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FEC Sees Campaign Fund Facing $100 Million Shortfall With PM-Party Money Bjt

December 15, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Unless Congress acts, the public fund to help finance presidential campaigns could face a $100 million shortfall by the 1996 election year, the Federal Election Commission says.

FEC officials blamed the continuing decline in the proportion of taxpayers who authorize the Treasury to set aside $1 of their taxes for presidential campaigns.

Nearly 29 percent of taxpayers authorized the checkoff in 1980, but that figure dropped to less than 19 percent this year, the FEC said.

The failure to raise the individual taxpayer’s set-aside to account for inflation, coupled with an increase in payouts to candidates, has strained the fund’s ability to meet its obligations, the FEC said Monday.

The checkoff would have to be raised to $2.50 to enable the fund to pay the projected $213 million cost of the 1996 presidential election, FEC statistician Bob Biersak told reporters.

A bill to raise the checkoff to $3 was proposed last year by Rep. Al Swift, D-Wash., chairman of the House elections subcommittee. But Swift dropped efforts to pass the legislation after it became clear there would be enough money to finance this year’s election.

The fund paid out $174 million to help finance the 1992 presidential campaign and at year’s end will have only $4 million left.

President Bush and President-elect Clinton each received $55.24 million in federal money. The election fund spent $22 million to stage the Democratic and Republican conventions and paid $41.8 million to 11 primary candidates.

FEC Chairman Joan D. Aikens blamed lack of public knowledge about the way the fund operates for the decline in taxpayer participation. ″People didn’t know where the money came from and where it went,″ she said.

But political analyst Curtis Gans said the nation’s ″long-term turnoff on politics″ best explains why fewer taxpayers are authorizing the checkoff.

″People have got to feel their money is going toward a better type of campaign than we are now having, one that isn’t dominated by demagogic advertising,″ said Gans, head of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.

Aikens refused to say whether she herself allows $1 of her taxes to go to the fund, saying only ″I made an informed choice.″

Qualified candidates receive federal matching grants for each $250 contribution they collect up to a certain amount.

Presidential candidates who accept federal money agree not to spend any other money on their campaigns directly. However, the Democratic and Republican parties are allowed to spend money for get-out-the-vote drives and other indirect efforts.

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