Matching Political Contributions

39 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Spencer Overton

Spencer Overton

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: 2012


Traditional public financing of campaigns is in trouble. Successful candidates have increasingly rejected public financing because it provides inadequate funding and limits candidate spending. November 2012 was the first general election in which presidential candidates from both major parties rejected public financing since the inception of the program. The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a decision that undermined traditional public financing systems. If existing programs are not revamped soon public financing may be off the public radar for decades, as budget deficits make antiquated public financing programs ripe targets for spending cuts. This Essay proposes a paradigm shift. Public financing should no longer aim to purge private money from politics, but should instead encourage as many citizens as possible to participate in financing politics. Specifically, federal, state, and local lawmakers should adopt a multiple match for political contributions that would dramatically expand participation. Giving six-to-one multiple matching public funds on the first $200 of a contribution, for example, would make a $200 contribution worth $1400 to a candidate. Studies show that multiple matching funds can increase citizen participation sevenfold, and can prompt candidates to collect the bulk of their money from smaller contributors.

Suggested Citation

Overton, Spencer, Matching Political Contributions (2012). 96 Minnesota Law Review 1694 (2012), GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-118, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-118, Available at SSRN:

Spencer Overton (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

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