The Best Argument for Public Financing of Political Campaigns

Ryan Grim and Sabrina Siddiqui:

For an incoming member of Congress still basking in the glow of electoral victory, it’s a message that hits those in both parties hard — the most direct indication that time in the people’s chamber will be a bit different from the version taught in civics classes.

For new Democrats, that message was delivered on Nov. 16, barely a week after the election, at an incoming-member orientation held by the House campaign arm.

The amount of time that members of Congress in both parties spend fundraising is widely known to take up an obscene portion of a typical day — whether it’s “call time” spent on the phone with potential donors, or in person at fundraisers in Washington or back home. Seeing it spelled out in black and white, however, can be a jarring experience for a new member, as related by some who attended the November orientation.

A PowerPoint presentation to incoming freshmen by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, obtained by The Huffington Post, lays out the dreary existence awaiting these new back-benchers. The daily schedule prescribed by the Democratic leadership contemplates a nine or 10-hour day while in Washington. Of that, four hours are to be spent in “call time” and another hour is blocked off for “strategic outreach,” which includes fundraisers and press work.

Instead of expecting members of Congress to spend half their days begging rich people for money, the taxpayers should just pay for all the campaigns.


  1. Politicians voting on funding of political campaigns…what could go wrong?

  2. Im actually in agreement with this provided you have the necessary safeguards on how the money is expended.
    The backstop to this would then be a prohibition on the politicians receiving ANY outside money from the public, and that would include lobbyist money or pacs set up in their benefit.

    If politicians were not beholden to special interests and lobbyists, we may actually get a congress and a president who manages for the people

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Think you’d run into First Amendment trouble banning individual donations. You could cap donations at like $200 though, or give everybody a flat amount of money, via a tax credit or something, to spend on political donations.

  3. Rather than have the taxpayer pay for it, how about capping what can be spent by politicians in any given race or any given period?

    Couple that with a prohibition on politicians funding other politicians (what a slimy fucking mess that is, paying overt bribes for support) and you have a much stronger mechanism than putting more expenses on the taxpayer.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      That sure is a populist way of looking at things. But if you are actually interested in the evidence from political science, then what you want is a floor, not a ceiling on campaign funding. Challengers who get on the ballot should be guaranteed enough money to get their message out, without having to do any fundraising if they don’t want to. Politicians will always find ways to get more money, but at some point there are diminishing returns – the SuperPAC ads turned out to be overkill and didn’t actually buy any extra support. Rather than pointlessly trying to cap political spending, it’s more important that challengers get the resources they need to compete, whether or not they’re favored by the special interests who control fundraising now.

      • So under your proposal, anyone who wants to run for office gets public funding? Communist Party? Taliban? Salem Witches?

        Yep, that’s a great plan.

        Nope – cap the spending, eliminate politicians bribing each other. You don’t reform anything by putting more money into it, let alone taxpayer money.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          Anyone who manages to get enough signatures to get on the ballot gets the money. You’re always talking about the need for a third party. This would be a great way to give a megaphone to some perspectives not reflects in the two major party agendas.

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