Euthanizing the Public Campaign Financing System

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 27 2011 9:13 AM

Euthanizing the Public Campaign Financing System

The latest spending cut passed by the House was Rep. Tom Cole's (R-Okla.) bill terminating the public campaign finance system. It got through with all but one Republican vote , and with 10 Democratic votes.

How much of a deficit-reducing measure is this, since it cuts $617 million? Actually, not much of one. The special fund it terminates is just that, a special fund, filled by voters on a voluntary basis by checking off a box on their tax forms. The changeover only works once:

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Transfer of Funds Remaining After Termination- The Secretary shall transfer all amounts in the fund after the date of the enactment of this section to the general fund of the Treasury, to be used only for reducing the deficit.

So is it a pointless idea? No, not at all. The system doesn't work anymore. President Obama surely won't participate in it in 2012. And the fact that only one Republican blanched at supporting it proves, one more time, that campaign finance reform in this fashion is dodo-dead as a political issue.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.