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house Bill H.R. 20

Would a Public Campaign Finance System for House Candidates Empower Ordinary Citizens?

Argument in favor

This public campaign finance system would give average citizens an incentive to make small contributions to political candidates by offering 6-to-1 matching for small donations and weaken powerful organizations that try to tip the scales in House elections.

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04/22/2016
"In the year 2016, with a political campaign finance system that is corrupt and increasingly controlled by billionaires and special interests, I fear very much that, in fact, government of the people, by the people, and for the people is beginning to perish in the United States of America. We cannot allow that to happen." [berniesanders.com]
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BarackObama's Opinion
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04/22/2016
"We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.” [prospect.org]
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BTSundra's Opinion
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01/10/2016
Sure, as long as you bar unions from funneling millions into the parties and having their members vote for specific parties.
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Argument opposed

There is no reason to believe that this public campaign finance system would actually be used by House candidates. They have need to raise as much money as possible, and relying on this system’s donation matching may leave them underfunded.

John's Opinion
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06/25/2015
Unless you are also going to eliminate Unions from contributing millions of dollars, what's the point... And why limit it to Federal elections? The same forces are at play in State and Local elections.
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Frank's Opinion
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11/07/2016
Not in the form of this bill, no. Give Voters instead a $5,000 voucher which can only be transferred to a Candidate's campaign and You will dilute the influence of other money sources. Eventually, seeking other money sources would be not worth the effort for Candidates and those sources would disappear because Nobody would be accepting the money. No additional restrictions on speech nor on donations nor association would be needed.
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Mark's Opinion
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04/18/2016
Won't help any the voters don't matter to politicians. First they create super delegates to ensure the party favorite wins. Then they go with voteless primaries/caucuses to do the same thing. Democracy is dead.
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What is House Bill H.R. 20?

This bill would reform the way that Congressional elections are financed by allowing certain House candidates to earn grants, matching funds, and television vouchers based on small-dollar contributions they receive rather than relying on larger donors. House candidates could choose to participate in this voluntary public financing system, but they would have to agree to limit their campaign spending to what they receive from small-dollar contributions (defined as less than $150 per donor) and money provided by the Fair Elections Fund.

During a primary, small-dollar contributions would be subject to a 6-to-1 match up to a certain cap, and once that cap is reached candidates could raise an unlimited amount of $150 or less contributions. Candidates would also receive a base grant that’s proportional to their state’s population. In a general election candidates would get an additional grant, continued small-dollar contribution matching, and media vouchers to buy television advertising while raising an unlimited amount of $150 contributions.

Funding for this campaign finance system would come from a .05 percent fee assessed on annual federal contracts over $10 million in value, though the fee would be capped at $500,000 per year for larger contracts.

A new type of political action committee (PAC) would be created called a “People PAC” which can only receive contributions of $150 or less from individuals, which could make donations of up to $5,000 per election to a candidate that’s qualified for Fair Elections funding. Standard federal PACs are able to accept up to $5,000 per year in donations from individuals, while Super PACs can accept unlimited contributions.

People would be able to utilize a new “My Voice Tax Credit” to encourage individuals to make small donations to political campaigns. The maximum tax refund an individual could receive would be limited at $25, while joint filers could get $50. Only people who contribute less than $300 to a candidate or political party in a given year would be eligible for the tax refund.

Impact

Average citizens who wish to make a donation of less than $150 to a House candidate or People PAC; People PACs; House candidates; and the federal agencies involved with elections.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 20

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: In an op-ed published in the The Washington Post, sponsoring Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated their case for a new public campaign finance system:

"We can and must break the grip of special interests on our politics. Those of us inside and outside the Capitol who support this kind of major change are rallying around [this bill]... [Our bill] would help build a politics and a government that answer to the people. Together, we can reassert the full promise of our ideals and restore confidence in our democracy."
This legislation has the support of 161 cosponsors in the House — including 160 Democrats and a Republican.

Of Note: Currently, presidential candidates have the option of using a public campaign finance system that involves 3-to-1 donation matching and limitations on spending. That said, no candidate has used public funding in a general election since John McCain in his 2008 general election campaign, and President Obama signed a law eliminating public funding as an option for candidates during their primaries in 2014.

Several states and cities have implemented public campaign finance systems for their elections to varying degrees of success, though some have been struck down by courts or repealed. In Arizona both major parties’ candidates for governor used public funding, and in Maine most of its state legislators use public financing for their campaigns.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user tslac)

AKA

Government By the People Act of 2015

Official Title

To reform the financing of Congressional elections by broadening participation by small dollar donors, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Administration
      Trade
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Communications and Technology
      Committee on Ways and Means
    IntroducedJanuary 21st, 2015
    "In the year 2016, with a political campaign finance system that is corrupt and increasingly controlled by billionaires and special interests, I fear very much that, in fact, government of the people, by the people, and for the people is beginning to perish in the United States of America. We cannot allow that to happen." [berniesanders.com]
    Like (228)
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    Unless you are also going to eliminate Unions from contributing millions of dollars, what's the point... And why limit it to Federal elections? The same forces are at play in State and Local elections.
    Like (23)
    Follow
    Share
    "We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.” [prospect.org]
    Like (108)
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    Share
    Can we really expect a change as long as we keep sending the same reps back to DC every year?
    Like (9)
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    Sure, as long as you bar unions from funneling millions into the parties and having their members vote for specific parties.
    Like (9)
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    The system is corrupt and horribly broken. This is a start
    Like (7)
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    Due to money from dark interests, our political structures are becoming more extreme and more subversive with each passing year. We are now a corpocracy, not a democracy and "we the people" mean little to those that govern us. Corporations and money are not people. It's time to get rid of the "big money" loophole that has adversely influenced our laws and politicians,
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    Big corporations shouldn't be treated as a person in terms of campaign financing. Make the voices of regular citizens count, and not have the interests of big oil companies, etc.
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    Not in the form of this bill, no. Give Voters instead a $5,000 voucher which can only be transferred to a Candidate's campaign and You will dilute the influence of other money sources. Eventually, seeking other money sources would be not worth the effort for Candidates and those sources would disappear because Nobody would be accepting the money. No additional restrictions on speech nor on donations nor association would be needed.
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    Corporations are not people.
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    The lobbyists and most of the politicians will hate this one. They like a government slanted in their favor. It rewards their greed. But that's not how the government is supposed to work!
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    A true democracy is reliant upon each vote counting equally, with fair and equal representation of issues prior to elections
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    Look at the Constitution. Look at the Declaration of Independence. Do we need a further explanation?
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    Power by people not by corporations
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    Won't help any the voters don't matter to politicians. First they create super delegates to ensure the party favorite wins. Then they go with voteless primaries/caucuses to do the same thing. Democracy is dead.
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    The American citizen should have as much say as a corporation. Education and transparency are key to our understanding and ability to vote.
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    The idea is right but no one will choose this system! Opting into a small donor olny system that has a matching cap? Yeah right.
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    This bill goes about reform backwards. It injects more money into politics -- the goal should be to take money out. One good step would be to prohibit foreign entities from contributing to all aspects of races, having a beneficial side effect of discouraging corporate tax flight.
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    We need to end special interest from unduly influencing government.
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    We live Ina corporatocracy not a democracy of public officials are taking money from special interests. It shouldn't cost an exuberant amount of money to run for an office. A public official should have less bias, to do so they should not accept campaign contributions from companies.
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