Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) has introduced the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 269), legislation that creates a public financing system for Congressional campaigns. The bipartisan legislation, filed Tuesday with 52 original cosponsors, would enable small-dollar campaign donors to compete with special interests in Congressional elections, mitigate the effects of outside money in politics, and encourage a more diverse pool of candidates to run for federal office.
"Special-interest money has corroded the public's confidence in our government and fueled the perception that Congress is for sale to the highest bidder," Yarmuth said. "Until we get big money out of politics, we will never be able to responsibly address the major issues facing American families. The public financing system this legislation establishes is critical to repairing our broken electoral system and rebuilding our trust with the American people."
The legislation is designed to leverage small-donor contributions by providing a 5-to-1 federal match of contributions below $100 from residents of a candidate's state in both the primary and general elections. The voluntary program would also provide grants to ensure that primary winners are competitive in general elections.
"After an election season dominated by big money donors, it's great to have leaders like Congressman Yarmuth work on important legislation to raise the voice of everyday people in the political process," said Nick Nyhart, President/CEO of Public Campaign. "We look forward to working with him and mobilizing the American people to demand a government "of, by, and for the people,' not just big campaign donors."
Under the legislation, a candidate must raise $50,000 in donations of between $5 and $100 each from at least 1,500 in-state donors to qualify for public financing. During both the primary and general election campaigns, qualifying candidates would receive a lump-sum grant based on the average amount winning candidates spent during the previous two election cycles. Every in-state donation would be matched 5-to-1 up to three times the grant amount.
Candidates who choose the public financing system must agree to only raise donations of up to $100 each. The matching system is designed to ensure that candidates would remain competitive.
Congressman Yarmuth has long been a proponent of eliminating special-interest money from elections. During the 112th Congress, he introduced a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for special-interest spending on campaigns. The amendment would also enable Congress to establish a public financing system for federal campaigns. Read more about the amendment here.