The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill today introduced by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R--Miss.) to stop taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns and shut down an obsolete federal election agency.
H.R. 3463 combines a proposal crafted by Rep. Tom Cole (R--Okla.) to terminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF) and a plan authored by Harper, who chairs the Elections Subcommittee, to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). Dissolving these federal programs saves taxpayers $480 million over five years and immediately decreases the federal deficit by $199 million, according to nonpartisan congressional scorekeepers.
"Since 1976, taxpayers have spent 1.5 billion dollars subsidizing a campaign finance program that hasn't worked. Since 2005, we've spent tens of millions funding an agency that, despite its dwindling responsibilities, has more than doubled in size," Harper said. "And today, in a bipartisan show of common sense, the House voted to end both."
The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) administers the PECF, which allows taxpayers to designate an individual tax checkoff in the amount of $3. The percentage of taxpayers participating in this program has dropped from 28.7 percent in 1980 to 7 percent in 2010, even though contributing does not affect tax liability.
The EAC was created by the Help America Vote Act in conjunction with a federal decision to send billions of dollars to states to replace old punch card and lever voting systems and to implement statewide registration databases and other improvements. The commission now spends over 50 percent of its budget on administrative costs and has doubled in size while its programs continue to decline.
"The EAC is the perfect example of what's wrong with Washington," added Harper. "This bloated federal agency has long outlived its purpose and recklessly mismanages its resources, yet continues to cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year."
The bipartisan National Association of Secretaries of State -- the direct beneficiaries of the EAC's dwindling services -- has passed two resolutions calling for the commission's dissolution.
"The National Association of Secretaries of State encourages Congress not to reauthorize or fund the EAC," said the secretaries in a resolution adopted in 2005 and renewed in 2010. "Congress should preserve the states' ability to serve as independent laboratories of change through successful experiments and innovation in election reform."
H.R. 3463 transfers the commission's voting system testing and certification programs to the FEC.