I was thinking about the following and I am interested in other peoples opinions on potential effects. What if the US government where to pass legislation that allocates money for political candidates to spend on their campaigns. This money would be given to each member of congress for their reelection campaign, and an equal sum to their challenger from the other party (after the primary).

This could potentially reduce wealthy peoples ability to buy influence since the sitting politicians will be less dependent on their money. It would also allow sitting politicians to focus more on policy and less on fundraising.

There would have to be some system in place that ensures that this money is indeed spent on the campaign.

  • This question forgets two things: 1. this is unpopular but rich people are people too and need to have a voice because they are citizens. 2. Even if you are lower middle class, you can support what is important to you through the many organizations. You can give money to the NAACP, NRA, Labor Unions, etc. Visible examples are found in the go-fund-me news stories. – Frank Cedeno Jan 3 '19 at 14:24
  • @FrankCedeno, It's a controversy of voice volume and zoning. Your right to sing full out opera (perhaps badly) in a Maternity Ward is outweighed by many practical considerations. A nation's ears are like a mighty diaper, now brimming with the sacred rights of wealthy bores to blast us with mendacious claptrap. – agc Jan 17 '19 at 3:59

There are other countries which have something like this. It changes the political culture, but not completely. And there are problems:

How many candidates can run and get money?

You seem to assume that it is just the primary winners of the big two parties. How about the primary winner of a 3rd, or 4th, or 100th party? Do they all get the same sum?

  • One option is to tie campaign funding to the outcome of the previous election. But who administers the money? The previous candidate? The party? The new candidate? And won't that give an unfair advantage to the big parties? Or a fair advantage?
  • Another option is to require supporting signatures before a candidate gets onto the ballot, and to give funding only to those with a significant number of signatures. But how many?

How to fund the primary?

Money is required early on. If there is public funding for the main election, the overall tendency to donate for campaigns could go down, which makes candidates even more dependent on the remaining donors.

Can candidates and parties spend more?

There is an assumption that spending more brings more votes. So candidates would be tempted to ask for campaign donations anyway. The scheme would merely increase the total amount of money, it wouldn't slow the spending race.

  • Preventing candidates and parties from spending more runs into freedom-of-speech problems. If a group of political activists really dislike one candidate, surely they can buy ads against him? Any collusion with the campaign of the other candidate would be for the investigation afterward.
  • Can a candidate save leftover funds from the last election for the next one?
  • I think it would work well in the US specifically since there are only two major parties. The primaries wouldn't be financed by the government, but this isn't any worse than how it is now. Furthermore big money may be less interested in the primary since the potential payoff from their candidate winning is reduced, since they will hold less sway over them if they win. Since the returns to spending on campaigns is diminishing a high initial contribution by the government would render further fundraising much less important. – Jagol95 Jan 1 '19 at 19:02
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    @Jagol95, would there still be only two major parties if the others could get their campaigns financed by the taxpayer? Wouldn't that change things? And if the primaries are before government funds kick in, a smart donor would know that he or she is generating more goodwill and access than later on. – o.m. Jan 1 '19 at 19:50
  • As far as I know the two party system is fixed. I think that the major forces behind politicians acting in donors interest is the prospect of further financial support from the donor and as a signaling mechanism for other donors that they are "open for business". So the donors wouldn't be as interested in the primaries since the politicians don't have a lot of incentives to act in said donors interest after being elected. – Jagol95 Jan 1 '19 at 20:16
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    @Jagol95, the system encourages only two parties, but a third party could come up and replace one of the old ones. – o.m. Jan 2 '19 at 7:05

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