Saturday, August 23, 2008

Public Financing of Campaigns

With the political conventions of the two major parties looming, I received in the snail mail a non-partisan appeal to support public financing of congressional campaigns. The “fact sheet” section of the mailing noted that in 1976, successful candidates for seats in the House of Representatives spent an average of $87,000 on their campaigns – in 2006 dollars that comes to $306,000. In the 2006 House races, the average expenditures for successful candidates was $1.5 million.

Curious, I checked the Statistical Abstract of the United States to see what successful presidential candidates had received in public money for their campaigns. In 1980, Carter received $29.4 million and Reagan $29.2 million. Eight years later, Bush 41 and Dukakis each received $46.1 million. In 1992, Bush and Clinton received $55.2 million while Clinton and Dole received $61.8 million in 1996. In the next two presidential races, Gore and Bush 43 received $67.6 million each in 2000 while in 2004 Bush and Kerry each received $74.6 million. This year McCain will get about $81 million while Obama has opted out of public financing.

Back to Congress for a moment, the last time the House of Representatives was in session for more than 300 days was 1981-82, the 97th Congress. And the 98th Congress was the last in which members introduced more than 10,000 bills for consideration.

In 2007, of the 9,227 bills and resolutions introduced, 1.5% became law.

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