800 General Government:Eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund

Savings in Millions of Dollars
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021
  • 2022
  • 2023
  • 2024
  • 2025
  • 2016-2020
  • 2016-2025


Savings based on CBO, “H.R. 95: A Bill to Reduce Federal Spending and the Deficit by Terminating Taxpayer Financing of Presidential Election Campaigns and Party Conventions,” June 21, 2013. We assume $2 million in savings for 2024, and no savings in 2025, as these are the levels projected by the CBO for years of, and immediately following, presidential elections, to which 2024 and 2025 apply.


Technical Notes on Scoring

CBO Baseline

Unless otherwise noted, calculations for savings for each recommendation relies on the most recent Congressional Budget Office baseline, as found in “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024,” published August 27, 2014, has been used.

Savings “Totals”

While totals for the five and 10 year savings are provided by section and for the complete set of recommendations, there are two reasons they should not be viewed as representing total savings for The Budget Book.

First, as noted in the introduction, The Heritage Foundation would recommend that the savings realized in the Function 050 Defense section would stay within the Department of Defense to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities.

Second, the numbers cannot be deemed to represent the realized savings if every single recommendation were adopted because policy changes made in one program can impact spending levels in other programs.  Thus, the numbers in the table do not reflect any potential interactions between the various policy changes affecting spending or savings.


Heritage Recommendation:

Eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. This proposal saves $92 million over 10 years.


Tired of IRS asking for more $ from on tax returns? End the Pres Election Campaign Fund.

The Presidential Election Campaign Fund provides taxpayer money to parties and candidates. The money specifically goes to party conventions, matching funds for primary candidates, and grants for general election candidates. According to the Congressional Research Service, since 1976, $1.5 billion of taxpayer money has been spent under the Presidential Election Campaign Fund for these purposes. There are several arguments for eliminating this program.

First, candidates are increasingly opting out of the program. Strict spending limitations are placed on candidates as a condition of accepting the money. As campaigns have grown more expensive, the cost of these spending limits has outpaced the benefit of public money for most major candidates. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both opted out of the program in 2012.

Second, the program has become increasingly unpopular among taxpayers. In 1980, 28.7 percent of taxpayers voluntarily selected the option on their federal tax returns to divert $3 from the general treasury to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. By 2012, only 6 percent of taxpayers decided to do so.

More importantly, as a matter of principle, taxpayer money should not be used to fund political candidates and political party convention activities.

Tired of IRS asking for more $ from on tax returns? End the Pres Election Campaign Fund.

Contributing Expert

Brad Watson served as Senior Policy Services Advisor in Policy Promotion during the production of The Budget Book. He has since left The Heritage Foundation for a new position

Brad WatsonSenior Policy Services Advisor

Additional Reading