Lobbying groups led by Public Campaign and Common Cause are initiating a $15 million effort to pass a campaign finance law that critics say would amount to political suicide for incumbents.
The Fair Elections Now Act was introduced last year by Democratic Senate Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois; Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Penn.; and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.
So far the bill hasn’t gathered much support. It has 156 co-sponsors, only three of whom are Republicans.
The bill would give congressional candidates large amounts of money in grants and matching funds. To qualify, those who choose to participate would have to raise at least $50,000 on their own in the case of House candidates, and varying amounts for Senate candidates.
Candidates who garner small donations from people in their home state would be able to obtain matching funds. They would get $4 for every $1 raised from the in-state contributors.
Candidates wouldn’t be permitted to accept money from PACs.
John Samples, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Representative Government, told CNN that the bill has little chance for passage.
"I suspect they're going to have a very hard time rallying public opinion to get [lawmakers] to do something that's pretty suicidal,” he said.
“These members will be voting for a system ... that gives their challengers even more money."
The bill would be a burden on taxpayers, Samples maintains.
"Since this plan spends a lot of money, they've got to tax to do it. And they kind of obscure the way they get the taxes. But the taxes end up falling on taxpayers."
Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., also opposes the legislation, telling CNN the public doesn’t support it.
"Everyday Americans have already indicated their feelings on taxpayer funding of elections,” he said.
“They have had that opportunity when it comes to presidential elections, and we have seen a precipitous drop in their support for that idea."
He was referring to the option on federal tax forms for people to contribute $3 of their tax payment to the presidential election campaign fund.
Another opponent is the Center for Competitive Politics. Jeff Patch, communications director for the center, told The Washington Post: "We think a system where people support people they believe in rather than using taxpayer funds is the way to go."
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