The Benefits of Fair Elections
• Makes candidates and elected officials accountable only to the public interest, rather than powerful special interests
• Saves taxpayer dollars by reducing inappropriate giveaways to campaign contributors
• Makes elections fair by leveling the playing field for candidates
• Allows politicians to spend less time fundraising, so they can spend more time addressing national priorities
• Gives all citizens, regardless of wealth, a fair shot to be heard and participate in every step of the democratic process
• Reinvigorates our democracy by helping to reengage voters and increasing voter turnout
Full public financing makes candidates and elected officials accountable only to the public interest, rather than private special interests.
Special interests have an inordinate amount of influence on politicians through campaign donations, which in turn can lead to policies that favor those interests rather than the needs of all citizens. Fair Elections reverses that dynamic: candidates can run campaigns using public funds, making those same candidates accountable to the public interest, rather than wealthy and powerful campaign contributors. The result is a more responsive government that is better able to act responsibly on serious issues like education, health care, and the economy. Read more about how it affects you.
Full public financing is a responsible investment in good government that will likely save taxpayer dollars.
Public financing will likely result in a net savings of money by reducing the waste that results from inappropriate giveaways to big campaign contributors. It can also reduce waste by allowing elected officials to focus more on running government rather than raising money.
This program will only cost about $4 per voting-age citizen per year. That’s approximately 1/25 of 1% of the Federal budget, a sum that will likely be saved many times over through cleaner and more efficient government. For example, congressional “pork barrel project” earmarks have averaged over $20 billion per year for the last four years. Approximately $70 billion to $100 billion in tax revenue is lost each year through the use of offshore tax schemes and loopholes that could be closed by Congress. The bill for a Fair Elections system is estimated at $1 billion per year, a fraction of those totals and a bargain for accountable, responsible government.
Full public financing makes elections fair by leveling the playing field, so elections are decided on the merits of the candidates and their ideas, not their fundraising abilities.
In 2006, nearly 94 percent of the candidates for U.S. Congress who spent the most money also won their races. By ensuring that all qualified candidates are able to raise enough money to communicate their views and positions adequately to the public, Fair Elections levels the playing field in elections, and ensures that winning is more about ideas and voters than fundraising networks and big donors.
Full public financing significantly reduces the amount of time that candidates need to spend raising money, so they can spend more time on addressing national priorities – and hopefully maintaining a healthy, sane lifestyle, too.
Members of the House and Senate spend an inordinate amount of time raising money. It’s no surprise: after all, the average Senator needs to raise almost $25,000 every week for their entire six-year term in order to be competitive for their next race. Former Sen. Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings (D-S.C.) estimated that almost one-third of a senator’s time is spent on fundraising. Hollings contrasted today’s Senate with the institution of the 1960s, which typically worked full weeks: “Now you can’t find the Senate until Monday evening, and it’s gone again by Thursday night. We’re off raising money.” In states with full public financing systems, like Maine and Arizona, candidates have cut their fundraising time to about a third of what it used to be – and that means more time spent on legislative priorities, and perhaps on getting a decent night’s sleep, too.
Full public financing ensures that average citizens have a fair opportunity to participate in every step of the democratic process.
In most congressional races, the first competition is the “money primary” – how much early cash can a candidate raise in order to prove to the public that he or she is a serious contender. This gives extraordinary power to those wealthy donors who can afford to give a candidate enough early money, usually at least $200,000, to show that the candidate is a viable contender – or not. So it’s no surprise that average citizens feel like they have little access to elected officials and no chance of running for office themselves.
In contrast, Fair Elections puts the power in the hands of regular voters from the beginning. And candidates can run a competitive race even if they don’t have access to wealthy friends or family. In Arizona, for instance, the number of minority candidates – who often have less access to big money – tripled between 1998 and 2004 after the Fair Elections system went into effect.
Full public financing can help bring disengaged citizens back into the political process.
Citizen participation in our elections has been diminishing in recent decades. Meanwhile, cynicism and apathy have been on the rise. This is due both to voter disenchantment with perceived corruption in the political process and also by a lack of competition in the electoral arena.
Full public financing, by reducing the perception of pay-to-play politics and by increasing competition, can reengage the citizenry in the democratic process. In Arizona, where Fair Elections was implemented in 2000, voter turnout increased 20% between the 1996 and 2004 presidential elections.