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Ney, Hoyer Seek Fix on Matching Funds

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) introduced legislation Wednesday that would establish a uniform date for the release of public funding to presidential candidates for the general election.

The legislation would prevent a repeat of the disparity that occurred between the two main presidential candidates in 2004. Because Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) officially became the Democratic nominee several weeks before President Bush was renominated as the Republican candidate, he had to stretch out his public funding over a longer period.

Kerry even considered not accepting his nomination at the Democratic National Convention to shorten the gap, but decided against it. Many strategists believe this put Kerry at a significant disadvantage.

The bill would set the Friday before Labor Day weekend as the day on which the party nominees would receive public funds. Labor Day weekend is traditionally viewed as the start of the general election campaign, even though candidates are customarily nominated before early September. The Presidential Public Funding Program currently treats each candidate’s official nomination as the start of his or her general election campaign.

“The purpose of our bill is simple: to ensure that there is a level playing field for presidential candidates in the general election,” Hoyer said in a statement. “Presidential candidates should enter that critical period with the same public dollars in their respective campaign treasuries.”

Under the law, candidates participating in the program may no longer raise and spend private money once they accept public funding. The proposed bill would not change that. In 2004, each major party presidential nominee received $74,620,000 in public funds.

“This bipartisan measure is based on the basic principle of fairness — neither political party should have an advantage when it comes to spending public dollars on political campaigns,” Ney said in a statement.

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