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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Despite DISCLOSE Act Disappointment, Campaign Finance Advocates Soldier On

Elisa Mueller
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Sep 25, 2010

It’s been a hard week for campaign finance reform advocates, what with the failure of the DISCLOSE Act to once again overcome a Republican filibuster on Thursday in the Senate, but Congress did make progress on a different, yet related, measure in the House yesterday.

It’s called the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 6116), and yesterday it cleared the House Committee on Administration with bipartisan support. Public Citizen’s David Arkush hailed the bill and its passage out of committee as “one of the most effective single steps Congress could take to loosen the special interests’ grip on Washington. It would enable candidates to forgo large campaign contributions and instead fund their campaigns with small donations from average Americans, which would be multiplied by matching federal funds.”

The goal of the bill is to set up an alternative system of financing Congressional campaigns that House and Senate candidates could opt into. If candidates qualify by obtaining sufficient initial support, they would receive a lump sum right off the bat. Donations of $100 or less from in-state contributors would then be matched by the government 4 to 1. Participating candidates would also receive a 20% reduction from the lowest broadcast rates in their state or district. In return, a candidate’s PAC would be limited to a $100 contribution limit per individual per year.

Public financing has been a touchy subject among the Obama administration and good government groups ever since Obama decided to opt out of the public system of presidential campaign financing while on the campaign trail in 2008. He declared the system antiquated (which it was) and pledged to fix it when he got elected (which he hasn’t).

The Fair Elections Now Act deals with congressional elections, but look for another bill sponsored by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Reps. David E. Price (D-N.C.), Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd R. Platts (R-Pa.) that deals with the presidential public campaign finance system to start getting more attention as well, especially as the 2012 race inches closer. It seems unlikely, though, that a Republican-heavy Congress will feel compelled to work with the president on a bill in that context.

Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


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