NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fewer Taxpayers Are Willing To Finance Presidential Campaigns

May 20, 1999

Taxpayers are increasingly reluctant to check the box on their tax forms which supplies $3 in matching funds to presidential election campaigns. As a result, candidates will have to wait until a year after the election to get their money, according to the Federal Election Commission. It will be the first time that has happened since federal financing of presidential elections began following Watergate.

  • Only 13 percent of taxpayers agreed to the $3 check-off in 1996 -- compared to 29 percent in 1980.
  • Preliminary figures for 1997 and 1998 indicate the percentage is staying the same as in 1996 -- or perhaps will be even lower.
  • The FEC expects eventually to have to pay out $99 million in federal matching funds to candidates running in 2000 -- up from $59 million in 1996.
  • Each candidate can receive a maximum of $16.75 million.

Since there will not be enough money to cover all the political expenses for next year's presidential elections until the 2000 income tax returns are filed in April 2001, candidates will get only about one-third of the federal aid they have qualified for on January 1 -- when the first matching funds are handed out.

In 1996, a similar shortfall resulted in presidential candidates receiving 60 percent on January 1 -- and the rest after April's filings.

Candidates become eligible for matching funds by raising at least $5,000 in 20 different states from individuals contributing no more than $250. In exchange, candidates agree to limit spending.

Source: Associated Press, "Campaign Matching Funds Dry Up," Washington Times, May 20, 1999.


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