NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Running For President -- And Getting Paid For It

October 2, 2000

Critics of the Federal Election Campaign Act say it pays people to run for president -- and a handful of candidates few Americans have ever heard of do so. This election year, 10 candidates are sharing the pot.

It's all tied in with that box on Internal Revenue Service form 1040, which asks if the taxpayer wants $3 of the return to go to public campaign funding. The overwhelming proportion of taxpayers say "No."

  • The 1971 campaign law stipulated a check-off amount of $1 -- but when Americans lost interest, Congress raised the amount.
  • The fraction of taxpayers checking the box hit an all-time high of 28.7 percent in 1978 -- but the number has since fallen to just 12.3 percent.
  • Public funding of campaigns has allowed perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche to collect $1,285,116 this year.

While the IRS form assures the taxpayer that allowing the $3 contribution won't add to his or her tax bill or subtract from their refund, experts say that is misleading. Because millions of dollars in government revenue are siphoned off by the candidates, overall taxes must be increased by the program.

Source: Dan Seligman, "Your Tax Dollars at Work," Forbes, October 2, 2000.


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