Below is a letter sent to House members today that challenges the claim that the response rate on the tax check-off shows the public is opposed to the presidential public financing system.

Tax Checkoff is not a Poll, Actual Polls Have Shown Public Support for the Presidential Public Financing System

                                                                      January 26, 2011

Dear Representative,

This responds to the argument that the public opposes the presidential public financing system because only a single digit percent of taxpayers use the check-off on their annual returns.

1. The check off is not a poll and should not be treated as a poll. For example, in 2008 the check-off response rate was at 7.4 percent At the same time a national poll at the close of the 2008 presidential campaign showed widespread public support for public financing of presidential elections According to USA TODAY:

"A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Tuesday [October 28, 2008] finds wide support for public financing of presidential campaigns, including a third who say the current voluntary system should be mandatory."

According to the poll, "Four in 10 Americans say the nation should maintain the voluntary system, and 32% say candidates should be required to participate. Only 1 in 5 say the system should be eliminated."

The USA TODAY/Gallup poll showed more than 70 percent of the public supported presidential public financing system and only 20 percent said the system should be eliminated.

2. Even with the response rate in single digits, that represented participation in financing the presidential election by more than 16 million Americans who designated, through the tax checkoff, more than $49 million in 2008 to fund the presidential election in that one year alone.

This means that more citizens participated in funding the 2008 presidential campaign through the tax check-off  in 2008 than all of the individuals who made private contributions to presidential candidates during the 2008 presidential election cycle. There is little doubt, furthermore, that more citizens participated in funding presidential elections by checking-off during a four year presidential election cycle than made private contributions to all federal campaigns in an election cycle.

3. Given that the check-off was created in the early 1970s, most people today do not know what the check-off is or why it is there,  nor do they know that checking off $3 will not increase the amount of taxes they have to pay. To improve participation in the check-off, an education campaign is needed on the check-off, not the elimination of the presidential public financing system. In fact, the check-off has provided enough funds to finance the presidential campaigns of every presidential candidate who has participated in the presidential public financing system from 1976 to 2008.

We strongly urge you to vote against H.R 359.


Fred Wertheimer
President, Democracy 21