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Presidential Election Campaign Fund

Instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, the Republican leadership pushed a bill (H.R. 359) to place control of our elections more squarely into the hands of secret corporate donors-passing it on January 26th by a vote of 239-160. This legislation does nothing to address the challenges to our economy and the urgent need to focus on jobs. In fact, by shifting the election system to favor big business, this legislation could strengthen the power of companies that ship American jobs overseas.

Established by Congress in the shadow of the Watergate Scandal, the current system of publicly financing presidential campaigns emerged during the early and mid-1970s to ensure elections are about voters, not big money. H.R. 359 terminates:

  • the taxpayer option to designate $3 of income tax liability for financing of presidential election campaigns;
  • the Presidential Election Campaign Fund; and
  • the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account.  

H.R. 359 opens the door for large political spenders (foreign-owned entities, large corporations and other organizations) to enjoy an even greater role in the funding of political campaigns after the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to uninhibited special interest spending in our elections and unlimited corporate influence over our public policy debate in the Citizens United case. It has been reported that special interest groups spent more in 2010 than any previous election cycle. By eliminating the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, where all Americans can have their voices heard, special interest groups will be able to dominate Presidential elections even more.

Last year, Democrats worked on bipartisan legislation to restore transparency, fairness, and accountability to our political process by passing the DISCLOSE Act. This legislation would require corporations to stand by their advertisements and to keep foreign-owned entities from participating in our elections. Learn more about the DISCLOSE Act»

H.R. 359 was brought to the floor with absolutely no hearings and no opportunity for Members and the public to voice their opinions.  In contrast, the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175) was shaped by a bipartisan process including five hearings in three different House Committees.

Opposition to H.R. 359
The White House/Office of Management and Budget (1/25/11)

  • “After a year in which the Citizens United decision rolled back a century of law to allow corporate interests to spend vast sums in the Nation's elections and to do so without disclosing the true interests behind them, this is not the time to further empower the special interests or to obstruct the work of reform.”

New York Times Editorial (1/22/11)

  • “Killing a system that helped hold down campaign spending and defend the nation against the buying and selling of political office is the last thing that should be on the agenda of the new House majority.”

Reform Groups (1/24/11)

  • “House members should support efforts to increase the role and importance of average citizens and small donors in our presidential elections. Representatives should not take action to turn the elections over to big donors, bundlers, lobbyists, corporate spenders and other outside spenders.”

Democracy 21  (1/21/11)

  • “House Republican leaders promised a fair and open process for considering legislation in this Congress. They appear to have forgotten this commitment before even settling in to their offices.

    The process House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced today is an absolutely outrageous and indefensible process for considering a presidential public financing system that served the country well for most of its existence but that now needs to be repaired, not repealed.”

Washington Post (1/25/11)

  • “In the wake of ill-considered Supreme Court rulings that have paved the way for more campaign spending by outside interest groups, wealthy donors and corporations, the need for rehabbing the presidential funding system is even greater than during the 2008 campaign. Fix the system - don't junk it.”

Organizations In Opposition

  • Americans for Campaign Reform
  • Brennan Center for Justice
  • Campaign Legal Center
  • Common Cause
  • Democracy 21
  • League of Women Voters
  • People For the American Way
  • Public Campaign
  • Public Citizen
  • U.S. PIRG