Presidential Campaign Finance

Title 11--Federal Elections-(1/00)

Recommended Sites
Center for Responsive Politics
Public Disclosure, Inc.
Federal Election Commission--Main

Overview
In the aftermath of Watergate, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act, instituting a system of partial public financing for presidential primary candidates and full public financing for general election candidates.  Candidates who qualify and agree to abide by certain restrictions receive payments from U.S. Treasury.  The federal payments come out of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, which is filled by the $3 check-off on federal income tax forms.  For the 2000 cycle these payments totaled $225.3 million.

In 1996 the campaign finance system experienced a catastrophic failure.  Laws were bent, if not broken, and stories about White House coffees, Lincoln bedroom sleepovers, and Chinese money filled the headlines through much of 1997.  The Federal Election Commission has proved ineffective at enforcing campaign finance laws that are themselves in need of an overhaul.  Large soft money contributions to the political parties have drawn particular criticism.  While the parties were chastened by the costly public relations disaster that followed the 1996 campaign and instituted safeguards in their fundraising procedures, soft money intake in the 2000 cycle soared to record levels.  The parties' use of soft money to buy "issue ads" in coordination with the presidential campaigns render the spending restrictions meaningless; this prompted an unsuccessful legal challenge by Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause and Archibald Cox, former Watergate Special Prosecutor.

Many other aspects of the campaign finance system bear examination.  For example, the $1,000 limit on individual contributions has not been adjusted for inflation since the law was enacted in 1974 and is now worth about one-third of the original level.  And, while public financing has vocal advocates, citizen participation in the income tax check-off has fallen to new lows, sinking to only 12.6 percent on 1997 returns compared to 27.5 percent on 1976 returns. 
 

General Election
The Democratic and Republican nominees receive grants to cover all expenses in the general election campaign, based on the 1974 figure of $20 million, adjusted for inflation.  In addition, the party committees may spend some money on behalf of their nominees (in the amount of 2 cents times the voting age population of the United States).  Third parties whose presidential nominees received at least five percent of the vote in the last election receive funds according to the share of the popular vote obtained.

Immediately after their respective conventions, the campaigns of the Democratic and Republican nominees each received grants of $67.56 million to cover general election campaign expenses ($20 million in 1974 dollars, adjusted for inflation).  The Reform party nominee, by virtue of Ross Perot's 1996 showing, will get about $12.6 million.  Other candidates must scrabble to raise money as best as they can.

In addition, the party committees (DNC and RNC) may spend some money on behalf of their nominees in coordinated expenditures--$13.68 million (2 cents times the voting age population of the United States, adjusted for inflation).
 

Conventions
The major parties receive public funds to put on their national nominating conventions, based on the 1974 figure of $4 million, adjusted for inflation.  Third parties whose presidential nominees received at least five percent of the vote in the last election also can receive funds toward their conventions.
The Democratic and Republican parties each received $13,512,000 in public funds to put on their national conventions ($4 million in 1974 dollars, adjusted for inflation).  The Reform party, by virtue of its 1996 showing, received $2,522,690.


Primary Candidates

Show me the money!
"In every election since 1976, the candidate with the most money raised and matched at the end of the year preceding the election inevitably became the nominee for the general."--Stan Huckaby

For primary candidates there is a voluntary system of partial public financing.  After a candidate qualifies by meeting the $100,000 threshold, his or her campaign becomes eligible to receive matching funds.  Contributions from individuals of up to $250 are matched dollar for dollar with payments from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.  Candidates begin receiving payments in January 2000.  They must agree to comply with spending limits, based on the 1974 figure of $10 million, adjusted for inflation.  These limits can pose  difficulties; in 1996 a heated primary battle left the Dole campaign with little money for about four months leading up to the convention.  A candidate can choose not to participate in the matching funds program and thereby spend as much as he or she wants, but contributions from individuals still may not exceed $1,000.  (There is no limit to how much a candidate can spend of his or her own money).

Demonstrate broad support: Raise $5,000 in 20 states in contributions of $250 or less.

Receive matching funds: Contributions from individuals of up to $250 are matched dollar for dollar with payments from the U.S. Treasury.  Payments to the campaigns start in January 2000.

Comply with spending limits: Spend no more than $33,780,000 on the primary campaign.  ($10 million in 1974 dollars, adjusted for inflation).  When costs associated with fundraising are included the figure is actually $40,536,000.

All told, during the 2000 primaries, eighteen major candidates raised more than $230 million in individual contributions (that does not include $2.8 million in PAC contributions, $3.5 million in transfers from previous campaigns, and $43.2 million in loans, $42.3 million from Steve Forbes).  Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who declined matching funds, brought in more than $90 million in individual contributions, a record.  A total of ten candidates received just over $60 million in matching fund payments.  See tables below: 
 
Primary Campaign Finances - Overview of Receipts
Candidate Indiv. Contribs. Matching Funds Candidate
Other
Total
Alexander (R)
$2,301,747
0
$666,417
$117,467
$3,085,631
Bauer (R)
7,553,317
4,632,803
0
(49,572)
12,136,548
Bush (R)
91,331,951
0
0
3,134,390
94,466,341
Dole (R)
5,001,635
0
735
125,462
5,127,832
Forbes (R)
5,752,150
0
42,330,000
62,826
48,144,976
Hatch (R)
2,124,707
0
0
428,016
2,552,723
Kasich (R)
1,702,668
0
0
1,488,415
3,191,083
Keyes (R)
7,663,253
3,325,340
0
11,159
10,999,752
McCain (R)
28,143,613
14,467,788
0
2,436,536
45,047,937
Quayle (R)
4,,083,201
2,087,748
1,000
145,746
6,317,695
.




Bradley (D) 
29,270,589
12,462,045
18,219
391,712
42,142,565
Gore (D)
33,871,206
15,317,872
0
13,667
49,202,745
LaRouche (D)
3,319,038
1,184,372
0
2,248
4,505,658
.




Browne (Lib.)
1,217,198
0
31,000
0
1,248,198
Buchanan (Ref.)
6,651,221
3,852,247
43,000
(10,033)
10,536,435
Hagelin (Nat.)
755,319
314,135
30,000
80,526
1,179,980
Nader (Grn.)
1,319,434
100,000
40,000
4,133
1,463,567
Smith (Ind.)
1,522,128
0
0
92,070
1,614,198






Total
$233,584,375
$57,744,350
$43,160,371
$8,474,768
$342,963,864
Source: Federal Election Commission.  Through July 31, 2000 only; does not include matching fund payments certified later.
 
Primary Matching Funds
Bauer (R) $4,860,166.94
Keyes (R) $4,247,219.60
McCain (R)
$14,475,333.10
Quayle (R)
$2,087,749.46
..
Bradley (D)
$12,462,047.69
Gore (D)
$15,456,083.75
LaRouche (D)
$1,375,129.60
.
Buchanan (Ref.)
$4,326,522.44
Hagelin (Nat.)
$650,347.06
Nader (Grn.) 
$723,307.65
Total
$60,663,907.69
Source: Federal Election Commission.  Includes Sept. 29, 2000 certifications.

Audit Reports
Summaries of FEC Audit Reports/Links

Electronic Filings
Republicans
Alexander  |  Bauer  |  Bush  |  Dole  |  Forbes  |  Hatch Kasich | KeyesMcCain| Quayle
Democrats
Bradley  |  Gore
Others
Browne  |  Buchanan   |  Hagelin  |  Nader  |  LaRouche  |  Smith

More Links
The Center for Public Integrity, The Center for Responsive Politics and The National Institute on Money in State Politics "State Secrets: A joint investigation of political party money in the states" (6/25/02)
David B. Magleby.  2002.  Financing The 2000 Election.  Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
National Taxpayers Union Foundation Issue Brief "How the American Taxpayer Financed the Presidential 'Superbowl'" (12/13/00)
Center for Public Integrity's The Buying of the President 2000
A Libertarian Challenge (Harry Browne Campaign)

Center for Public Integrity's The Buying of the President (1996)
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's Special Investigation into the 1996 Campaign
Old Reports
Bringing in the Dough--Photos from Fundraising Events
Second Quarter FEC Reports (July 15, 1999)
First Quarter FEC Reports (April 15, 1999)
Pre-Campaign Fundraising Activity (1997-98)

Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.
 

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