“Congress can’t function on the great national issues of the day under the system we’ve got. The time is now to go to voluntary public funding.”- Alan Simpson
The Fair Elections Now Act would make matching funds available to qualified candidates for Congress who agree not to accept large donations from individuals or PACs. To qualify, candidates would be required to raise a large number of small contributions from within their communities. Contributions would be limited to $100.
Candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives would have to collect 1,500 contributions from small donors in their state and raise a total of at least $50,000. This demanding threshold would discourage candidates with limited constituent support.
Since states vary widely in population, U.S. Senate candidates would be required to raise a predetermined number of small contributions. The number of qualifying contributions in a given state would be 2,000, plus 500 for each congressional district in the state.
A candidate running for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, which has two districts, would raise 3,000 qualifying contributions – the base of 2,000 donations plus an additional 500 for each of the two congressional districts. A candidate running for U.S. Senate in Ohio, with 18 districts, would have to receive 11,000 qualifying contributions before receiving Fair Elections funding.
Qualified candidates would receive Fair Elections funding in the primary, and if they win, in the general election at a level sufficient to run a competitive campaign.
Qualified House candidates receive $900,000 in Fair Elections funding split 40% for the primary and 60% for the general. The formula to determine the amount of Fair Elections funding for qualified Senate candidates is as follows: qualified candidates receive $1.25 million plus another $250,000 per congressional district in their state. The funding is split 40% for the primary election and 60% for the general.
Qualified candidates would be also eligible to receive additional matching Fair Elections funds if they continued to raise small donations from within their home state. Donations of $100 or less from in-state contributors would be matched by five dollars from the Fair Elections fund for every dollar raised.
In addition, candidates who opt into the Fair Elections system would receive a 20% reduction from the lowest broadcast rates on all television and radio advertising. Senate candidates who win their primaries would be eligible for $100,000 in media vouchers per congressional district in their state. House candidates would receive one $100,000 media voucher. Candidates have the option of exchanging their media vouchers for cash with their national political party committee. Participating candidates would still be able to set up leadership political action committees but would be limited to a $100 contribution limit per individual per year.
The cost of Fair Elections for Senate races would be covered by a small fee added to large government contractors and for House races by ten percent of revenues generated through the auction of additional broadcast spectrum. We estimate that the Fair Elections system would cost between $700 and $850 million per year.