Quick Answers to Public Funding Questions
This page provides answers to frequently asked questions. If you don't find an answer to your question here, please contact the FEC's Information Division, toll free at 800-424-9530 (option 6) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The PDF files linked on this web page may be viewed or printed using the free Acrobat Reader available from Adobe.
On April 3, 2014, President Obama signed legislation that will end public funding of national nominating conventions. This page should be read in tandem with the new law. (Public Law No: 113-94)
- What is the public funding program?
- Who is eligible for public funding?
- How much money do the participants get?
- Where does the money come from?
- What happens if there isn't enough money to fund the program?
- What are the spending limits for Presidential candidates who accept public funds in the 2016 elections?
- What are the 2016 Presidential Candidate Matching Fund Submission Dates?
In an effort to reduce the role of large private contributions in Presidential elections, Congress created a public funding program that uses tax dollars to:
Match the first $250 of each individual contribution that an eligible Presidential candidate receives during the primary campaign;
Finance the major parties' national nominating conventions (and help finance eligible minor parties' conventions); and
- Fund the major party nominees' general election campaigns (and assist eligible minor party nominees).
To be eligible for public funds, a Presidential candidate or a party convention committee must first submit a letter of agreement and a written certification in which the candidate or committee agrees to:
- Spend public funds only for campaign-related expenses or, in the case of a party convention, for convention-related expenses;
- Limit spending to amounts specified by the campaign finance law;
- Keep records and, if requested, supply evidence of qualified expenses;
- Cooperate with an audit of campaign or convention expenses;
- Repay public funds, if necessary; and
- Pay any civil penalties imposed by the FEC.
Primary candidates must additionally certify that they have met the "threshold requirement" for eligibility by raising more than $5,000 in each of 20 states. Presidential campaigns seeking public funding should consult the Guideline for Presentation in Good Order (2008) [Word] [PDF] [Appendices] for detailed guidance.
For additional information, consult our "Public Funding of Presidential Elections" brochure.
During the primaries, eligible candidates receive matching payments for the first $250 of each individual contribution the raise, but their total receipts of public funds cannot exceed half of the national spending limit for the primary campaign.
The grants for the major parties' conventions and general election nominees are adjusted each Presidential election year to account for increases in the cost of living. The major parties are each entitled to $4 million (plus cost-of-living adjustments) to finance their national Presidential nominating conventions. The major party nominees may each be eligible for a public grant of $20 million (plus a cost-of-living adjustment) for campaigning in the general election.
In 2012, each major party is entitled to $18.2 million in public funds for their conventions, and the parties' general election nominees are eligible to receive $91.2 million in public funds.
The public funding of Presidential elections is not financed by a standard Congressional appropriation. Instead, the program is funded by the three dollar checkoff that appears on federal income tax forms.
For more information, consult our brochure, " The $3 Tax Checkoff."
When a shortfall occurs in the Presidential Fund, the Secretary of the Treasury allocates the remaining funds among the eligible candidates and committees. The law requires that priority be given first to party nominating conventions, then to general election nominees and last to primary election candidates. If there are insufficient funds for the primary election candidates, the Treasury provides only partial matching funds.
What are the spending limits for Presidential candidates who accept public funds in the 2016 elections?
Candidates who accept public funds must agree to abide by certain spending limits. During the primaries, these candidates are subject to an overall expenditure limit and separate limits for each state. During the general election campaign, the spending limit is equal to the amount of the public funding grant the major party nominees may receive.
In accordance with the Commission's guidelines, matching fund submissions (and resubmissions of funds previously denied) must be submitted on the designated submission dates. The Commission publishes matching fund submission dates for publicly funded 2016 presidential primary candidates. In addition, the Commission also publishes the dates on which publicly funded 2016 presidential primary candidates are required to submit their statements of net outstanding campaign obligations (‘‘NOCO statements’’) after their dates of ineligibility (‘‘DOI’’).