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Empowering Citizens Act

Federal small donor matching fund legislation for congressional and presidential elections.

Published: January 15, 2013

The Empowering Citizens Act is federal public financing legislation modeled on New York City’s small donor matching fund program. It aims to amplify the voices of small donors in congressional and presidential elections by matching contributions up to $250 with public funds at a 5–1 ratio. The legislation encourages candidates to run grassroots-oriented campaigns by cutting contribution limits in half for candidates who choose to accept public funding.

The legislation also aims to remedy some of the loopholes created by Citizens United, by providing a broader definition of coordination so that super PACs and political non-profits cannot function as arms of candidates’ campaigns.

Sponsored by Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the legislation draws from a proposal for federal public financing from the Brennan Center and Democracy 21 — Empowering Small Donors in Federal Elections.

Legislative History