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Pulling the Plug on Public Financing

Republican Reps. John Doolittle of California and Randy Neugebauer of Texas want to do away with public financing of presidential elections, and hope to ax the program.

The bill, scheduled to hit the House floor early next month, would eliminate the voluntary check-off on tax returns that allows filers to divert a small portion of their federal taxes to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. [IMGCAP(1)]

“In 2004, the percentage of taxpayers who chose the check-off contribution was 11 percent, meaning that 89 percent chose not to support the system,” Doolittle and Neugebauer wrote in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Josh Bolton. “In reality, those 11 percent did not ‘contribute’ anything. They merely authorized a diversion of funds from the general treasury.”

The Republican Study Conference, a group of conservative House Republicans, has included this proposal on its list of spending offsets that should be considered in the wake of extra spending on hurricane relief.

Sentenced. Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.), who resigned his post last year citing health concerns, was sentenced last week to four years in prison for misusing taxpayer money.

Ballance will serve his sentence for steering funds to his law firm and family members through a foundation he founded and once chaired. The Associated Press reported that the one-term House Member also agreed to repay nearly $62,000 and forfeit $203,000 from an account in the foundation’s name.

Ballance pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy last November.

Ballance was elected to the House in 2002, and resigned in May 2004, saying he was suffering from a neuromuscular disease. The resignation came while a federal investigation into the foundation was under way, and after a state audit cited numerous conflicts of interest by the foundation.
— David M. Drucker and Erin P. Billings