NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Most Americans Don't Want Tax Money Going to Campaigns

July 19, 1999

Officials at the Federal Election Commission say they are having a hard time making ends meet. Most Americans are refusing to check the box on their federal income tax form to divert $3 of their taxes to help candidates finance their presidential campaigns.

The FEC announcement was made prior to Texas Gov. George W. Bush's announcement that he would not accept federal matching funds for his primary campaign. So FEC is reworking its figures.

  • Absent the Bush decision, candidates would have received only 32 to 40 cents on the dollar in time for the primaries.
  • The balance of the money wouldn't have been available until 2001 -- long after the race was over.
  • In 1997, only 12.5 percent of taxpayers checked the option -- down from 28.7 percent in 1980.
  • Since the Treasury Department requires the FEC to give top priority to the nominating conventions and the general election, funds must be set aside before the primaries even though contributions from 1999 tax returns have yet to be figured in.

Critics of public funding say the declining percentage of taxpayers willing to contribute to the fund shows that Americans do not support public funding. The FEC did focus-group studies in the early 1990s to determine why taxpayers weren't checking the box -- but reached no conclusive answers.

Source: Laura R. Vanderkam, "Fewer Tax Form Check-Offs Jeopardize Campaign Funds," Washington Times, July 19, 1999.


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