This section explains for individuals willing to support their presidential candidate of choice campaign may contribute towards such campaign. Contributions for presidential primary campaigns are limited to $2,400 per individual. However, a party nominee after accepting the Federal Reserve public funding may decline further contributions towards the general election campaign fund. Contributions are therefore restricted to compliance funds which cover expenses for legal expenses incurred during the process of complying with campaign laws.
The public are also allowed to incur independent election campaign expenses both in the primary and general elections. These expenses include those incurred during communications in support or against a particular presidential candidate. These expenses do not qualify as a contribution and therefore does not violate contribution limits so long as they are independent of the presidential election campaign. Finally, and individual may decide to offer volunteer services to the general election campaign of any presidential candidate as long as the volunteered time is out of the employer’s time.
Volunteer expenses up to a certain limit are allowed above which the expenses are considered as a contribution . Campaign finance rules impacts on the 2008 presidential elections In 2008, several presidential candidates snubbed matching funds during their primaries to avoid the limit on their spending. Obama’s campaign team began raising funds for the campaign in February 2007 for the primaries and the general election. The campaign team announced then that Obama would strictly comply with the public funding regulations upon winning the primaries as long as the then republican nominee did the same. However, this pronouncement was reversed.
Declining public funding to finance general election campaign has raised a lot of concern among many reform organizations. Suggestions have been made to minimize the influence of donors during primary nominations. Former campaign manager for Howard Dean, Joe Tippi had proposed a system that would give the grassroots an influential role during the democratic presidential primaries. This proposal than called Unity08 advocated for a “clean money pledge” where citizens would undertake to support only those presidential candidates who had contributed over half of the minimum required contribution of $250.
Taking stock of the 2008 presidential elections, the following are worth noting. Barrack Obama’s breakthrough in raising funds in small donations through the internet raised eyebrows with others claiming it was an exception instead of the rule. By the end of March 31, 2008, he had accumulated $101 million in small donor contributions of $200 and below amounting to 45 percent of his personal contribution for the democratic primary. These small donor funds from the internet yields a large funding base virtually at no cost and time at all to the presidential candidate.
Internet fund raising predominantly employed by Obama was an exceptional phenomenon in the 2008 presidential nominations and not the rule. Raising funds from donors played a central role in the 2008 presidential nominations . The phenomenon of internet fund raising used together with matching funds is capable of turning small donor funding as the underlying source of funds for future presidential primaries and general election campaigns. The pending public financial legislation in the congress could incorporate small donor funding from the internet and making it the bedrock of election campaign financing in the future.
Strengthening this system would ensure the creditability and integrity of the institutions of the presidency as well as catering for citizen’s interests in the governance structure. The negative track record of this system as witnessed in the last couple of elections is an evidence that this system requires revitalization. Under this system a presidential candidate would receive $4 in matching funds for every $1 contributed up to an individual limit contribution of $200.
At the moment a presidential candidate’s eligible for public funding receives $1 in matching funds for every $1 in contribution up to a personal contribution limit of $250. The 4:1 match public financing would encourage presidential candidates to concentrate on internet fundraising from small donor groups because each $200 contribution would amount to $1000 for the presidential candidate. This system could eliminate the role played by bundlers and big donors and thereby increasing the participation of citizens in the election process and therefore meeting critical democratic goals .