Election Reform

Costs of U.S. federal elections

International Campaign Finance, a comparison
Educated Voters--satire
Watch Them, Love Them, They are Honorable
2008 election & voter purging
How Canada keeps business bucks out
Canadian Provincial election laws
Costs of U.S. federal elections
Seven U.S. States passed election funding reforms
Australian Public Funding Elections
American Democracy--Jim Hightower
Canadian Politics, an over view


Two things are particularly disconcerting:   First is the influence that big business has over the candidates, and second is the name (product) recognition content of ads for they are too short for to contribute to informed evaluation of the candidates.  We get screwed by the corporate interests and deceived by the ads. 


http://www.cleanupwashington.org/sii/ Public Citizen site which list all congressional members and the amount of election contributions they have received. 


http://www.cleanupwashington.org/documents/breaking_free.pdf, on need for reform 19 page pdf report by Public Citizen,


Breaking Free with Fair Elections

March 2007

The winners of House elections in 1976 spent about $308,000 (2006 dollars); in 2006 they spent $1,300,000; for the Senate $609,000 and $2,200,000.  And money counts in 2006 94% (407 out of 435) of the House winners out spent their opponents down from 94% in 2004 & 2002.  In 2006 24 out of 33 Senate winners outspent their opponents.   This amounts to $1,000 per day for House members to raise and S$3,000 for Senate members starting from the day they assume office.  In contested districts the House member spends 34% of his time raising funds.  In those states with public funding for elections, the state candidates spend only 8% of their time versus 24% in states without public funding. 


The cost of such public funding at current levels for House and Senate is estimated to run $1.4 billion, which is minuscule in the context of the federal budget’s $6.6 trillion for the 2 year election cycle.  This is a fraction of the breaks given by Congress:  $100 billion through off shore tax evasion; over $100 in subsidies to private businesses; $64 for pork barrel projects; and a far greater amount in special interest concession such as permitting the drug industry to design the legislation passed for Medicare covered prescription drugs. 


Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont have public funding for their state legislative races—Vermont includes also their governor and lieutenant governor.  The cities of Albuquerque and Portland Oregon have funding for citywide contests.  Such legislation dramatically reduces the maximum allowable private contributions.  In Maine 2006, for example, 127 out of 151 (84%) who participated in public funding were elected for their House; and 83% (29 out of 35) for their Senate. 


United States


The U.S. legislation limits the amount of contribution—sort of. 



To each candidate or candidate committee per election cycle

To national party committee per calendar year

To any other political committee per calendar year

Total per calendar year

Individual may give





Multi candidate committee




No limit

Other political Committee may give:




No limit


The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, amended in 1974. Provision of this act which limited the amount a candidate could donate to his own election.   


As early as 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt asserted the need for campaign finance reform and legislation to ban corporate contributions.  In 1907the Tillman act was passed banning corporate contributions.


USA Today
October 27, 2004

Once again, big donors find new ways to skirt the rules

Trying to control the flow of money corrupting politics is a lot like trying to contain flooding on the Mississippi. Dikes can channel the torrent. But when there's a downpour, the river will keep on coming, breaking through at the point of least resistance.

So it has gone in this presidential campaign. The walls erected by the last set of political engineers, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., will largely have achieved their purpose: slowing the flow of illegal contributions — sometimes seven-figure checks — to political parties. But by the time the last vote is counted, a record $3.9 billion will have been showered on this year's campaigns for president and Congress, delivered through diverted means.

That number, projected last Thursday by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan monitoring group, is up 30% from four years ago. And that's conservative. Lax disclosure rules mask the scale of special-interest involvement.

What are beleaguered taxpayers to do? No doubt, they'll pay plenty when the recipients of that cash repay with government largesse.

Putting more dams in the river isn't going to help. Donors intent on buying influence can always find new legal channels. Candidates, lacking any other way to make their campaigns competitive, will take what's offered. In fact, they're forced to grovel for it.

There is a better option: Give honest candidates an alternative and, at the same time, expose the gifts taken by the rest.

Four states — Maine, Arizona, Vermont and North Carolina — already are offering the “clean money” option of public financing to candidates for some state offices. New Jersey will launch a similar program next year, and New Mexico in 2006.

This works. In Maine, where the movement started, nearly 80% of this year's legislature candidates rejected private money.

Defenders of the status quo deride public financing as welfare for politicians. Catchy. But also hooey. Even the highest estimate of the cost of Maine-style public financing at the federal level is only $10 per taxpayer — trivial compared with the cost of payoffs to special interests.

As for disclosure, the current system is a carefully constructed mirage.

All contributions over $200 to presidential and congressional candidates and national party committees must be disclosed. But reporting runs weeks or months late. Voters may not find out until after an election. Further, many non-profit groups with their own parallel campaigns don't have to report at all.

" The states' approach also avoids the problem inherent in all attempts to limit political donations: They undercut free speech.

Donations often pay for campaign commercials by candidates or independent groups. Can any government arbiter be trusted to say who can speak and how loudly — particularly if that speech is unpopular? Certainly not the Federal Election Commission, which tries to do the job now. Virtually every independent political observer agrees that its members are chosen by Congress to be ineffective. And if they were effective, free-speech problems would quickly sprout.

Giving candidates a chance to be honest and voters a way to watch the rest is a better option. It won't stop the flood of corrupt money. No system can. But it would protect voters and taxpayers far better than the patchwork system of levees in place now.

# # #


Maine, Arizona, Vermont, New Jersey, Nevada, and North Carolina have significant state funding for candidates. 


Teddy Roosevelt's advice that, "We must drive the special interests out of politics. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains."