Fair Mechanism for Public Funding of Political Campaigns


Many people are calling for public funding of political campaigns to try to diminish the corruption of the private funding of campaigns. One stumbling block to this idea is figuring out how to solve the problem of giving public money to every random person who decides they want to run for office at the expense of the tax payer.

The idea is to have public matching of private contributions. A simple one-for-one match will not solve the corruption problem of the current system. The rich have so much money to put into political campaigns, that they can still overwhelm the value of a one-for-one match. To solve this problem, the public funds could be some multiple of the privately collected funds. How much should this multiple be?

Here is a mechanism for deciding the multiple that will automatically nullify the value of having a lot of private funds to overwhelm your opponent. For each contestant in a race, determine how much private money per contributor that they are raising. The public matching funds will be calculated so that the total money each candidate will get, public and private, will be the same per contributor.

Some numbers should make this clearer. Suppose Donald Trump self funds his campaign to the tune of one million dollars. Since he is the only contributor that is one million dollars per contributor. Suppose Bernie Sanders raises one million dollars from one million contributors. He will get enough public funding to raise his funds to one million dollars per contributor. With one million contributors, he will have one trillion dollars to spend – one million times one million. I think common sense will take over before Bernie Sanders gets his trillion.

The beauty of this system is that it completely removes the incentive to raise large amounts of donations from a small number of people. In this case, the more money of his own that Donald Trump pours into his campaign, the larger will be the overwhelming amount that Bernie Sanders would get from public funding.

The calculation of the public fund multiple and the paying out of the funds could be determined on a weekly basis. This way, the value of getting many contributors is realized almost instantly throughout the campaign.

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