Do Taxpayer-Funded Campaigns Save Taxpayer Dollars?

 The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) released today an issue analysis refuting the myth that the cost of taxpayer-financed political campaigns can be offset by removing alleged pressures placed on officeholders by so-called ‘special interest’ contributors.

"The claim that taxpayer-financed campaigns may actually lead to savings for taxpayers is demonstrably false," said Sean Parnell, President of the Center for Competitive Politics.  "These political welfare schemes continue to show themselves to be a poor use of taxpayer dollars with few discernable positive outcomes."

Advocates of taxpayer-financed campaigns like the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) have claimed in the past that public-financing programs would "accrue enormous savings by reducing wasteful expenditures, such as earmarks."  Common Cause, another advocate of taxpayer-financed campaigns, has stated that such programs save "taxpayer dollars by reducing inappropriate giveaways to campaign contributors."

But CCP’s review of the state budgets in Arizona and Maine, the two states commonly cited by proponents as having model public-financing systems, refutes these claims.

CCP’s study examines the state budgets in Arizona and Maine in the five years immediately preceding and succeeding the states’ enactment of public-financing campaign programs.   Both states first implemented taxpayer-financed campaigns in the 2000 election cycle.

CCP’s study found that in the period before taxpayer-financed political campaigns, state government spending grew at a slower pace than the national average for all states. After the programs were implemented, spending in both states grew faster than the national average. 

In Arizona, spending grew by nearly 36 percent in the 5 years leading up to taxpayer-financed political campaigns.  In the 5 years following the program’s enactment, Arizona’s expenditures grew by 46.25 percent, a marked increase over the preceding 5 years despite the state’s population growth remaining virtually steady.  Expenditure growth in Maine during the studied time periods was essentially unchanged, but outpaced the national average for expenditure growth after it implemented taxpayer-financed campaigns.

"There is simply no evidence that taxpayer-funded political campaigns have saved taxpayers any money in either Arizona or Maine," Parnell observed.

CCP’s report also found that the total tax burden on residents in both states has increased since implementation of taxpayer funded campaigns, and is at an all-time high in Maine.

The complete study can be accessed by clicking:

CCP previously released an Issue Analysis concluding that "clean elections" programs in Maine and Arizona had no impact on the number of lobbyist registrations in the state. That study is available by clicking:

CCP also previously released an Issue Analysis examining the impact that "clean elections" programs in Maine and Arizona had on the occupational diversity of members of the states’ legislatures.

Last, CCP released an Issue Analysis refuting claims that "clean elections" programs in Maine and Arizona increased the number of female legislators in the states.


The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.