Empowering Small Donors In Federal Elections
New Brennan Center report finds recent breakthroughs in small donor campaign fundraising demonstrate potential for increasing role of small contributions in federal elections.
Based on the successful small donor fundraising efforts in several presidential campaigns, a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that the potential exists to greatly increase the role of small contributions in federal elections by magnifying their importance with multiple matching funds.
The Joyce-supported report, Empowering Small Donors in Federal Elections, examined small donor contributions and suggests that future campaign finance reform efforts include efforts to bolster small contributions – amplifying the impact of private citizens and mitigating the influence of large campaign funders.
Based on an analysis of public funding systems, including New York City’s successful small donor matching program, the report’s authors outlined what a new federal small donor matching campaign would entail. Such a system, which would be voluntary for candidates, would include:
A 5-to-1 match on in-state contributions up to $250. Donors could give larger contributions, but only the first $250 would be matched. A $100 donation would yield an additional $500 in matching funds; a $250 donation would yield an additional $1,250 in matching funds.
Reducing contribution limits by half for participating candidates. The existing limit of $2,500 per individual per election would still apply to candidates who chose not to participate in the small donor matching program. For candidates who did participate, the maximum individual contribution would be reduced by 50 percent, to $1,250 per election.
A cap on public funds available per race — $2 million for a House candidate and $10 million for a Senate candidate — but no expenditure limits for candidates. Subject to the cap, the amount of public funds a candidate received would depend on the number of small donations the candidate raised. Even after receiving the maximum public funds, candidates would be able to raise (and spend) additional funds privately.
A qualifying threshold to ensure that public funds were not disbursed to uncompetitive or marginal candidates. Before becoming eligible for public funds, House candidates would need to raise $40,000 from at least 400 donors, and Senate candidates would need to raise the same amounts times the number of congressional districts in their states. These contributions would need to be in amounts of $250 or less per donor from in-state residents.
Unlimited coordinated party expenditures in support of candidates, but only from funds the parties raised from contributions limited to no more than $1,250 per donor per year. This would strengthen the ability to respond to outside spending groups.
Effective disclosure and enforcement to ensure the program was effectively and efficiently administered, and to ensure that the program is not defrauded.
An adequate and reliable funding stream to ensure sufficient matching funds and guarantee that the program remains solvent.
The Joyce Foundation Money and Politics Program works to strengthen our democracy, balance political influence and promote campaign finance reform so citizens are inform of issues and empowered to participate. The foundation works to promote open and ethical government, fair and competitive elections, and an independent judiciary.
“Give Small Political Donors a Voice,” New York Times editorial
Empowering Small Donors in Federal Elections