There were lots of media stories today about tax day: harried, last minute filers; savings tips for next year; the best excuses to get an extension, etc. Unfortunately, though, I didn't see much about one aspect of Uncle Sam's annual payday that I think is critically important, especially this year: the voluntary check-off program that finances the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.
- Increase the income tax checkoff to five bucks, then index it thereafter.
- Expand checkoff participation by having the FEC invest some of the checkoff funds in public education about the Fund and the checkoff program.
- Develop better IRS standards for tax preparation software so consumers can truly make an informed choice about the checkoff.
In 2006, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Reps. Marty Meehan (D-MA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) introduced legislation to address several campaign finance issues, including shoring up the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. However -- surprise, surprise -- their Presidential Funding Act didn't budge in the 109th Congress. They reintroduced the bill (S. 2412/H.R. 776, though Meehan retired from Congress later in 2007), but even if it passed it would not take effect until 2009 -- and thus effect the 2012 presidential campaign. These bills would change the primary match ratio from 1:1 to 4:1, raise the spending limit for primary candidates from about $45 million to $150 million, and raise the income tax checkoff from three bucks to ten, among other items.
- Increase the checkoff from three bucks per taxpayer to eight bucks per taxpayer.
- Index the tax checkoff for inflation to keep the Fund solvent.
- Return any unused public funds, repayments of public funds, interest, and fines collected for violations of the presidential public financing system into the Presidential Election Campaign Fund as a way to increase its revenues. (Currently, most of these refunds or fines are turned over to the general fund.)