Panel Urges Election Finance Changes
IOP Group Recommends Unlimited Spending
Federal limits on presidential campaign spending should be eliminated and the maximum allowable contribution from an individual increased from $1000 to $5000, are port released Monday by an Institute of Politics (IOP) research group concludes.
The IOP's Campaign Finance Study Group also recommended that public funding for presidential candidates be expanded and that national party committees be allowed unlimited expenditures for their nominees during the general election campaign.
The panel examined the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns in its study, which was requested by Sen. Charles M. Mathias (R-Md.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, and funded by the Senate.
"Broad public perception is that too much money is being spent." Christopher Arterton, assistant professor of political science at Yale and chairman of the finance study group, said yesterday.
"We conclude exactly the opposite--that not enough money is being spent in light of the enormous cost of communication and the campaign itself," he added.
The report states that federal campaign finance laws "have become increasingly restrictive and have spawned a whole series of nasty problems of definition, allocation and enforcement."
It goes on to say that rather than curtailing the growth of election spending, federal laws have "diverted funds into other channels" that are "inherently less accountable to the electorate and, therefore, less desirable for the campaign laws to encourage."
The report also criticizes current spending laws for having failed to equalize campaign expenditures on behalf of different candidates, for being too restrictive; and for interfering with campaign strategy, particularly because they have failed to reduce emphasis on early primaries.
The study group recommends that pre-nomination public funding be provided at a two-for-one rate, as opposed to the current one-for-one level, for the first $5 million raised by each qualified candidate and on a dollar-for-dollar basis thereafter up to a maximum of $15 million in public funds.
"The provision of public money should be used to facilitate diversity of political speech in an era in which communication with voters is necessarily expensive," the report states. The panel also suggested that Congress establish a system to provide matching public funds to qualifying third party and independent candidates during the general presidential campaign.
But it further recommended that the qualification threshold for matching funds be set "quite high"--requiring candidates to raise at least $200,000 in a minimum of 20 states in contributions of $1000 or less.
The reports other principal recommendations included:
* extending income tax credits for contributions to candidates and political parties so that 100 percent of donations up to $50 would be deductable;
* indexing public funding to growth in voting age population as well as to the cost of living.
* and providing a "modest level" of public funding to national party committees at the start of election years to underwrite party-building activities.
The finance study group has submitted its proposals to the Senate Rules Committee, but Arterton said that Congressional action on the recommendations is unlikely during the current election year