Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights yesterday held a hearing titled, "The Fair Elections Now Act: A Comprehensive Response to Citizens United."
The Subcommittee considered S. 750, the Fair Elections Now Act, which creates a public financing system for congressional elections. The system would encourage campaigns based on small donations (under $100) from in-state contributors: candidates would need a certain number of such donations to qualify for public financing; and the system would match small donations up to five times the donation. The Act would also cap the rates for television ads for participating candidates at 80 percent of the lowest charge during periods before the election and provide advertising vouchers for participating candidates.
According to Monica Youn of the Brennan Center, who testified yesterday, participants in public financing systems can compete in a post-Citizens United world, provided that the system offers candidates sufficient funds:
But the experiences of jurisdictions with public financing demonstrates that, as long as such systems offer candidates sufficient funds to run viable campaigns, publicly financed candidates can run competitive and successful races even in the face of high levels of hostile independent spending.
Under the Fair Elections Now Act, participating Senate candidates would get $1.25 million, plus another $250,000 per congressional district in their state, split 40 percent for the primary and 60 percent for the general. But they would also qualify for matching funds at five times the contribution for each contribution of $100 or less from in-state contributors, up to three times the initial allocation for the primary, and again for the general. And they would benefit from the television ad cap plus vouchers (worth $100,000 for each congressional district in their state).
The Brookings Institution estimates that the average cost of a Senate seat in 2008 was $7,500,052.