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senate Bill S. 1538

Would a Public Campaign Finance System for Senators 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 Senate elections.

Bill's Opinion
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09/28/2016
Of course it would. If you don't have to compete against corporations or wealthy individuals to run a campaign it's very hard to win. We need the best ideas. Not the most wealthy people, running our nation.
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Argument opposed

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

Pancake's Opinion
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12/20/2016
As good as this system sounds all it really does is increase government spending & therefore our debt
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What is Senate Bill S. 1538?

This bill would reform the way that Congressional elections are financed by allowing certain Senate candidates to earn grants, matching funds, and television vouchers based on small-dollar contributions they receive rather than relying on larger donors. Senate 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 Senate candidate or People PAC; People PACs; Senate candidates; and the federal agencies involved with elections.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1538

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced this bill to counteract what he believes to be the negative impact that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC has had on campaign finance by allowing for unlimited contributions to Super PACs:

“Five years ago, the Citizens United ruling effectively gave corporations and the wealthy few a blank check to influence politics and politicians in our country. Unless we curb the growing influence of big money in politics, our democracy is threatened. I’m introducing the Fair Elections Now Act to put the power of our political system back into the hands of the American people, where it belongs.”

This legislation has the support of 27 cosponsors in the Senate — including 26 Democrats and one Independent, Bernie Sanders.


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 Michael Branson Smith)

AKA

Fair Elections Now Act

Official Title

A bill to reform the financing of Senate elections, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Finance
    IntroducedJune 10th, 2015
    There's a caveat to this bill: it's voluntary. This means that those who choose to run a more honest, voter-friendly campaign would be hindered in their fight against their corporate sponsored opponents.
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    Of course it would. If you don't have to compete against corporations or wealthy individuals to run a campaign it's very hard to win. We need the best ideas. Not the most wealthy people, running our nation.
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    Bernie Sanders' campaign demonstrated the untapped desire of millions of Americans to fund the types of candidates who reflect their interests. Matching small dollar donations would help mitigate the outsized influence of billionaires and Super PACs on our democracy, and Senate members can demonstrate their willingness to hold themselves accountable to the American public.
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    We're starting to do this in Seattle and I'm super excited about it. It gives everyone a voice, unlike the current system. I'm also sure that with enough pressure, candidates would enter gentleman's agreements to all opt into this system, though making it mandatory would be the logical next step.
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    As good as this system sounds all it really does is increase government spending & therefore our debt
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    Shouldn't be voluntary. Good first step.
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    Political positions should be achievable for all citizens, not just the wealthy.
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    We need to change how money happens in the political process.
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    I agree with the the Patriotic Millionaires viewpoint
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    We can't truly have a democracy by the people of most people can't afford to run for office.
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    We have to keep wealthy individuals, corporations and special interests from having a bigger say than the rest of us. Our voices are what the politicians should care about, not the size of our donations!
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    This empowers the public to back their representatives and encourages representatives to be involved with the public. I'm for it!
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