Don't Go Back
Florida is debating repealing it's partial public financing program and long-time opponents of the program are using budget shortfalls to justify getting rid of it. The system has its problems -- as a matching program, it doesn't do as much as it could to combat big money influence -- but repealing the program is only going to increase that influence.Under the program, candidates for governor and other statewide offices are eligible to have contributions of up to $250 matched 1-1, if they agree to spending limits and reach certain fundraising thresholds. The problem with this matching system is that it doesn't stop big checks from special interests coming in (they're just not matched) and that undermines the goal of a public financing program:Legislators in 2005 voted to double the amount of cash statewide candidates could raise from private sources and still tap into public funds. That allowed Gov. Charlie Crist to tap more than $3.3 million in taxpayer assistance in his race for governor in 2006 despite raising $20 million from insurers, developers, lawyers, doctors and other interest groups. As the League of Women Voters lobbyist says in the article, the principle behind the law is still worth pursuing, though the program as it stands is clearly in need of some repairs.A full public financing program in the Clean Elections model would preserve the spending limits, make the donations that qualify you to receive public funds exclusively small dollar contributions, and allow publicly funded candidates to remain competitive without taking a dime of special interest money. Repealing the matching program will just make the influence of big contributors more chronic in Florida -- turn the weaknesses of the current system into arguments for a stronger public financing system that gives you a return on the investment.