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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: September 2020

10 - A Better Financing System? The Death and Possible Rebirth of the Presidential Nomination Public Financing Program


In the spring of 1974, the 31-year-old junior Senator from Delaware, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., published a law review article in which he decried the traditional system of privately financed election campaigns. Private financing, Senator Biden contended, “affords certain wealthy individuals or special interest groups the potential for exerting a disproportionate influence over both the electoral mechanism and the policy-making processes of the government.” Moreover, Biden urged, private funding poses an obstacle to the candidacies of “individuals of moderate means” and so was at odds with the “concept of American democracy [that] presumes that all citizens, regardless of access to wealth, have equal access to the political process.” In addition, he argued that private funding favored incumbents. To address the “Political Darwinism” of private financing, Biden called on Congress to adopt a system of public funding for all federal candidates.

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