In a Gallup poll released Monday, half of Americans said they would support significant changes to federal campaign finance, banning private contributions in favor of government funding. Forty-four percent said they would not support such changes.
Laws to limit the amount of money U.S. House and Senate candidates can raise were even more popular — 79 percent of Americans said they would support them, versus 19 percent against. But even that limitation would be a drastic change from the current state of campaigning. Finance law limits the amount each individual donor or organization can give, but there is no ceiling on the amount a candidate can accept or spend in total.
The Federal Election Commission estimated that total spending for the 2012 election was $7 billion, as reported by The Sunlight Foundation. Candidate committees spent $3.2 billion, party committees spent $2 billion, and outside groups spent another $2 billion.
The 2002 McCain-Feingold law, the last major effort to limit election spending, did not attempt to ban private campaign contributions or put a limit on candidate fundraising or spending totals — no doubt because many of the reforms discussed in the poll were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The Court’s more recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC further undermined efforts to limit the flow of money into politics even further by authorizing unlimited corporate spending on elections.
This poll comes as President Obama is set to nominate two new members of the Federal Election Commission, where one seat is vacant, and five members’ terms are expired. Obama’s previous nominee withdrew in 2010 after facing a difficult confirmation process.