Subsidizing Democracy on C-Span 2

As Rick mentioned in an earlier post, this morning at 9:30 am ET Professor Michael Miller is talking on his public financing book “Subsidizing Democracy at the New America Foundation, and I’ll comment along with Michael Malbin and Matt Heinz (Mark Schmitt is the moderator).

The book is an important empirical contribution (Miller’s data shows that public financing results in participating candidates spending less time fundraising, voters being more likely to vote in down-ballot races, and Republican candidates being less likely to accept public financing and more likely to face a challenger).

The book, however, focuses largely on systems that provide public financing grants to candidates that were hampered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s invalidation of the trigger provision in Arizona Free Enterprise, and has only a few pages on systems that provide a multiple match of donations (e.g., NYC’s 6-to-1 match which makes a $100 contribution worth $700 to the candidate).  For me, increasing incentives for candidates to engage citizens (broaden participation) is more important than limiting spending or increasing the pool of new candidates.  I also think public financing should be accompanied by “insurance policies” in the form of Small Donor PACs and increased coordinated spending limits by parties when using money from small donors (or the first $200 of any contribution), so that if future politicians balance budgets by cutting public financing, revenue-neutral laws remain that incentivize small donor engagement.

A summary of the panel is here, C-Span 2 is covering it live (watch here), and my Minnesota Law Review article on public financing (“Matching Political Contributions”) is here.

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