Maffei co-sponsors new public campaign finance push

Feb 13, 2014

A new public campaign finance bill introduced in Congress is gaining support, including from Syracuse Rep. Dan Maffei.

Maffei, a Democrat, is among 130 co-sponsors of the Government by the People Act. It looks to amplify small campaign contributions from individuals.

Donations of up to $150 would be matched by a new federal fund. The match would be six times as much as the original, so a $100 donation would turn into $700. That’s if the candidate agrees to turn away money from political action groups, or PACs.

Maffei says in time, public donation matching will lead to less expensive campaigns.

"This is a way to have small donors have the matching funds so that we can help level the playing field and get the special interest money out of campaign," he said.

The legislation also includes a tax credit for people who make a small contribution; something supporters say will encourage donations.

"Elections would be decided more by which candidate would be better qualified to represent the district as chosen by the voters, not which outside groups are willing to spend more to influence the election," he said.

Maffei’s last campaign for Congress was one of the most expensive ever in upstate New York.

A few dozen good government groups are publicly pushing for the bill. Karen Scharff of Citizen Action New York says public campaign financing would save the government money in the long run by driving out special interest spending.

"In the end, we would save more money than we would spend by having a public financing system that allows people to run based on contributions from ordinary citizens rather than from special interest looking for something in return from the federal or state budget," she said.

The bill was introduced in he House last week. Its main sponsor is Minority Leader Nanci Pelosi.