Matching Political Contributions

Spencer Overton, Matching Political Contributions, 96 Minn. L. Rev. 1694 (2012).

Abstract:  Traditional public financing of campaigns is in trouble. Successful candidates have increasingly rejected public financing because it provides inadequate funding and limits candidate spending. November 2012 was the first general election in which presidential candidates from both major parties rejected public financing since the inception of the program. The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a decision that undermined traditional public financing systems. If existing programs are not revamped soon public financing may be off the public radar for decades, as budget deficits make antiquated public financing programs ripe targets for spending cuts. This Essay proposes a paradigm shift. Public financing should no longer aim to purge private money from politics, but should instead encourage as many citizens as possible to participate in financing politics. Specifically, federal, state, and local lawmakers should adopt a multiple match for political contributions that would dramatically expand participation. Giving six-to-one multiple matching public funds on the first $200 of a contribution, for example, would make a $200 contribution worth $1400 to a candidate. Studies show that multiple matching funds can increase citizen participation sevenfold, and can prompt candidates to collect the bulk of their money from smaller contributors.

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