Fixing the Ills of Money and Politics

Innovation and Economic Growth

Article Snapshot


Saul Levmore


Chicago Tribune, November 11, 2008


This op-ed proposes how to have money matter less in federal elections.

Policy Relevance

Money would matter less in politics if politicians could be encouraged to opt for public funding of their campaigns.

Main Points

  • Barack Obama declined $84.1 million in federal public financing for his campaign in the federal presidential election. John McCain accepted federal funding, which comes with a restriction on private funding.

  • Obama correctly predicted that he could raise more money from private donors. He raised about $150 million. As a result, one candidate had far more money than the other.

  • Some think money matters too much in elections. To end this, we should adopt a rule that if a candidate takes public financing, then he will get the greater of either $84.1 million, or the same amount raised by the other candidate, if the other candidate goes the private route.

  • No one would be likely to opt out of public financing because he would not be able to raise private money for himself without increasing the amount of public funding his opponent gets.

  • This does not force anyone to support speech he does not believe in, because individual contributions are not taken away and given to the opponent. The matching funds come from the government.

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