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No Love for Public Campaign Financing

Michael Rainey

If you didn’t check off the "Presidential Election Campaign" box on your tax form this year, you’re not alone.

The percentage of filers who have elected to direct a few dollars to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund – at no cost to themselves – has been declining for years, falling from about 28% in 1976, when the option was first offered, to 4% in 2018.

The election fund is unique, Erin Huffer and Aravind Boddupalli of the Tax Policy Center say, because it’s “the only element of the US system of taxation and budgeting that gives the public direct control over how their tax dollars are spent.”

Even though it’s largely neglected by taxpayers, the fund maintains a surplus balance of $392 million, due to the refusal of presidential candidates to accept matching funds within the program (neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump received general election funds in 2016).


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