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The Cost of Running for US Senate in CA
CALPIRG supports two similar pieces of legislation in Congress—the Government by the People Act and the Fair Elections Now Act—to create incentives for candidates for U.S. Congress to develop a large base of small donors to finance their campaigns instead of courting only extremely wealthy donors and PACs.
What follows is a comparison of fundraising practices for a U.S. Senate seat in California under current law, and how fundraising could change if the Fair Elections Now Act became law.
FUNDRAISING FROM INDIVIDUALS UNDER CURRENT LAW:
Under current rules individual donors can give up to $2,600 to a candidate for a primary election and another $2,600 for the general election for a total of $5,200 per campaign cycle.
To raise at least $8,761,000 from individuals, a viable candidate would have to raise more than $13,000 from individuals every single day between today and Election Day. Under current law, a candidate focused on big donors would work to secure five donors giving the maximum of $2,600 each day. A grassroots candidate relying on small donors giving an average of $150, however, would need to get 88 contributions each day to hit the $13,000 pace.
IF THE FAIR ELECTIONS NOW ACT WERE LAW:
The Fair Elections Now Act allows grassroots candidates to be more competitive by amplifying the impact of small donations. For candidates who qualify by demonstrating a critical mass of small-donor support and who promise to forego large contributions and PAC funds, the Act would set up a public matching fund that would increase the impact of small contributions. Contributions of $150 or less would be matched with public funds at a six to one rate, meaning that a $150 contribution would be worth $1,050 to participating candidates. Where before, a Senate candidate in California would need to raise $13,000 each day from either 5 large donors, or 88 small donors, to stay on pace, under the Fair Elections Now Act, the grassroots candidate would need to find only 13 small donors per day giving $150 to stay competitive.
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