House to Vote on Abolishing Campaign Matching Fund

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WASHINGTON — The House will vote next week on legislation to end the system of financing presidential candidates and national party conventions with federal matching funds, Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced Thursday.

He put the estimated savings at $520 million over a decade if the legislation passes Congress and is signed into law.

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Cantor, R-Va., said the vote would be a response to a pre-election project in which Republicans invited the public to vote on proposals for reductions in federal spending.

"While some have argued that providing even more taxpayer funding for this program might entice more candidates to participate, eliminating the program altogether would save taxpayers $520 million over 10 years and would require candidates and political parties to rely on private donations rather than tax dollars," read a description on Cantor's website.

Under current law, presidential candidates qualify for federal matching funds during the presidential primary season if they can meet a threshold for private fundraising and agree to abide by certain restrictions.

Major party nominees qualify for additional federal matching funds for the fall campaign but must agree not to raise contributions for themselves if they do.

Major parties receive funds to stage the elaborate four-day conventions at which they formally nominate candidates for president and vice president.

The money comes from taxpayers who voluntarily contribute $3 a year when they file their federal income taxes.

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The system was established more than 30 years ago as a response to the Watergate scandal. In the years since, most presidential hopefuls have participated and except for President Barack Obama in 2008, all who won their party's nominations have, as well.

Backed by tea party supporters, Republicans have made spending cuts a cornerstone of their new majority and are moving along several tracks to accomplish their objectives.

With the federal government due to run out of operating funds in early March, they have vowed to seek cuts as part of any replenishment. When the Treasury informed Congress the debt limit must be raised later this year to permit additional borrowing and avoid default, Speaker John Boehner served notice that Obama would have to agree to cuts in spending as part of any measure.