Tuesday, January 25, 2011


H.R. 359 is a prime example of where the Republican controlled 112th Congress wants to cut spending. This is a bill with a long title, it is called the "To reduce Federal spending and the deficit by terminating taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns and party conventions" bill.

By golly that's right, let's cut federal spending, especially when that spending comes from the taxpayers, and is earmarked by the taxpayers to be used for the specific purpose of financing Presidential Elections.  In the wake of the Supreme Court's terrible decision in Citizens United and the tsunami of dark money in last year's election, why allow the bulwark protecting Presidential Elections to stand?  Republicans know they can get tons of cash from persons who don't have to identify themselves to flood the 2012 Presidential Election.

Public financing of Presidential Elections doesn't come from the general fund. This money comes from ordinary taxpayers who mark a box at the end of their IRS tax form saying they want to contribute a dollar to this fund. It's called the taxpayer checkoff.

You can read the brochure the Federal Elections Commission has printed to explain how Public Funding of Presidential Elections works at: http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/pubfund.shtml#anchor688095. The brochure explains:

To qualify for public funding, Presidential candidates and party convention committees must first meet various eligibility requirements, such as agreeing to limit campaign spending to a specified amount. Once the Federal Election Commission determines that eligibility requirements have been met, it certifies the amount of public funds to which the candidate or convention committee is entitled. The U.S. Treasury then makes the actual payments from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. This fund consists of dollars voluntarily checked off by taxpayers on their federal income tax returns. (In 1993, the taxpayer checkoff was increased from $1 to $3. Public Law 103-66) The checkoff neither increases the amount of taxes owed nor decreases any refund due for the tax year in which the checkoff is made. [Emphasis Added.]
H.R. 359 is the first bill emerging from the House Rules Committee that deals with the 112th Congress' Republican pledge to cut spending. But don't they have it backwards? Didn't the people vote to have this Congress cut Congressional spending instead of cutting off the voluntary dollars of American citizens being spent at the express direction of the American people?

H.R. 359 amounts to larceny. The bill, introduced by Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole, with 18 cosponsors, wants to pillage the hard earned dollars Americans put into this fund. Rather than do the accounting necessary to return the unspent money to the American people, this band of thieves wants to steal the money and put it into the general fund. The bill directs that "The Secretary shall transfer all amounts in the fund after the date of the enactment of this section to the general fund of the Treasury." So everyone who voluntarily gave a dollar to keep the Presidential Election free from the undue influence of special interest money gets taxed by these Republicans.

The Republicans are shadow boxing with the issue of cutting governmental spending. They can't do it. Congress and the Administration will have to work together to make the hard choices on reducing the government's budget. Knee jerk solutions like H.R. 359 will not get the job done.

It's time to end the shadow boxing and knee jerking. It's time for the 112th Congress to put up or shut up.


  1. I just read the bill itself, which says that all excess funds (from that "do you want $1 to go to this fund?" question on the 1040) will be moved into the general treasury.

    I want my dollar back - that is NOT what I checked that box for! That was a completely voluntary donation on my part, and I want it to go towards the election fund. I do NOT want it to be used to make the Republican cuts look less "draconian."

  2. Don't fall for it! H.R. 359 is a trick so the Public will have no way of funding their own candidate. Only a Corporate sponsored choice would have the money to run.

  3. The way it has worked, since the days of the Nixon Administration's debacle, is that a candidate must choose between public funding or going it without that cash. No candidate has gone it alone.

    This is why public funding remains the last bulwark against the wholesale auctioning off of the White House to the highest bidder.

    It is not a perfect system, but in light of the erosion of transparency since the decision in Citizens United, it remains our best hope for having this country run by the people.

    In the end J.Q.P. may be correct. As an eternally hopeful person I will hold fast to working on behalf of transparency.

  4. @Maria F:
    The word "donation" is misleading, because it doesn't cost you anything extra, so you really don't have much say over it.