Your Take 

Your Take: Do You Check Off $3 To The Presidential Fund?

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When you go to do your taxes this year, you will have the option to give three of your tax dollars to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. $3 isn’t deducted from your refund or added to your tax bill, $3 from your taxes is simply allocated for the fund. The money is used to in the party nominating conventions, presidential primaries, and then the general election every four years. It was created by Congress in the 1970s as a matter of campaign finance reform as candidates who accept financing have to follow certain fundraising and total spending rules. If you remember, it was a big deal when then presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama opted out of public financing.

If you want to learn more about it, I may recommend the Federal Election Committee website where you can find all sorts of campaign finance gems.

My question to you is do you check off $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund? When I first started filing my taxes, I didn’t because I erroneously thought it meant I would be personally donating $3. After I learned it wouldn’t actually cost me $3, I thought it was absurd that we would give even more money to spend on political campaigns. However, as I read more, I realized that forcing candidates to take public financing puts a cap on how much they can spend. I don’t claim to be an expert but I think that’s a good thing.

What do you think?

{ 70 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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70 Responses to “Your Take: Do You Check Off $3 To The Presidential Fund?”

  1. I do not check this box because I see it pointless. The few times I have contributed, it was to state politicians so I could get the state write-off.

  2. Scott says:

    Interesting. I’ve always had the same misconception – that I was donating $3. Maybe I’ll check it off this year…

  3. Even though it’s allocating $3 from our tax money, I still will not check it. Those dollars could go to a more worthy cause, not to provide lavish parties.

  4. Seth @ Boy Meets Food says:

    That’s an interesting way to think about it. I really think that too much money is spent on those campaigns, but if by giving to the cause, we can limit what can be spent, I suppose that is a good thing. I might be checking the box this year.

  5. Darin says:

    I have no problem with people donating their own money to politicians and parties.

    I have a HUGE problem with the government forcibly taking my money and giving it to politicians and parties.

    So no, I don’t check the box.

    • Jim says:

      Well, you’re not being forced when it’s given as an option to you.

      • Darin says:

        Public financing of campaigns? Yes, that’s my money they’re giving to politicians/parties, even if I check the “no” box.

        Someone else checking yes is giving our money to them.

        • Brandon says:

          Darin struck on what could be an interesting point. The government needs $x to perform all its functions. If $y is given to public financing by the populous then taxes have to increase by 100*(1-y/x)% I believe to compensate against a system where no one gave money to it.

  6. NateUVM says:

    The timing of this posting is ironic, considering the recent ruling by the Supreme Court. Voting pretty much straight down what are perceived to be their party lines, 5-4, the court decided to allow corporations to donate, without limit, directly to campaigns of their choosing.

    The proponents of the ruling say that corporations, being part of our society, should be able to allocate their funds to whatever cause they see fit(anonymously), as a proxy for free speech.

    The detractors see this as an opportunity for corporate interests to buy favor with candidates and that it undermines decades (centuries even) of campaign finance reform.

    What I find interesting in this ruling is that the proponents don’t seem to realize that even though companies don’t have the right to vote, they can now directly influence the vote. Even though they aren’t protected by the Constitution, they are being extended rights within the Constitution(freedom of speech).

    I’m okay, from a purely academic perspective, with both of those realities (even though I, personally disagree with the ruling), if that’s what the court was ruling for. The problem I have is that now there is no reason why a FOREIGN company couldn’t make those contributions and have an impact on our DOMESTIC policy.

    Bringing it all back to the point of the post, this $3 you would be allocating (not from your refund, but from a fund set up for this purpose), would help to offset this external (corporate) interest in our election process. So make your decision based on whatever importance you may place on off-setting that influence. It has no other (direct) impact on you, whatsoever.

    • Darin says:

      Since foreigners are barred from contributing to candidates and this ruling didn’t touch that, we probably don’t have to worry about foreign companies. The more troubling issue comes from a domestic company that is owned by non-citizens, a nice big gray area there.

      • NateUVM says:

        There are plenty of companies that have operations within the US, can pose as a US company, but are really based in another country. And again, as these companies can now donate anonymously, there is NO guarantee that foreign companies can’t just donate directly, regardless. It’s easy to say, “no, that won’t happen,” but can you point to one reason why it won’t?

        • Darin says:

          You’re asking me to prove a negative?

          Yes, you can look at a number of corporations that are global, yet US. Is Coca-Cola a US domestic corporation? Those are issue that will have to be resolved as I said above, there is a gray area.

          What I can’t figure out is why should a corporation that is wholly owned by US citizens, gets 100% of their revenue domestically, be excluded from the political process? If we can pass legislation that taxes corporations and tells corporations what to do and what not to do, then those corporations might have the opportunity to speak out. We have the right to free association and the right to free speech. Thus, we have the right to speak freely as a group.

          • NateUVM says:

            Corporations pay taxes, sure. Does that mean that they should vote, too?

            No, rather, this country is BY the people, and FOR the people. Not the corporations that happen to exist within its borders (foreign or domestic).

            To me, the several thousand people that contribute to a campaign have a voice that is a LOT more important than the ONE corporate voice that could out-contribute those individual donors… Yet, who do you think the candidate is going to think of once they get elected?

            Nevermind that this ruling upends more than a hundred years of precedent. Last I checked, this country follows the rule of Common Law. Precedent matters. Unless, that is, you are in favor of judges legislating from the bench…which is clearly what these conservative justices were doing.

      • abentco says:

        I believe his point is that most megacorporations (the largest contributors) are global. Global corporations have foreign and domestic interests, and would, therefore, be funding our domestic policy to the benefit or their international interests.

    • LeeBob says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I am hoping this could help move toward taking corporations out of elections.

      • saladdin says:

        This “public option” has been on the books since the 70’s. Given that with the recent Court decision we are closer to a public health option then a public campaign option.


  7. tbork84 says:

    One way to look at it is to designate some of the money you are already on the hook for the government to something worthwhile. Though with recent elections as a guide, many may opt out of public financing when they see better opportunities elsewhere.

  8. Safeway_Sage says:

    It doesn’t matter anymore, the supreme court saw to that with the repeal of the McCain Feingold law.


  9. zapeta says:

    I checked the box this year but I haven’t in the passed. I guess it just depends on how I feel when I file.

  10. Frugal says:

    I never check it. No politician deserves anything as they all are crooks.

    If I can vote negatively, I will give a minus vote to the worst politician (I believe) and thus negate a good vote for that politician.

  11. Never.
    It began with $1 and I never check it.

  12. saladdin says:

    I do.


  13. We never do. They tax me enough, no reason to volunteer a single cent more.

  14. hoht says:

    If that’s the case then I just might this year…

  15. Sarah says:

    No way. I’d rather donate directly to the Libertarian Party out of pocket than let $3 go to the Republicans or Democrats.

  16. CK says:

    No, checking it is idiotic. They don’t just take the money out of thin air it has to come from somewhere.

    • jsbrendog says:

      i think, from the way he describes it, that it comes out of the taxes you are paying. So, basically, the government takes 3 of the dollars they are taking from you that you have no choice but to give and putting it into a giant pool for politicians.

      then, when a politician takes money from the change jar he is subject to regulations and rules regarding fundraising and spending that the average politician, say bloomberg, would not be. it is definitely intriguing. again i could be wrong. that is just how i interpreted it above

      • Darin says:

        Money is fungible though.

        It’s the same thing when states get Lotto and claim that all the money will go to education. They end up leaving the % the same in the education budget, but just use the funds coming in from the Lotto and the funds they used for education are now “free” for other purposes.

        • CK says:

          Spot on Darin. Public financing is ridiculous. If you want to run for office pay for it, or get people to donate to your cause.

  17. jsbrendog says:

    interesting. i never knew of this. i don’t think i would check it but if it costs nothign at all…we will have to see how i am feeling.

  18. cubiclegeoff says:

    I always assumed they took it from your refund or added it to your tax bill. Good to know that it works differently. However, I won’t check it unless all candidates are required to use public financing, which won’t happen anytime soon.

    • LeeBob says:

      That can’t happen until they get enough money to make them all take it so I think people should check it with that being the goal. I would hope it could work that way if enough checked it.

  19. Martha says:

    Yep, I’ve checked it off. And there were years that I didn’t check it off… I reconsider every year. Btw it states very clearly on the forms that if you check off that box that you will not be paying the $2/$3 nor will it come out of your refund. It is very clear that it is not your money that is being used.

  20. lostAnnfound says:

    I have not checked it in the past, thinking they would be taking an additional $3 on top of the tax I paid/owed. I’m not sure what I’ll do now that I know how it really works.

  21. Daniel says:

    My wife and I check it every year. I’d rather designate that $6 going to free and fair elections than illegal wars, overthrowing foreign governments, subsidies for profitable corporations, etc. It’s the closest I can get to directly controlling where my tax dollars go. I don’t even mind this money going to candidates I disagree with, if they’re staying within the limits of campaign finance rules.

  22. Yes, I check the box. I liked the idea that I could decide one way or the other what to do with $3.00 of my taxes.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      interesting point. it’s probably one of the few times you can guarantee where some of your money goes (assuming you pay more at least $3 in taxes).

  23. athena1224 says:

    I never knew that they didn’t add it to your taxes. I did not check it this year, but maybe next year.

  24. govenar says:

    I don’t check the box.
    The government’s brochure about this says “the public funding system places the two major-party nominees on an equal financial footing in the campaign”. But a candidate with a lot of money will choose to not use public funding, so this seems like it doesn’t have the intended effect.

    • Shirley says:

      We do check the box in the hope that candidates will use the public funding.

    • NateUVM says:

      Except it allows those without a lot of funding to choose the public money option….thus being able to compete on a MORE even footing with those that chose not to use public funds.

      Sure, they may be restrictions to its use, but it’s better than the restrictions that arise when you DON’T have the funds…

  25. ebekele says:

    I do every year…

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