Editorials: The rise and fall of public campaign funding | Kathy Kiely/Washington Post

Sometimes, prosperity can be a sign of failure. Take the $292 million pot of taxpayer dollars that politicians are refusing to touch. For years after the public fund for presidential candidates was established in 1974, the biggest worry for its minders at the Federal Election Commission was whether there would be enough money for all the candidates. Now, despite a sharp decline in the number of people participating in the $3 tax return check-off that funds the program (down from a high of 28 percent in 1977 to less than 6 percent last year), the fund has been growing steadily – because candidates don’t want the money anymore. Former president George W. Bush began the exodus from the public finance system in 2000, when he refused to take matching funds for the primaries and caucuses. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first candidate to decline public financing in the general election. This year, only one presidential contender sought and qualified for public financing: Martin O’Malley, who has already dropped his bid for the Democratic nomination. Even Bernie Sanders, who has made limiting the political influence of the wealthy a central tenet of his campaign, has no intention of taking public financing. Under questioning by NBC’s Chuck Todd at a debate in New Hampshire last week, he called the program “a disaster,” adding: “Nobody can become president based on that system.”

Full Article: National View: The rise and fall of public campaign funding | Concord Monitor.

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