On Monday, Congressman John Larson and National President and CEO of Common Cause, Bob Edgar, will be having a press conference and blogger availability in Connecticut to introduce the Fair Elections Now Act. According to Common Cause and the Fair Elections Now Coalition (.pdf), under the act:
Under the Fair Elections Now Act, federal candidates would run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists, and would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their communities want.
Candidates would raise a large number of small contributions from their communities in order to qualify for Fair Elections funding. Contributions are limited to $100. To qualify, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives would have to collect 1,500 contributions from people in their state and raise a total of $50,000. Since states vary widely in population, a U.S. Senate candidate would have to raise a set amount of small contributions amounting to a total of 10% of the primary Fair Elections funding [$82,500 in CT]. The number of qualifying contributions is equal to 2,000 plus 500 times the number of congressional districts in their state [4,500 in CT]. Qualified House candidates receive $900,000 in Fair Elections funding, split 40% for the primary and 60% for the general. [For the Senate:] Qualified candidates receive $1.25 million plus another $250,000 per congressional district in their state [$2.5 million in CT]. The funding is split 33% for the primary and 67% for the general election. [Additional monies are available as follows:] Donations of $100 or less from in-state contributors would be matched by four dollars from the Fair Elections Fund for every dollar raised. The total Fair Elections Funds available is strictly limited to three times the initial allocation for the primary, and again for the general [an additional $2.7 million (for a total of $3.6 million) for House elections and an additional $7.5 million (for a total of $10 million) in a CT Senate election], available only to candidates who raise a significant amount of small donations from their home state.
In addition, the act would prohibit joint fundraising committees, provide lower broadcast media rates (through a participation discount and vouchers), and allow leadership PACs (but with a low $100 per person per year contribution cap). It would be financed through a small fee on the largest federal contractors and through the auction of the remaining unused portions of the broadcast spectrum.
A short summary provided by Congressman Larson’s office is provided below the fold…
The Durbin-Specter Fair Elections Now Act in the Senate and the Larson-Jones Act in the House would help restore public confidence in the Congressional election process by providing qualified candidates for Congress with grants, matching funds, and vouchers from the Fair Elections Fund to replace campaign fundraising that largely relies on large donors and special interests. In return, participating candidates would agree to limit their campaign spending to the amounts raised from small dollar donors plus the amounts provided from the Fund.
This voluntary alternative would free participating candidates the incessant, time-consuming money chase that has tainted public perceptions of elected officials and that has fostered abuses that can undermine our democracy. Candidates could instead devote their time to effectively representing their constituents and to solving our nation’s critical problems.
The Fair Elections Now Act amends the Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1971 to establish a voluntary method for financing Senate campaigns. Fair Elections are composed of three stages:
• To participate, candidates would first need to prove their viability by raising a minimum number and amount of small-dollar qualifying contributions from in-state donors. Once a candidate qualifies, that candidate must limit the amount raised from each donor to $100 per election.
• For the primary, participants would receive a base grant that would vary in amount based on the population of the state that the candidate seeks to represent. Participants would also receive a 4-to-1 match for small dollar donations up to a defined matching cap. The candidate could raise an unlimited amount of $100 contributions if needed to compete against high-spending opponents.
• For the general election, qualified candidates would receive an additional grant, further small-dollar matching, and vouchers for purchasing television advertising. The candidate could continue to raise an unlimited amount of $100 contributions if needed.
Special rules would apply for runoff and uncontested elections. Participating candidates would receive enough funding to compete in every election, without having to spend most of their time raising money.
At this critical moment in our nation’s history, our elected leaders in Washington must dedicate every available moment towards solving our nation’s challenges. Our leaders must have the trust of the American people that their decisions will benefit all Americans, not just the wealthy. Fair Elections would allow our leaders to focus on finding solutions to the challenges that all Americans face.