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June 24, 2008

Democratic National Committee sues FEC over McCain's withdrawal from public financing

From a DNC press release: The Democratic National Committee today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in D.C. to compel the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate John McCain's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the FEC's matching funds program despite using the program to financially benefit his campaign - just one of many McCain campaign improprieties. To view a copy of the DNC's lawsuit, please visit:

John McCain talks about setting a new standard for "transparency and accountability" yet when it comes to his campaign, he doesn't seem to think the rules apply to him. First, he used taxpayer dollars to secure a loan to keep his campaign afloat in the primary, a move that's clearly against the law. Then the Wall Street Journal reported that McCain refused to pay for his campaign's use of a corporate jet - again against the law - and last week, his trip to Canada came under question for possible violations of federal law.

June 20, 2008

Obama's rejection of public funds threatens system

The New York Times reports: From the moment that the public financing system was created in the wake of the Watergate crisis, it was viewed as an imperfect way to rid politics of the excesses of special-interest money.

But now, with the decision by Senator Barack Obama to become the first presidential candidate to forgo public money, the system is facing the most critical threat to its survival.

At various times in its three-decade life, the public financing system has been declared close to its demise. Yet, every four years, it has continued to survive, with all presidential candidates since the system began in 1976 accepting public money to run their general election campaigns — and the spending limitations that come with it. ...

But Mr. Obama’s decision to opt out of public financing — along with the ability of the Internet to let candidates raise large sums of money from small donors — may do more to shatter the system than all of the loopholes it has spawned. --

June 19, 2008

Obama will run without public funding

strong>The Washington Post reports: Sen. Barack Obama has switched course on general-election funding, announcing this morning that he would reject public financing and raise every dime for the fall campaign on his own.

The announcement was widely expected. For months, Obama has eased back from an earlier pledge to "pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election," warning that it could impose unfair constraints.

The decision means Obama will give up $85 million in public money. But it frees him to raise $300 million or more from the 1.5 million-plus donors in his database, giving him an enormous -- almost breathtaking -- advantage over Sen. John McCain. -- Obama Opts Out of Public Financing | The Trail |

June 8, 2008

McCain may soon get an FEC to vote to give him public funds

The Washington Independent reports: Throughout this presidential primary season, the Federal Election Commission, which polices spending on campaigns for Congress and the presidency, has been dormant. This has created a dilemma for Sen. John McCain R-Ariz. , the presumed Republican nominee for president.

David Mason, the chairman of the FEC and a Republican, had questioned whether McCain could opt out of public funding for the presidential primary after using the promise of public money to get a loan. Mason, though, is but one of two current commissioners for a federal government panel that s supposed to have six members-- three Democrats and three Republicans-- and requires the approval of four commissioners to issue rulings or allot money to candidates. Without a commission ruling, McCain has proceeded to spend $80 million -- about $30 million more than allowed for candidates on public money.

McCain has a second FEC issue. While he opted out of federal financing for the primary season, he is expecting to take advantage of public funding for the general election. So he needs a working commission to sign off on providing his general election money.

A flurry of FEC-related activity in the past two weeks now suggests that McCain's dilemma is about to be solved. President George W. Bush has nominated enough commissioners to get create a working six-member FEC. But Mason is not one of them. -- Return of the FEC - The Washington Independent - U.S. news and politics -

May 19, 2008

McCain depending on GOP and Bush fundraising; Obama will bypass public financing

The New York Times reports: Pivoting toward the general election, Senator Barack Obama is turning again to his history-making fund-raising machine, which helped to anoint him as a contender against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and then became a potent weapon in their battle for the Democratic nomination.

To confront the Obama juggernaut, Senator John McCain, whose fund-raising has badly trailed that of his Democratic counterparts, is leaning on the Republican National Committee. Mr. McCain’s efforts to raise money suffered a blow this weekend when a key fund-raiser, Tom Loeffler, resigned because of a new campaign policy on conflicts of interest.

Mr. McCain is likely to depend upon the party, which finished April with an impressive $40 million in the bank and has significantly higher contribution limits, to an unprecedented degree to power his campaign, Republican officials said. ...

Mr. Obama’s fund-raising success makes it increasingly likely that he will back away from a pledge he made last year to accept public financing for the general election — and its attendant spending limits — if the Republican nominee also accepted public money.

Several major fund-raisers for Mr. Obama said in interviews that they could not envision the campaign sheathing its sword and accepting public financing, given how powerful Mr. Obama’s fund-raising could be in the Democrats’ urgent quest to reclaim the White House. Mr. Obama would be the first major-party presidential candidate to bypass public financing for the general election since the system began in 1976. -- McCain to Rely on Party Money Against Obama - New York Times

April 10, 2008

Public financing -- Obama maybe no, McCain maybe yes

The New York Times reports: Senators Barack Obama and John McCain are beginning to lay the groundwork for divergent ways of financing fall campaigns for the presidency.

Mr. Obama, who has shattered fund-raising records for candidates of either party, is sending fresh signals that he may bypass public financing for the general election. He argues that his small contributors, many of whom have given again and again over the Internet, have injected a new democracy into fund-raising, with the result that a kind of “parallel public financing system” has been created.

Mr. McCain, conversely, increasingly offers indications that he will partake in public financing, a decision that would bar him from accepting private donations for the fall and limit his general spending to the $84.1 million that the Treasury would provide. His campaign recently began returning contributions that had been designated for the general election, asking the donors instead to contribute to a special fund, not subject to the public financing limits, for legal and accounting costs in the fall campaign.

In a comment at a fund-raiser Tuesday night, Mr. Obama appeared to be offering a hint at how he could back away from a pledge he made last year to accept public financing if the Republican nominee did the same. The remark set off a debate Wednesday, with the McCain campaign accusing Mr. Obama of flirting with reneging, and the Obama campaign responding assertively. -- Public Financing? Obama and McCain Appear Split - New York Times

February 25, 2008

DNC v. McCain, the complaint and the bank's letter

Reuters reports: The Democratic Party asked the U.S. government on Monday to investigate whether Republican presidential candidate John McCain has violated campaign-finance laws by exceeding spending limits he agreed to last year.

In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic National Committee said McCain has probably surpassed the roughly $50 million limit he agreed to observe when he applied for public funding last year.

McCain, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to contest November s presidential election should not be allowed to withdraw from the public-funding system now that he no longer needs it, the DNC argued. -- Democrats criticize McCain over campaign finance -

AP reports: Lawyers for the bank that provided a crucial $4 million line of credit to John McCain's campaign late last year said Monday that the loan agreement was carefully drafted to give McCain the opportunity to withdraw from public financing during the primary elections.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the outside counsel for Fidelity & Trust Bank said the loan terms specifically excluded from the collateral any potential share of public matching funds the Arizona senator was entitled to receive.

The letter, from lawyers Matthew S. Bergman and Scott E. Thomas to McCain lawyer Trevor Potter, supports McCain's stance against claims that his withdrawal from public financing is in jeopardy. -- Bank explains terms of McCain loan

Documents to download:
DNC's complaint
Exhibits 1-3
Exhibit 4
Exhibit 5
Exhibits 6-7

Note: If anyone has the bank's letter to McCain's lawyer, please email it to me.

February 24, 2008

DNC to file FEC complaint against John McCain

The DNC will file a complaint with the FEC on Monday against John McCain for his alleged violations of the campaign finance law.

Former Gov. Howard Dean, chair of the DNC, and Joe Sandler, DNC general counsel, held a press conference Sunday afternoon to announce the complaint. Gov. Dean said that McCain has already benefited from the matching funds program in 2 ways:

First, he used his future receipt of federal matching funds as collateral for a bank loan, but now wishes to withdraw from the matching funds program.

Second, a candidate who has been certified for matching funds gets free ballot access while other candidates must pay.

If McCain is properly considered part of the matching program, then he is likely to be exceeding the spending limits. [The limit for total primary spending is $42.05 million, according to the FEC.]

Dean said, "John McCain has made a career of pretending to be a reformer, but his reforms apply to everyone except him."

February 20, 2008

Peter Overby reports on the dilemma of taking matching funds

NPR reports: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have not taken federal campaign financing funds. The money is appealing, but if campaigns take it, they are limited as to how much money they can spend. -- NPR: Candidates Weigh Taking Federal Campaign Money

February 16, 2008

McCain may have promised bank he would take federal matching funds

The Washington Post reports: John McCain's cash-strapped campaign borrowed $1 million from a Bethesda bank two weeks before the New Hampshire primary by pledging to enter the public financing system if his bid for the presidency faltered, newly disclosed records show.

McCain had already taken a $3 million bank loan in November to keep his campaign afloat, and he sought from the same bank $1 million more shortly before this month's Super Tuesday contests, this time pledging incoming but unprocessed contributions as collateral. He never used the funds of the most recent loan, because his win in the South Carolina primary helped him raise enough money to compete in Florida, his campaign aides said last night. ...

Under the agreement, McCain promised that if his campaign began to falter, he would commit to keeping his campaign alive and to entering the federal financing system so the money he had raised could be used to gain an infusion of matching funds. Had that happened, he would have been forced to abide by strict federal spending caps before the Republican National Convention in September.

Under FEC rules, a candidate who uses a certification for federal funds as collateral for a loan is obligated to remain within the public financing system. "We very carefully did not do that," [Trevor] Potter said. -- McCain Got Loan by Pledging to Seek Federal Funds -

November 28, 2007

Arizona: challenge to clean election law back in federal court

Capitol Media Services reports: Foes of public financing of elections are trying once again to void the 1998 voter-approved law, or at least parts of it.

New legal papers filed in federal court Tuesday contend provisions of the law unconstitutionally coerce candidates to accept public money — and the restrictions that come with it — rather than finance their campaigns with private donations. That's because the Citizens Clean Election Commission provides dollar-for-dollar matches of money privately financed candidates raise, plus money spent by others on their behalf.

That's the same argument U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll rejected two years ago from the Institute for Justice. The judge said the government is entitled to enact regulations to prevent not only corruption, but even the appearance of corruption, in the election process.

Carroll will be the one hearing the new arguments.

But Tim Keller, the organization's state director, said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has directed Carroll to reconsider the case, this time allowing the foes to present evidence and testimony. -- Publicly financed election campaigns are opposed anew

September 29, 2007

Edwards will accept public funds for primaries only, unless ...

The New York Times reports: A day after John Edwards said he had decided to participate in public campaign financing as a matter of principle, his campaign manager appeared to scale back the candidate’s initial commitment.

The campaign manager said Mr. Edwards was leaving open the possibility of rejecting public financing for the general election campaign.

Mr. Edwards’s campaign advisers said he had not meant to commit himself for the general election, but the discrepancy added fuel to a debate over why he had abruptly embraced public financing after long signaling that he would not. ...

In an interview Friday, Joe Trippi, a senior Edwards campaign adviser, said Mr. Edwards had meant to say that he was committed only to a proposal that his rival, Senator Barack Obama, had extended to the Republicans. If the Republican nominee agrees to accept public campaign financing and its limits, Mr. Obama and now Mr. Edwards have said they would do the same. -- Edwards’s Embrace of Public Money May Be Limited

May 30, 2007

Alaska: clean election initiative meets first goal

The Anchorage Daily News reports: Advocates of keeping special interests out of politics are asking the state to consider a citizens' ballot initiative to launch what are known as "clean election" campaigns.

The concept involves doing away with most private donations for state election campaigns and replacing them with money from a special state fund.

Sponsors of the initiative said Friday they had collected enough initial signatures to qualify for a review of their application by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.

If approved, the initiative backers would then need to collect 23,800 more signatures statewide to put the idea on the 2008 ballot.

If voters approve it, the initiative would create a system in which candidates could forgo private campaign contributions for public funding. Money for the clean elections fund would be provided by a three-cent tax per barrel of oil produced in Alaska, according to the initiative's proposal. -- Proposed initiative targets 'clean election' campaigns

April 4, 2007

New Mexico: Richardson will veto part of public financing bill

AP reports: Gov. Bill Richardson says he'll veto part of the bill for public financing of statewide judicial elections that lawmakers sent him last week.

The bill extends New Mexico's limited system of public financing to contested races for the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, a change Richardson sought.

But under a provision added by the Senate, it would take effect only if voters changed the state constitution in 2008 to eliminate retention elections — effectively requiring those judges and justices to run in partisan elections to keep their seats.

"I don't like that," Richardson said Monday at a news conference.

Under the current setup, the appellate-level judges and justices are appointed, stand for election once in a partisan contest, then run subsequently for retention — an up-or-down vote whether to keep them on the bench.

Legislative leaders had said they would ask the governor to veto the contingency provision. -- Las Cruces Sun-News - Richardson says he'll veto provision of ethics bill (9:09 a.m.)

March 28, 2007

New Jersey: test of public financing to be run in 3 districts

AP reports: New Jersey will offer taxpayer cash to Assembly and Senate candidates in three districts this year in an effort to remove special-interest money from campaigns under a measure signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

Supporters hope the law will push New Jersey closer to having a statewide publicly funded campaign program, as Arizona, Connecticut and Maine have done. ...

Under the bill, candidates for the Assembly and Senate in three districts would be eligible for public campaign financing by first raising $10,000 in seed money _ all donations coming from individuals in amounts of $500 or less.

Candidates would then be required to collect only donations of $10. Upon collecting 400 donations, candidates would get $50,000 for campaign expenses, while collecting 800 donations would earn them $100,000. -- Corzine approves campaign finance reform -

March 27, 2007

Maine: one candidate still owes the Clean Election fund

The Portland Press Herald reports: Four unsuccessful legislative candidates who faced possible legal action for failing to return or account for thousands of dollars in state campaign funds by the December 2006 deadline have since paid up.

But a fifth candidate who apparently owes more than $4,500 from last year's campaign has yet to refund the money, according to the state agency that administers the Clean Election Act.

The lone holdout among the five candidates is Debra Reagan of Sanford, a Republican who lost her bid for the Maine House of Representatives last November.

Reagan has neither returned nor explained how she used the $4,518 that she received for her campaign from the Clean Election Fund, according to the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. -- All but one reimburse state election fund

March 22, 2007

Wisconsin: Madison to consider public financing of council elections

The Capital Times reports: Agreeing to let a committee with expertise in election finance reform draft a city election public financing ordinance for the Madison City Council to consider in September proved painful Tuesday night.

As Ald. Brenda Konkel, who supported the proposal to work toward publicly financed local elections, said during the emotional hour and a half debate: "There is a lot of anger in the room." ...

The successful resolution requires the mayor to appoint, with the approval of the council, seven citizens with a demonstrated interest and expertise in election financing. The committee will have six months to come up with recommendations on public financing of election campaigns for City Council, mayor and municipal judges. Then, the council will have to decide if it wants to implement the recommendations or even a modified version of them. Union Corners, etc.: In other business, the council voted 17-1, with Konkel dissenting, to grant a $4.9 million tax increment financing loan for Union Corners, a mixed-use development on 15 acres bounded by East Washington Avenue, Winnebago and Milwaukee streets. -- The Capital Times

March 21, 2007

Spector and Durbin call for public financing of congressional races

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter yesterday joined a top Senate Democrat to call for the creation of a multibillion-dollar public financing program for congressional races.

Mr. Specter, R-Pa., made the announcement one day after confirming that he already has started preparing to run for a sixth term in 2010, citing the exploding costs of modern campaigns and the need to raise tens of millions of dollars to be competitive. ...

The public financing system would provide about $2.8 billion nationwide for each two-year congressional cycle. It would be voluntary.

To qualify as participants, Senate candidates would have to raise $5 contributions from a specific number of supporters, depending on state population.

Pennsylvania's qualification number is 11,000 donors. The state would receive $7.9 million in public funds for the primary election and $19.4 million for the general election.

Some of that money would go to vouchers for television air time, the largest cost for most campaigns. -- Specter joins Democrats in call for public campaign financing

The bill will be obtainable here.

March 12, 2007

Presidential campaign fund falls on hard times

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports: Fifteen years ago, one out of every five taxpayers designated a dollar of their taxes for the U.S. presidential campaign fund.

But since then, the number of those checking that box on their IRS forms has plummeted by 43 percent, pushing the publicly funded account to near-record lows.

Like their constituents, more presidential candidates are bypassing public financing — to the point where the system designed to reduce democracy's cost is becoming useless, experts say. ...

Congress established public financing for presidential campaigns in the 1970s as a response to the Watergate scandal during Richard Nixon's presidency. It was widely heralded as the best way to erase the influence of money in politics and make campaign fundraising as transparent as possible. -- STLtoday - News - Story

February 8, 2007

Obama keeps his options open while raising private funds

AP reports: Democratic Sen. Barack Obama is asking whether he can take money from donors who want him to be president, then give it back later. The Federal Election Commission said Wednesday that it will look into the novel question.

Obama is indicating that he wants to at least keep the option of using the public financing system for his presidential campaign if he becomes the Democratic nominee. To do so, the Illinois senator could not spend any money from contributors for political purposes, but instead use federal funding that is expected to total about $85 million for next year's general election. ...

Obama has decided to raise unlimited private contributions for the primary and general campaigns, following the lead of chief Democratic rivals Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards. Edwards and Obama also say they won't accept money from lobbyists or political action committees.

But Obama's lawyer, Robert Bauer, suggested in an advisory opinion request to the FEC that Obama may want to participate in the public financing system for the general election if he's nominated and the Republican candidate agreed to do the same. -- Obama Preserves Public Financing Option -

January 23, 2007

Public financing of presidential elections may soon be gone

The New York Times reports: The public financing system for presidential campaigns, a post-Watergate initiative hailed for decades as the best way to rid politics of the corrupting influence of money, may have quietly died over the weekend.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York became the first candidate since the program began in 1976 to forgo public financing for both the primary and the general election because of the spending limits that come with the federal money. By declaring her confidence that she could raise far more than the roughly $150 million the system would provide for the 2008 presidential primaries and general election, Mrs. Clinton makes it difficult for other serious candidates to participate in the system without putting themselves at a significant disadvantage.

Officials of the Federal Election Commission and advisers to several campaigns say they expect the two candidates who reach Election Day 2008 will raise more than $500 million apiece. Including money raised by other primary candidates, the total spent on the presidential election could easily exceed $1 billion.

People involved in the Republican primary campaign of Senator John McCain of Arizona say he, too, is beginning to seek private donations for the primary and general elections, albeit with the option of returning them. A longtime proponent of campaign finance change, Mr. McCain has recently removed his name as a co-sponsor of a bill to expand the presidential public financing program.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, another Republican primary contender, has already decided to forgo public financing for the primaries. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a rival to Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic nomination, declined to comment, as did spokesmen for several other candidates. -- Death Knell May Be Near for Public Election Funds - New York Times

September 18, 2006

California: Prop. 89 looks to Arizona for "clean elections" idea

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Six years into its brave new world of publicly financed campaigns, Arizona's "clean money" elections system already is creaking with signs of age.

Backers of California's Proposition 89, which would provide $200 million a year for public financing of California candidates, point to the success of the Arizona system as an example of what could happen in California. But many of the political pros who work every day with the system have curbed their enthusiasm.

"On the whole, it has opened up the political process to a new pool of candidates,'' said Michael Frias, campaign director for the Arizona Democratic Party. "But we need to look and see where it can be improved.''

Some Republican leaders have harsher feelings about Arizona's public financing system.

"There are a lot of good things California and other states could pull from Arizona, but this isn't one of them,'' said Glenn Hamer, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. -- The 'clean' campaign finance idea grows / Arizona experience mixed as California considers Prop. 89

September 17, 2006

Presidential campaign fund is "broke"

AP reports: hose three dollars you've set aside in your tax returns as a good deed toward clean presidential elections? Forget about it. Nobody wants them anymore.

Strategists from both parties estimate the White House race in 2008 could cost each nominee $500 million -- far more than the Presidential Election Campaign Fund can afford. As a result, this next presidential campaign could mark the first time in 30 years that the Democratic and Republican nominees turn down the fund's millions in both the primary and the general elections.

"The public financing system was a great system, but it's broke," said Steve Elmendorf, the deputy campaign manager for Democrat John Kerry when the Massachusetts senator ran in 2004.

"There's not enough money in it anymore. It's highly unlikely that any candidate in any party will stay in the public funding system," Elmendorf said. -- | 09/17/2006 | Presidential candidates likely won't want your money

August 29, 2006

Arizona: does a public service ad equal a political ad?

Arizona Capitol Times reports: Secretary of State Jan Brewer is rejecting a claim by Democrats that her appearance in a recent television commercial violates Arizona's campaign finance rules.

The Secretary of State, who is running for re-election, appeared in a 30-second television spot reminding voters to bring photo identification to the polls when they vote. ...

But a complaint filed with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission by David Waid, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, alleges the television spot expressly advocates for Mrs. Brewer’s 2006 re-election campaign – and therefore should trigger matching funds to her publicly-funded opponent, Democrat Israel Torres. -- Arizona Capitol Times - Serving Arizona's Business, Government and Political Community since 1946

April 18, 2006

Arizona: House kills bill prohibiting public disclosure of campaign finance data

AP reports: The House on Monday defeated an election-year bill that would have prohibited public disclosure of campaign finance data that regulators and others examine to see whether publicly financed candidates have received secret subsidies.

The House voted 32-22 for the bill, but it needed at least 45 votes because the measure would have changed a voter-approved law, the 1998 initiative creating the state's public campaign financing system.

The Senate Bill 1099 had sailed through the Senate and a House committee, but House Democrats recently raised questions about its possible impact. They and a handful of GOP lawmakers voted against it Monday. -- House kills campaign finance bill

February 23, 2006

Massachusetts: group pushes for public funding of legislative elections

The Tewksbury Advocate reports: Mass Voters for Fair Elections, a new grassroots organization, is announcing a push for public campaign financing for legislative elections in Massachusetts. The proposed law would allow candidates for the House and Senate to earn $3 of public matching funds for every dollar they raise privately so long as they agree to reasonable contribution and spending limits.

Currently, statewide candidates who opt in can receive $1 of public money for every dollar they raise. ...

Mass Voters has a twin-track approaching to passing the public campaign financing law: Both pushing for legislation and gearing up to place a question on the 2008 ballot. -- - Arts & Lifestyle: Voting rights group push for new law

February 13, 2006

New Jersey: Clean Elections Commission calls for expanding pilot program

The Asbury Park Press reports: New Jersey should continue its "clean elections" pilot program but require fewer contributions to qualify and give candidates more time to collect them, according to a state Citizens' Clean Elections Commission report released Tuesday.

The program, tested in two Assembly races last year, aims to take special interest money out of government by giving public campaign funds to candidates who collected 1,000 $5 contributions and 500 $30 contributions.

But only one of the five pairs of candidates running in the 6th and 13th districts met those goals, prompting complaints that the program was destined to fail.

Members of the commission overseeing the program, however, called it a success, though they acknowledged several areas that should be fixed before it expands to at least four legislative districts in 2007. -- APP.COM v4.0 - Report: Continue "clean elections" pilot program | Asbury Park Press Online

February 1, 2006

Maine: 2nd independent candidate foregoes clean money system

The Bangor Daily News reports: Turning $12,500 into more than $1 million in less than six months probably sounds tough to most people.

It was for Bobby Mills.

"It is proving difficult," the little-known gubernatorial candidate from Biddeford said when describing the task of collecting the requisite number of $5 donations - 2,500 - to qualify for up to $1.4 million in campaign funds under the Maine Clean Elections Act.

Mills on Monday withdrew from the Clean Elections program, which provides public money to candidates who agree to abide by certain spending limits. -- Qualifying 'clean' proves difficult - Jeff Tuttle

January 26, 2006

Arizona: Supreme Court ousts legislator for violation of Clean Elections law

AP reports: The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday ordered state Rep. David Burnell Smith to leave office because of overspending in his publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign.

The decision makes Smith the first legislator in the nation removed from office for violating a state's public campaign funding system.

The Supreme Court decision affirms a lower court ruling that upheld the state campaign finance commission's order removing the one-term Scottsdale Republican from office. ...

The state Citizens Clean Elections Commission last year ordered Smith to leave office after finding that he overspent his publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign by approximately $6,000. The overspending exceeded 10 percent of his total spending, triggering a provision in the law requiring Smith's removal from office. -- State's high court orders legislator to leave office

January 25, 2006

Arizona: legislator proposes repeal of clean election program

AP reports: A state lawmaker has proposed a ballot measure that would repeal funding for Arizona's public financing of political campaigns, saying the system's rules are enforced unevenly and that candidates are essentially penalized for not using that money for their campaigns.

If it's approved by the Legislature, the proposal by Republican Rep. Rick Murphy of Glendale would appear on the November ballot.
Voters approved the campaign finance system in 1998. It gives participating candidates for state offices public money if they collect a certain number of contributions of at least $5. The system, which is funded mostly by traffic and criminal fine surcharges, has been used in elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004 to provide funding for participating candidates for governor and numerous other state offices.

A judge threw out an initiative in 2004 that would have asked voters to repeal the system, ruling that the initiative violated the Arizona Constitution by posing two separate questions in one measure. -- Lawmaker proposes repeal of public campaign financing system |

Maine: Clean Election fund needs more money

Blethen Maine Newspapers reports: Rep. Earle McCormick, R-West Gardiner, used the state's public funding system to pay for his last two campaigns. He plans to do it again.

But there may not be enough money to pay for all the candidates who want to use the system if the state doesn't restore at least $2 million, supporters of the system said Monday.

The Legislature has taken $6.7 million out of the fund to fill gaps in the budget since 2001 -- and has given back only $2.4 million to date. ...

Smith, McCormick and Ann Luther, president of the League of Women Voters of Maine, told the editorial board of the Morning Sentinel that a bill to restore $2 million to the fund is needed to pay for this year's elections.

The current fund balance is nearly $7.4 million, according to the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. How much will be needed depends on how many legislative and gubernatorial candidates apply and qualify for the money. -- Clean elections funding may be restored

December 16, 2005

Arizona: speedy appeal for ousted legislator

AP reports: Lawyers for the state and a legislator facing possible ouster in a campaign finance case proposed that an appellate court act on the lawmaker's appeal by mid-January while letting the lawmaker stay in office at least until that court rules soon after.

A joint stipulation, filed late Thursday by lawyers for Rep. David Burnell Smith on one hand and the state on the other, asked the Court of Appeals to hear arguments in the case on Jan. 13 under accelerated-appeal rules that would require the court to issue a ruling the next week.

Smith, R-Scottsdale, filed an appeal Tuesday asking the Court of Appeals to overturn the Citizens Clean Elections Commission's decision that he forfeit his office because of overspending by his publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign. -- Lawmaker, state propose appeal timetable in campaign finance case

December 13, 2005

Arizona: legislator appeals his ouster over clean-money violations

AP reports: A legislator facing possible ouster because of a campaign finance violation says he's overdue his day in court.

Rep. David Burnell Smith on Tuesday filed an appeal arguing that a state commission is trying to deny him his right to question its regulatory findings and that a trial court judge who ruled in its favor did so without giving him a chance to challenge its constitutional authority to remove him from office.

The appeals come after both the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and an administrative law judge refused to consider the constitutional question, Smith attorney David Abney wrote in the special-action petition. "Rep. Smith's efforts to obtain judicial review of his case have, so far, been stymied." -- Lawmaker appeals ouster order in campaign finance case

December 7, 2005

Arizona: Judge orders Smith to vacate legislative office over campaign finance violations

AP reports: A judge ruled Wednesday that state Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Scottsdale, must leave office because of campaign finance violations.

Judge Mark Aceto of Maricopa County Superior Court granted a motion filed by Attorney General Terry Goddard on behalf of the state to force Smith from office based on an order by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Aceto also granted the commission's request to dismiss Smith's lawsuit challenging the commission's order that he leave office because of overspending by his publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign. And he denied Smith's motion to dismiss the state's request to oust him. -- Judge rules lawmaker must leave office |

September 8, 2005

New Jersey: 2 drop out of "clean money" campaign

AP reports: Two candidates for the state Assembly have pulled out of an experimental program to have the state fund their campaign, while two others are asking their supporters to help their struggling opponents raise the small donations needed to qualify for the state money.

William Flynn and Michael Dasaro, Democrats running in Monmouth County's 13th District are the first candidates to abandon the program. They said the task of collecting small donations to qualify for the state money was too cumbersome.

To qualify for the state funds, each candidate must collect 1,000 checks for $5 and 500 checks for $30 from registered voters in their districts by Sept. 21. The program is also being tested in the 6th legislative district in Camden County; including Flynn and Dasaro, a total of ten candidates had been taking part. -- New York City - AP New Jersey

September 6, 2005

Arizona: will legislator be removed for Clean Election law violations?

The Arizona Capitol Times reports: Legal experts see David Burnell Smith’s battle to hang onto his legislative seat taking two distinct courses.

The first is his stated intention to take his case against the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to Maricopa County Superior Court in an effort to show that he did not overspend his campaign in violation of state statute and therefore should not be removed from office.

The second in theory would have the Attorney General’s Office seek a special action before the Arizona Supreme Court to answer the question of whether the commission has the legal authority to order Mr. Smith to vacate his Seventh District seat.

Lawyers versed in constitutional law say the state has a good case and that authority to remove a legislator from office does not have to be spelled out in the Constitution. -- David Burnell Smith’s Battle To Remain In Office

New Jersey: clean money, but hard work

AP reports: A new kind of election system in New Jersey might be fair and clean, but candidates are finding it's harder work than they're used to.

After spending an hour knocking on two dozen doors yesterday, Amy Handlin and Sam Thompson had one $5 check to show for their efforts.

The two Republicans are running for Assembly seats in Monmouth County's 13th District, one of two districts where a state well known for dirty political dealings is testing using state money to pay for legislative races. The experiment is an effort to eliminate the possibility of the age-old exchanges of campaign cash for political favors.

To qualify for the state money, each candidate must raise $20,000 in $5 and $30 checks from people who live in their districts. -- Clean election system means hard work

August 24, 2005

Nebraska: Hergert claims "honest mistake"

The North Platte Telegraph reports: Dave Hergert is fighting back against accusations that could lead to his impeachment.

While in North Platte on Tuesday, the University of Nebraska Regent defended himself against allegations that he purposefully withheld campaign-finance information during last year's election.

The dispute concerns two affidavits dealing with Hergert's campaign finances that did not reach the Accountability and Disclosure Commission by the deadline, thus depriving incumbent Regent Don Blank of $15,000 in matching public funds in the closing days of the 2004 campaign.

Hergert reached a settlement with the commission in April, admitting exceeding the limit for personal loans to his campaign and failing to report a late contribution and file two affidavits on time. He agreed to pay $33,512.10 in fines, and not face criminal charges.

State lawmakers are now looking into possible impeachment proceedings against Hergert for breaking state campaign-finance laws. -- North Platte Telegraph - News - 08/24/2005 - 'It was an honest mistake'

Arizona: "Judge OKs removal of legislator"

The Arizona Republic reports: A judge concluded Tuesday that a legislator should forfeit his office and pay heavy fines for overspending his public campaign funds.

The judgment probably sets up a challenge to the constitutionality of the state's campaign financing system.

Administrative Law Judge Daniel Martin said the Citizens Clean Elections Commission was right on all counts when it voted unanimously in March to oust freshman Rep. David Burnell Smith, a Republican from Scottsdale.

The commission's investigation showed Smith overspent his budget by more than $6,000, or 17 percent, in the course of winning a tough primary election in 2002.

The voter-approved Clean Elections law says a candidate who overspends by more than 10 percent must be removed from office. -- Judge OKs removal of legislator

July 26, 2005

Los Angeles: proposal for public finance of elections

The Los Angeles Times reports: In a bid to reduce the influence of campaign contributors in citywide elections, three Los Angeles City Council members will submit a proposal today asking city staff to develop a public financing system for candidates.

City Council campaigns in Los Angeles routinely cost more than $500,000 for leading candidates. This year's two top mayoral candidates — incumbent James K. Hahn and challenger Antonio Villaraigosa — spent more than $13 million combined.

A draft of the motion — by Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Bill Rosendahl — offers no specifics. Rather, if it passes the council in the coming weeks, it would direct the city's chief legislative analyst's office to draw up a proposal within a 90-day window. -- City Considers Public Financing of Elections

July 22, 2005

Connecticut: Should I recycle this bottle or help the public campaign fund?

AP reports: State legislators and the governor’s office are considering several sources of money to pay for a publicly funded campaign system, including unreturned bottle deposits, smaller lottery prizes and higher state fines and fees.

A working group of lawmakers, which held its second meeting Thursday, learned it will have to find about $8 million to $10 million a year — or roughly $35 million to $40 million over a four-year cycle — to create a new, voluntary election fund for legislative and constitutional officer races.

“I think several of the funding mechanisms will provide enough revenue,” said Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the group. “The question I think is which one. Which is the least painful of those various mechanisms?”
The bipartisan committee, created by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, plans to spend the summer attempting to hammer out a compromise by Sept. 15 that would reform Connecticut’s campaign finance system and limit special interest influence on elections. -- Panel floats plans for campaign financing

March 25, 2005

Arizona: Clean Elections Commission orders legislator to vacate seat for overspending

The Arizona Republic reports: In a historic move, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission voted Thursday to oust state Rep. David Burnell Smith from office for overspending his public campaign limits by more than $6,000.

The 5-0 vote marks the first time in the United States that a legislator has been ordered to forfeit his office for violating a publicly financed election system.

Smith, who did not attend the meeting, said he will immediately appeal the panel's decision to an administrative law judge, vowing, "I have not yet begun to fight!" The Scottsdale Republican will continue serving in the Legislature pending the appeal. ...

Under state law, the penalty for a candidate who overshoots his publicly funded spending limit by more than 10 percent is to be removed from office. Smith is accused of overspending his limit by about 17 percent. During his GOP primary, Lemon said, Smith spent at least $6,000 more than the limit set by state law to disqualify candidates for violations of the voter-approved system.

His spending limit for the primary under Clean Elections rules was $24,500. An independent audit done for the commission showed that, according to Smith's campaign bank account and invoices from his consultant, Constantin Querard, he spent nearly $32,000 to win his primary. -- Legislator told to quit over campaign violation

January 29, 2005

Arizona: GOP group asks Clean Elections Commission to oust a GOP legislator

The Arizona Republic reports: Political pressure is starting to swirl around a newly elected lawmaker who overspent his public campaign funds by $7,500, setting up a possible constitutional battle over the state's Clean Elections Law.

Rep. David Burnell Smith, a Scottsdale Republican, overspent his spending limit by as much as 22 percent, according to an independent audit presented to the Clean Elections Commission on Thursday morning. A state law says that a candidate who overshoots his spending limit by more than 10 percent shall be removed from office.

On Thursday a group of Republican legislators said publicly for the first time that the commission must follow the law in Smith's case. In short, they are saying that Smith, a fellow GOP lawmaker, should be removed from the state Legislature for his violations. -- Political pressure building to oust Arizona legislator

December 8, 2004

West Virginia: legislature considering public funding

The Parkersburg News & Sentinel reports: With the increase of soft money used through 527 groups this year, lawmakers spoke of a possible cap on how much people can contribute to these groups during elections.
Lawmakers also are considering a pilot project to test public financing of elections.

During a Monday interim meeting, the joint select committee that has been studying campaign finance measures for much of the year said the Legislature should consider a test program. A chief topic has been a voluntary system where candidates would swear off private contributions and accept only money from a public source.

However, John Doyle, D-Jefferson, committee member and House finance vice chairman, said the Legislature would study whether to pursue such a system solely as a pilot project.

"I don't think we're going to be able to find money in the budget for a full-bore campaign finance reform program," Doyle said. -- Legislature could hear reform project - - The Parkersburg News & Sentinel

August 13, 2004

Anti-Clean Elections initiative off the Arizona ballot

AP reports: The state Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that an initiative to dismantle Arizona's "Clean Elections" system for publicly funding candidates' campaigns be kept off the November ballot.

The justices upheld a trial judge's ruling that Proposition 106, the so-called "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" initiative, violated the Arizona Constitution's ban on including more than one subject in a proposed constitutional amendment.

Arizona voters approved a system in 1998 that allows public funding for campaigns of candidates for governor, legislative seats and other state offices. It provided funding to candidates in 2000 and 2002.

Initiative supporters had appealed Judge Margaret Downie's order to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court announced its decision in a brief order and said it will issue an opinion later to explain its legal reasoning for its decision. -- Supreme Court knocks Clean Elections off ballot (AP via Arizona Republic)

July 31, 2004

anti-Clean Elections initiative tossed off the ballot

The Arizona Republic reports: A judge on Thursday rejected a ballot initiative designed to end public funding for state election campaigns in Arizona.

Judge Margaret Downie of Maricopa County Superior Court ruled that Proposition 106 violated the "single-subject rule" for making changes to the state Constitution.

The measure would get rid of public financing for campaigns, but would also prevent the Clean Elections Commission from pursuing other duties such as scheduling debates, publishing a voters guide and regulating campaign-finance laws.

The judge concluded that a voter might reasonably agree with one part of the initiative, such as getting rid of publicly financed political campaigns, but might support the commission's other duties. ...

The institute's suit also contended that petitions used to explain the purpose of the anti-Clean Elections initiative were "highly partisan" and "designed to mislead voters." Downie tossed out that complaint, saying that the Legislature only requires an impartial description of an initiative in the actual ballot language, not on the petitions used to qualify. -- Ruling helps boost Clean Elections (Arizona Republic)

I believe the public financing of the Clean Elections program and the other duties of the Commission were adopted in one initiative. If so, wasn't that a violation of the "one subject" rule?

July 25, 2004

Defenders of Arizona 'clean elections' file suit over ballot description

Capitol Media Services reports: Supporters of public financing of [Arizona] campaigns have gone to court to force a new description of a ballot measure which would defund the system.

Legal papers filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court contend that the description of Proposition 106 uses the "politically charged and inflammatory term 'taxpayer money' " to describe what sources of cash the measure would eliminate for funding political races. That, according to the the lawsuit, violates the legal requirement to provide an impartial analysis of all ballot measures.

Charles Blanchard, who represents the group working to defeat Proposition 106 also says the description, prepared by the Legislative Council, "inaccurately and misleadingly describes the effect of one of the key provisions of Proposition 106."

The lawsuit asks the court to direct the council, made up of state lawmakers, to recraft the description and delete the words the attorneys find offensive.

Whatever the trial judge decides is unlikely to be the final word: Prior disputes over ballot wording traditionally have had to be resolved ultimately by the Arizona Supreme Court. -- Lawsuit filed over ballot description of Prop 106 (Capitol Media Services via Arizona Daily Sun)

July 20, 2004

Kerry will take FEC funds, repay his mortgage

Boston Globe reports: John F. Kerry is poised to take federal campaign money once he is nominated for the presidency next week, according to top campaign finance advisers, a move that will allow him to disburse millions of dollars in leftover campaign cash to Democratic Party operations, effectively augmenting the $75 million he will receive in federal funds.

Aides expect the Kerry campaign committee to end up with enough money to make sizable transfers to the Democratic National Committee, state Democratic committees, and possibly the committees working to elect a Democratic Congress. The aim would be to have the committees, especially those in battleground states, air television ads on Kerry's behalf this fall, and finance get-out-the-vote operations on Election Day.

Such efforts at the national and state levels will help mitigate the spending advantage that President Bush has by virtue of his later nomination date. Candidates accepting federal financing must stop using their campaign's privately raised funds once they have accepted the nomination. Because Kerry's nomination will come on July 29 -- five weeks before President Bush's -- the Massachusetts senator's $75 million must cover 13 weeks, while Bush's $75 million will cover just eight weeks.

Kerry also plans to repay himself for a $6.4 million loan he gave to his cash-strapped organization last December, according to one adviser. -- Kerry set to disburse millions, get US funds (

Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

July 14, 2004

"Clean Money" proposal in Leon County

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: People packed the [Leon County, Florida] courthouse Tuesday for a debate on whether to change the county charter to enact a host of local election changes, including reducing the amount someone can contribute to a candidate.

Members of a group called the Clean Money/Clean Elections Steering Committee urged Leon County commissioners to place the charter amendments on the November ballot so voters can decide whether the changes are needed.

However, members of the business community asked commissioners to vote against placing the measures on the ballot. One provision of the initiative would bar corporations and businesses from giving money to candidates.

After a debate lasting several hours, commissioners voted unanimously to create a panel to study the issue of election reform - an idea first suggested by Chairwoman Jane Sauls. Even if commissioners had decided to put the initiative before voters, the changes wouldn't have taken effect until the 2006 election cycle. -- Election-reform plan heard (Tallahassee Democrat)

July 9, 2004

Joe Hadfield predicts Kerry-Edwards to accept public funding

Joe Hadfield writes on Campaigns and Elections website: Despite the prospect that forgoing public funding would be more profitable, John Kerry will accept public funding along with the official Democratic Party nomination in a few weeks.

Once nominated, Kerry and new running mate John Edwards qualify for public funds set at $75 million. A condition to the public money is that the campaign stops accepting private donations, which have come into Kerry's account at a rate of $36 million a month since March.

By sustaining that pace in the three months between the Democratic convention and Election Day, the campaign could bring in $108 million. Michael Meehan, a Kerry-Edwards spokesman said a lesson they learned in the Democratic primaries is that fund raising efforts come at the cost of candidates' time. -- Campaigns and Elections magazine

July 8, 2004

Federal judge does not buy the "big chill" argument

AP reports: A federal judge refused to block a provision in Arizona's "Clean Elections" campaign finance law that helps publicly funded candidates keep up with privately funded opponents.

Current and former Republican candidates and a political action committee for physicians filed a lawsuit in January challenging several provisions of the campaign finance law, including one that provides matching funds to publicly funded candidates.

Participating candidates get extra dollars above their basic allotments if privately funded opponents spend more and if independent expenditures are made either in support of the privately funded opponents or against the participating candidates.

The lawsuit plaintiffs, including 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Salmon, argued that the matching funds chill the free speech rights of privately funded candidates and their supporters. -- Judge won't block matching funds for 'Clean Election' candidates (AP via

July 7, 2004

Will Kerry take public funding?

The Hill reports: Some Democratic strategists and fundraisers say Sen. John Kerry should seriously consider opting out of public funding in his bid to defeat President Bush this fall.

They maintain that Kerry's record fundraising efforts in the Democratic presidential primary show that the senator can reap more money through private contributions than through what the government would provide the campaign.

Until now, it has been assumed that both Kerry and Bush would take the $75 million in public funds after they accept their respective nominations. But this places Kerry, who will be nominated five weeks prior to President Bush, at a significant disadvantage. He has to stretch his money for 14 weeks, an average of about $5 million per week, compared to Bush, who has nine weeks, an average of more than $8 million, to spend his public money.

This -- and Kerry's aggressive fundraising operation -- is leading some of his most prolific fundraisers and Democratic strategists to suggest that Kerry should take the historic step of forgoing public funds and keep raising money all the way to the Nov. 2 election. -- Kerry could spurn public cash (The

Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

June 25, 2004

Arizona Clean Elections under fire

Arizona voters likely will decide in November if they want to keep letting political candidates use public money as a way to fund their campaigns.

The fight over Arizona's Clean Elections system, which has become the financial muscle for hundreds of legislative candidates, is on.

A group called No Taxpayer Money for Politicians has an initiative for the Nov. 2 ballot that would amend the state Constitution and stop the use of public money for political races. The group's chairman, Eric Crown, filed 275,100 signatures on Thursday, well above the 184,000 signatures needed to change the state Constitution. The signatures still must be validated by state election officials, which could take several days. -- Anti-Clean Elections petitions being validated by officials (Arizona Republic)

June 20, 2004

Lies by the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" crowd

Michael Bryan at Political State Report has this post about the campaign to repeal the Clean Elections program in Arizona:

This video captures a paid petition circulator bald-facedly lying to a 'voter,' who is wearing a wire, about what the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" is all about. He represents it as favoring "100% Clean Elections" and simply ensuring that no taxpayer money should be spent on political campaigns, as it would be "better used for education and health care for the elderly". As if.

Contrary to what initiative backers are simplistically claiming, that taxes are being used for campaigns, the Clean Elections law receives no appropriated tax dollars. The initiative was written to include its own funding mechanisms. The primary sources of funds are:

a 10% surcharge on civil and criminal fines and penalties,

a voluntary $5 check off on your income tax return, and

voluntary tax credit contributions, just like many other tax credit contributions such as those to schools.

June 15, 2004

The first thing to do is tax all the lawyers

A [North Carolina] campaign reform group today laid out its agenda for this year's legislative session, including changing the state's new campaign funding program for appellate court candidates. ...

The first-of-its-kind program in the nation could face a shortfall of more than $1 million as it distributes money in this year's general elections for the first time to candidates for the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. ...

The program, signed into law in 2002, hasn't generated enough money from a voluntary $50 contribution by attorneys and a $3 checkoff on individual state income tax forms.

"It has not worked as well as the way we had thought," said Rep. Bill Culpepper, D-Chowan, who introduced a bill that would make the attorneys' fee mandatory. -- Bill would change appellate court fund (AP via

June 11, 2004

New Jersey will test public funding of campaigns

The Legislature on Thursday approved a trial run of publicly funded elections in New Jersey, one of several ethics reform bills approved.

Under the plan, Assembly races in two of New Jersey's 40 legislative districts - each deemed competitive territory - would host the pilot program in the 2005 election. The program would be expanded in the 2007 contest and later evaluated for its effectiveness. ...

"There is no silver bullet when (dealing with) campaign finance reform. No panacea. We just have to move forward as aggressively as we can," said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Roberts, D-5 of Camden, sponsor of the bill, dubbed the "Fair and Clean Elections Pilot Act."

"Public funding of campaigns holds the greatest promise of really confronting the issue." -- 'Clean elections' trial run passes N.J. Legislature (Gloucester County Times)

May 26, 2004

Kerry will accept nomination at the convention -- no delay

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) announced today that he will formally accept the Democratic presidential nomination at his party's convention in Boston this summer, jettisoning the idea of delaying acceptance to try to narrow a perceived fundraising gap with President Bush.

Less than a week after the unorthodox idea became public -- to decidedly mixed reviews -- Kerry buried consideration of the plan as his campaign weighed other options for the continuation of what has been a record-breaking period of fundraising by a Democratic presidential candidate.

Although many Kerry loyalists lined up behind the idea, other Democrats expressed fears that it would create a controversy that might have dominated the convention and led to diminished coverage, particularly by the major broadcast television networks. -- Kerry to Accept Nomination at Democratic Convention (

May 22, 2004

More news and thoughts on delaying the "nomination" of Kerry

I have thought about the proposal to delay Kerry's acceptance of the nomination to delay the point at which the general election begins -- and Kerry must stop spending privately raised money and use public funds. The Republicans are already complaining about this ploy turning the nominating convention into a multi-day political rally at public expense. Instead, I suggest that Kerry be nominated at the convention but his formal acceptance would be later. Or the nomination and acceptance could become effective on 1 September.

Democratic Party officials and lawyers said they see no significant legal bar to postponing the formal designation of their presidential nominee. Donald L. Fowler, former Democratic National Committee chairman, said that the national convention is the ultimate authority for party rules and that an "appropriately drawn resolution" could be approved at the July convention that sets out what constitutes formal acceptance of the nomination.

"I don't think it's a big legal thing," Fowler said. "The convention can do what it wants."

Another lawyer working with the party said, "This is a decision the party makes and it makes it pursuant to its own rules," adding that there are no other regulatory or statutory limitations.

Democratic officials said they are exploring a number of possibilities. One would be to reconvene the delegates to the convention, although trying to physically reconvene them appears unlikely. Instead, officials said, there is talk of convening through the Internet or through a conference call.

Fowler said the convention could give authority to the national committee, which could convene around Sept. 1 and designate Kerry as the nominee. In 1972, when presidential nominee George McGovern had to dump his vice presidential nominee, Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (Mo.), the DNC convened to pick R. Sargent Shriver as his replacement. -- Kerry Ponders Delay in Party Nod (

Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Kerry's spokeswoman, said a delay in the nomination was "not a fait accompli," and said the campaign was also discussing a second option: encouraging Democrats and supporters of Mr. Kerry to steer their contributions to the Democratic National Committee and to state party committees to buoy the campaign during the five-week gap between the conventions.

"We will find a way to level the playing field," Ms. Cutter said. "It very well may not be this option. But given the amount of money we've raised — $89 million over 80 days since Super Tuesday, the average donation is $200 — there's significant support out there, but we've only begun to see that support, and it can only improve from here. And we've got to find a way to continue to tap that momentum in those five weeks." -- Kerry Considers Strategic Delay for Democratic Nomination (New York Times)

During the 19th Century, it was not uncommon for the eventual nominee not even to attend the convention. Then, as now, the convention appointed a small group to take the word of the nomination to the candidate. Then, the candidate might be a day or two away by train. Now, he or she is in a nearby hotel. (The first major party candidate to accept the nomination in person by addressing the convention was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.)

May 21, 2004

Will this move by Kerry be seen as too cute, or will the public care?

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry may delay accepting his party's nomination to gain time to raise and spend private contributions and lessen President Bush's multimillion-dollar financial advantage, campaign officials said Friday.

The proposal would let Kerry hold off on spending his $75 million general-election budget for an extra month. The Democratic Party would still stage its national convention in Boston at the end of July, five weeks before the Republican National Convention in New York.

Kerry and Bush both are expected to accept $75 million in full federal funding for their general election campaigns. Once nominated, the candidates will be limited to spending the government money and can no longer raise or spend private contributions on the campaign. ...

A Democratic official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one possibility would be to change the rules so the nomination takes place Sept. 1. Kerry could give a convention speech that stops short of accepting the nomination, and the convention could be recessed until Sept. 1, when delegates could vote by Internet or proxy. -- Kerry considers delaying nomination vote to extend fund-raising time (AP via

May 15, 2004

FEC says Sharpton must return $100,000

Al Sharpton's unsuccessful presidential campaign said Friday it will keep fighting a Federal Election Commission determination that it must pay back $100,000 in matching funds.

The FEC found Sharpton improperly spent more than $110,000 of his own money on the campaign, more than double the amount allowed for someone who receives matching money.

The commission voted 6-0 Thursday that Sharpton's campaign must repay the $100,000 in taxpayer money.

"We have been expecting this for a while, and we plan on fighting this all the way," said Sharpton campaign manager Charles Halloran. -- FEC: Sharpton must return $100K in matching funds (AP via

May 10, 2004

Keep Arizona Clean Elections

A pro-Clean Elections coalition called Keep Arizona Clean Elections has been established in Arizona to counter the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" committee.

Thanks to Demos for the link.

May 5, 2004

Arizona's "Clean Election" campaigns

As the spending in the presidential campaign escalates toward $1 billion for the election year, some reformers are wondering whether any law can ever make the system less dependent on fundraising. In Arizona, there's a drastic alternative already in place for state offices, and NPR's Peter Overby reports on how it's working. -- Arizona Tries New Approach to Campaigning (NPR, All Things Considered)

May 3, 2004

FEC cuts off Sharpton's funds

Al Sharpton's financially struggling campaign has lost one valuable source of money _ at least for now.

The Federal Election Commission has cut off government financing for the Democrat's campaign. The FEC ruled Sharpton spent too much of his own money on his campaign, exceeding the $50,000 personal spending limit imposed on candidates who accept public funding.

Sharpton is considering going to court to challenge the commission, campaign spokesman Charles Halloran said Monday. Sharpton contends that when his personal spending on non-campaign travel is subtracted he is well within the spending limit. -- FEC cuts off government money for Sharpton campaign (AP via

March 9, 2004

Sharpton may get FEC matching funds and an investigation

Election officials are recommending that Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton receive $100,000 in federal matching funds -- and be the subject of an investigation into whether he deserves the money.

The mixed recommendation by lawyers for the Federal Election Commission will be presented to the six commissioners Thursday for a likely vote, after an internal back-and-forth over whether the outspoken reverend may have violated campaign finance rules. ...

At issue are loans and out-of-pocket payments made by Sharpton, the activist preacher, to Sharpton, the candidate. The New Yorker's campaign is low on cash and is carrying heavy debts, but FEC rules prohibit federal matching funds to any candidate who loans his own campaign more than $50,000.

In reviewing Sharpton's FEC filings, auditors found Sharpton is owed $47,821.13 in loans or debts outstanding for more than 60 days. At the end of the 2003 filing period, Sharpton claimed he was owed an additional $53,981.25, but the auditors said they could not determine if any of that debt was outstanding for more than 60 days.

"A question exists as to whether Rev. Sharpton has exceeded his personal expenditure limitation," the audit staff wrote. "The evidence is not sufficient to recommend an initial determination that matching fund eligibility be denied; however, it appears that a further review of this matter is warranted." -- FEC urges funds, probe of Al Sharpton (AP)

The FEC report is here.

March 1, 2004

Wisconsin Campaign Finance Project

If you are interested in public financing of politican campaigns at the state and local level, look at The Wisconsin Campaign Finance Project.

Our purpose is to provide researchers with authoritative data on public election funding programs throughout the U.S. We focus on state legislative races and the New York City Council. As of February 2004, we have posted campaign spending and election data for Arizona, Hawaii (partial), Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Wisconsin. We will update the data frequently.

February 28, 2004

Kucinich and matching funds

Dennis Kucinich has been the target of many jokes as he marches winless through the Democratic primaries. So how does the Ohio representative carry on? One reason is that so far he can afford to, thanks in part to taxpayer money.

In February, Mr. Kucinich drew more public financing than any other candidate, according to the Federal Election Commission. He received $2.1 million in public money, even though he raised only $5.5 million from donors through January, far less than Senator John Kerry's $24 million or Senator John Edwards's $16 million.

Public financing matches individual contributions up to $250, and the campaign's high number of small, matchable donations lifted its take, said Phillip Mohorich, the Kucinich campaign finance director. -- Week in Review: How He Keeps Going and Going (New York Times)

In order words, Kucinich is raising money the way the drafters of the FECA planned. I can't think of a better reason to criticize the guy. A candidate who can't think of a way to raise funds by skirting the edge of the law must be too stupid to be president.

February 22, 2004

Will Kerry keep the $45 million pledge?

Jerome Armstrong, writing on Daily Kos, does the math on Kerry's spending to date and thinks he may have already exceeded the $45 million cap on primary campaign spending he agreed to.

February 6, 2004

Big Money vs. Clean Money

Associated Press reports:

An initiative drive to dry up funding for Arizona's system of public campaign financing is getting five-figure contributions from developers and other big names in Arizona business.

The first regular disclosure report filed by the campaign committee for the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" lists $144,900 in contributions through Dec. 31 - four-fifths of it in contributions of $5,000 or more.

The proposed initiative would ask voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to bar taxpayer money - including the traffic and criminal fine surcharges that provide most of the campaign system's financing - from being used for candidates' campaigns.

Arizona voters approved creation of the "Clean Election" campaign finance system in 1998. It provides financing to participating candidates and imposes new reporting requirements and contribution limits on candidates receiving traditional, private financing.

October 14, 2003

Dean may opt out of public financing

AP reports,

Presidential hopeful and prolific Internet fund-raiser Howard Dean is taking another step toward possibly becoming the first Democrat to opt out of public financing. Newcomer Wesley Clark's campaign said Monday that he also is weighing whether to skip it.

In the latest sign Dean may forego public campaign money and the accompanying spending limits, the former Vermont governor has begun gathering signatures to get on the North Carolina primary ballot.

Candidates who accept public financing automatically qualify for a spot on the state's ballot; those who do not must collect at least 10,000 signatures from party members in the state, said Don Wright, a state Board of Elections spokesman.

Dean spokeswoman Tricia Enright said Dean hasn't decided whether he will skip public financing. In the meantime, he is keeping his options open, she said.

"I think that's probably a pragmatic course of action," Enright said Monday.

Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

September 19, 2003

Conan the Reformer

The San Diego Union-Tribune > News > Politics >reports,

Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a plan yesterday that aims to clean up government by banning fund raising during budget deliberations and taking redistricting away from the Legislature.

Schwarzenegger, who began his campaign for governor promising to reform politics, said his proposals are aimed at restoring public confidence.

"For democracy to be strong, we must bring trust back to government," the actor said at a news conference yesterday.

A campaign finance expert, Jim Knox of California Common Cause, endorsed some of the proposals. But he said Schwarzenegger appears to favor corporate interests because he calls unions and Indian tribes "special interests," but excludes businesses.

"It undermines his credibility as a political reformer," Knox said. "It certainly implies that he's not for reforms that apply equally."

Schwarzenegger said he was in favor of banning fund-raising while the budget is under negotiation, a process that normally stretches from January through July. Some reform advocates, however, say the period with more potential corruption is the end of the legislative session, when the fate of hundreds of bills is uncertain. Lawmakers hold dozens of fund-raisers during that time.

Schwarzenegger also endorsed a constitutional amendment that would enhance California's open-meeting laws and prohibit the long-standing practice of "gut and amend," which allows bills to be completely rewritten and passed without public hearing or comment.

Knox of Common Cause said Schwarzenegger "had some good ideas, but they don't go far enough" because the Republican rejects public financing of campaigns.

Schwarzenegger's best idea, Knox said, was a redistricting process that would have required appellate court justices to redraw legislative districts every 10 years, making them competitive.

With lawmakers determining the lines, districts are carved out to protect incumbents, both Democrats and Republicans.

In contrast to Schwarzenegger, Bustamante endorsed public financing but said he didn't think voters would support it.

September 11, 2003

Kerry may go private

The Boston Globe reports,

Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday that he would break a federal spending cap, reject public financing for the presidential primaries, and possibly use his personal funds if Howard Dean's fund-raising strength leads the former Vermont governor to go beyond the federal spending limit.

Dean sent a letter to the government in June saying he would abide by the limit, but is now considering exceeding the cap.

"If Howard Dean decides to go live outside of it, I'm not going to wait an instant," Kerry said in an interview at his campaign headquarters. "Decision's made. I'll go outside. Absolutely. I'm not going to disarm."

September 5, 2003

Clean Elections in Arizona under attack

The Arizona Republic reports,

A group calling itself "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" took the first step Tuesday toward ending Arizona's popular but controversial system of publicly funding politicians' campaigns.

The group filed an initiative for the 2004 ballot that would amend the Arizona Constitution and ban the use of Clean Elections money to pay for political races.

Instead, millions of such taxpayer dollars now used for the races would be diverted to things such as public education and health care for seniors.

In 2002, the Clean Elections system distributed $13 million in public money to hundreds of statewide and legislative candidates.

Notice that Rep. Jeff Flake and his Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee are not mentioned in this article. Flake received an Advisory Opinion from the FEC that the STMP committee must follow the BCRA limits on fundraising because of his involvement in setting it up. It looks like another group is going to the main player now, but we can expect Flake to be involved in the campaign somehow.

August 13, 2003

four Horsemen of Campaign Finance to Ride Again

The Washington Post reports

The nation's campaign finance law overhaulers are at work again. Now they are working on legislation to revamp the public financing system for presidential elections, calling for more funding and higher spending limits for primary campaigns. They hope to have a new system in place for the 2008 elections.

Details are being worked out, but the four lawmakers -- Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.) -- have said they hope to introduce the bill before Congress adjourns this fall.

July 8, 2003

Dean qualifies for matching funds

The FEC has announced that Howard Dean has qualified for presidential primary matching funds.

July 1, 2003

"Better Presidential Campaigns for Only $2 More"

FEC Commissioner Scott Thomas has an op-ed, Better Presidential Campaigns for Only $2 More, in the New York Times today. He is pushing the plan he and Commissioner Michael Toner have to revitalize the public financing system for presidential elections.

June 20, 2003

Ask only what your country can give you, not what you can give

MyDD has this great headline, The Freeloading Welfare Bush. The post is about Bush not contributing to the Presidential campaign financing fund (through the check-off box on his Form 1040), yet he takes public financing in the general election. "Disconnect? No, there's no disconnect. Just unpatriotic greed on display in the Bush administration. This is how Bush and his ilk view the system-- take whatever you can, and give back however little you can."

April 24, 2003

Follow up on two items

Follow up on two items

The Washington Post has two short reports about Sen. Kerry using his wife's fortune in his presidential campaign and the possibility of President Bush not being on the ballot in Alabama because of the lateness of the convention.

April 10, 2003

Rep. Flake and the campaign to repeal Clean Money

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ 6) and the Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee have filed a request for an advisory opinion from the Federal Elections Commission regarding Flake's involvement in the campaign to gather signatures for an initiative to repeal the Clean Money program in Arizona. The request and two supplements (plus the correspondence from the FEC counsel's office asking for the supplementation) is 16 pages long. For a change, the documents are presented in chronological order.

Flake wants to know how much a role he can have in the Committee and its initiative campaign in light of the BCRA's restrictions on interaction of state and federal campaigns.

April 3, 2003

The Wealth Primary

Tom Edsall and Dan Balz have an article in today's Wahington Post, Kerry Shaded By Edwards In Fundraising. It describes in almost horse-racing terms who's ahead and who is falling back in the race to win the big bucks.

April 2, 2003

More on the FEC and public financing

FEC Commissioner Toner may propose an amendment to the staff proposal on public financing I mentioned here. His amendment would add some regulations affecting the use of PAC funds (especially Leadership PACs) for the "testing the waters" fundraising period.

April 1, 2003

FEC to consider amending rules re public financing

The Federal Election Commission staff has proposed new rules regarding the public funding of candidates and nominating conventions. The proposal is 163 pages long (typed). Commissioner Toner has submitted a proposed amendment (but there was a dead link to the document when I checked it a few minutes ago).

Many of the changes are necessitated by the BCRA. For instance, the treatment of salaries to candidates and the question of the status of the municipal committee hosting the nominating convention. Others grow out of problems the Commission has seen with aspects of public financing. In this category are proposals to change "winding down expenses."

An aside here: I wish the FEC would put a table of contents on these voluminous proposals and do a better job of converting the document to PDF.

March 24, 2003

Arizona public funding challenge

The AP reports, "Supreme Court rejects challenge to public funding for Ariz. political campaigns."

The Arizona Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions are here and here, respectively.

Sen. Kerry and public financing of campaign

The Washington Post reports today that Sen. Kerry Not Banking on His Wife's Fortune (

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has effectively ruled out using any significant part of a family fortune estimated at $550 million in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The senator's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, inherited the fortune from her first husband, Sen. H. John Heinz III (R-Pa.), after he died in a plane crash in 1991. Kerry and Heinz were married four years later, and her money has given Kerry -- at least on paper -- a potentially huge advantage in financing his campaigns.

March 8, 2003

Public financing of presidential primaries

The AP reports that five of nine Democratic presidential candidates have said that they will seek federal matching funds for their primary campaigns. The Washington Post has a story specifically on Sen. Kerry's appeal for funds to be used for matching.

January 24, 2003

Arizona Clean Elections

Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake is charging ahead in his quest to repeal the state's Clean Elections Act, which provides public money for candidates to run for state offices.
Flake, a Republican, has formed a committee called Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians, and he hopes to have a grass-roots army of volunteers to gather the 120,000 signatures needed to put the repeal on the 2004 ballot.

Flake forms panel to repeal Clean Elections I'll bet the committee calls itself "STaMP."

January 11, 2003

Arizona Clean Elections

Arizona has a "Clean Elections" fund that provides public financing to candidates who have raised a threshold amount in small ($5) contributions. A Republican state representative (who just lost) brought suit last year (before he lost) against the funding mechanism -- a surcharge on criminal and traffic fines. The Arizona Supreme Court upheld the plan in October. The challenger has now filed his cert petition in the US Supreme Court, according to the Tucson Citizen. (via SCOTUSblog)