Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) on Thursday introduced legislation to provide tax credits and deductions for political donors making small contributions.
“Campaigns are becoming more and more expensive with no signs of slowing down,” Petri said on the floor of the House. “And most would agree that the ideal way to finance a campaign is through a broad base of donors. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t in the position to donate hundreds or thousands of dollars -- but they want to get involved. We should be encouraging political participation.”
His bill would provide a tax credit to citizens equal to a contribution of $200 or less and a deduction for contributions up to $600.
The move continues a recent trend of Republican lawmakers endorsing small bore campaign finance reform legislation. Last month, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) introduced legislation with Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) to close the personal use loophole for leadership PACs that let lawmakers spend money meant for donation to other campaigns on private expenses. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a longtime supporter of campaign finance reform, introduced his own bill to close the personal use loophole for all political committees. [...]
Campaign finance reformers have shown increased interest in bringing back the small-donor tax credit and deduction, or creating a voucher system to provide all American citizens with a small amount of money to contribute to the political candidate or candidates of their choosing.
Many of these reformers, including Richard Painter, the former ethics counsel to President George W. Bush, and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, advocate for a more proactive form of small-donor empowerment by advancing citizens a tax credit or voucher to use as a donation.
"In the long term, we need to transform the Supreme Court's campaign finance rulings to stem the tide of big money in our elections," said Adam Lioz, counsel to the liberal think tank Demos. "In the meantime, the best way to fight big money is to empower ordinary citizens. Rep. Petri's bill is a great step towards building a small-donor democracy, where the size of a citizen's wallet doesn't determine the strength of her voice."