End it, don’t mend it.

The House Republicans will vote on a bill this week to abolish the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account, well before President Obama and the yet-to-be-determined Republican candidate have declared whether they plan to take those funds. Although this bill will mostly likely be DOA in the Senate, this is a worthwhile move. This has been a Republican goal for years but has continued with Democratic support. When Obama began his candidacy for the 2008 election he declared that he would accept the federal funding, and encouraged the other candidates to as well. Later, when he realized that his personal fundraising would break all records, opted out, saying it was “not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system.”

If it was broken then, it’s broken now. Nothing has been done to fix it, and I’ll bet my $3 – the current voluntary donation on income tax forms – that Obama and the Republican nominee decline the funds. Obama is looking to raise upwards of $5 billion while the Republicans will leverage the fever of the Tea Party and surely break the measly $100 million offered by the program. Who supports this program in anything except words?

Created in 1976, the public funding system— which offers money to qualified primary- and general-election candidates, raised via a voluntary checkoff on individuals’ tax returns — has been on the ropes for at least a dozen years. George W. Bush started a trend by declining to take money during his 2000 and 2004 presidential primaries, and Obama became the first candidate not to accept funding for his general-election campaign in 2008.

At the same time, the proportion of taxpayers choosing to contribute to the presidential fund has been inching steadily downward. According to the IRS, the number has dropped from nearly 20 percent in 1990, to 12 percent in 2000, to less than 7 percent in 2010. So why continue a program that so few Americans are willing to subsidize?

President Obama says the system is broken, but that it needs to be repaired not scraped. No details were offered.


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