My fellow Americans. Ready to give Bill...


April 15, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

HAPPY TAX DAY, my fellow Americans. Ready to give Bill Clinton a dollar for his 1996 campaign?

Actually, I know the answer to that question without your answering. The answer is "no." In fact, it's "NO!" Around 85 percent of you will vote against using a dollar of your money for the presidential candidates' campaigns in 1996.

Last year only 17.7 percent put a * in the 1040 box earmarking $1 ($2 on joint returns) for the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. And the trend is down. It was 19.5 percent in '91, 19.8 in '90, 20.1 in '89. In 1981 it was 28.7 percent.

Now here's the innerestin' part, as H. Ross Perot would say. The 82.3 percent who voted "NO!" last year lost! That tiny minority of 17.7 percent that favored using federal funds for presidential campaigning won. The check-off doesn't add a dollar or two to the filer's own tax. It just instructs the Treasury to set aside that amount. So at no cost to them, the 17.7 percent got about $33 million of everybody's taxes put into the fund. This accumulates for four years at a stretch; so in 1996 about $125-130 million will be available.

Now here's the really innerestin' part. Ross may get some of your tax money in '96. The Federal Election Commission would have to vote on it, but I don't see how it could turn him down. You probably have the Internal Revenue Code there beside you this morning, Reader. Turn to Title 26, Chapter 95, Sec. 9004. Clear as the shine on a lobbyist's Gucci loafers, it says that a "minor party" or "new party" presidential candidate is entitled to Treasury funds in the same ratio as the party's candidate's vote was to the average vote of the two major party candidates in the preceding election.

In 1992 Bill Clinton got about 42 percent of the votes, George Bush, 38, Ross Perot, 19. Perot would be entitled to almost half as many (19/40ths) Treasury dollars as each major party candidates in 1996.

Now here's the really really innerestin' part. The chairman of the FEC said last month that the declining number of 1040 check-offs and the rising costs of campaigns meant that there would not be enough money in the fund to pay all bills. And that was with just two parties competing. With three, no presidential candidates would get nearly enough money to campaign effectively.

Enough public money, that is. Candidates would in 1996, as they did in 1992, 1988, etc., get plenty of special-interest money. One way or another, the special interests can legally give as much money to presidential candidates as they ever could. That is the very thing the Presidential Election Campaign Fund was going to end, according to reformers.

Some people never learn. Now many of the very same reformers who brought you the Presidential Election Campaign Fund want to raise the check-off payout from $1 to $5 in order to give your money to congressional candidates.

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