also required to be submitted within 24 hours as well. This exception, as demonstrated in this chart would have only applied to a small number of candidates in the last election cycle.
The Bottom Line
You should not have to be a self-funding millionaire to be competitive in a congressional election. If you think you can do a better job than your current Representative and voters agree with you, you should be the next representative. An incumbent's massive war chest--campaign funds accumulated through years and years of fundraising--should not stand in the way.