Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just endorsed a policy that, if implemented, could give a huge advantage to her primary opponent Bernie Sanders.
On Tuesday, Clinton laid out a broad plan for curbing the influence of money in politics that includes everything from overturning the Supreme Court’s Citzens United ruling to introducing new disclosure rules for federal contractors donating to campaigns. But one of the more interesting parts of the proposal is Secretary Clinton’s endorsement of a small dollar-matching contributions system.
Under such a system, donations made to a campaign beneath a certain dollar amount would be “matched” by the federal government in order to strengthen the political power of small dollar donors and dilute the influence of wealthy donors who can make large contributions. One of the effects of such a system is that it would substantially strengthen the fundraising power of campaigns like that of Bernie Sanders, which rely on aggregating a large amount of small donations from a broad base of donors.
During the last round of FEC filings, Politico reported that the Sanders campaign drew 67% of its $13.6 million haul from donations of $200 or less. By contrast, the Clinton campaign drew only 18% of its $47 million in fundraising from donations of $200 or less. If a matching contribution limit was set at $200 and the matching rate was six to one (similar to the rates under a plan currently proposed in Congress) Sanders’ totals would more than quadruple while Clinton’s funds would less than double.
With new polling out that shows Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton by 9 points among likely primary voters in New Hampshire, that kind of shift in fundraising dynamics could have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the Democratic nominating contest. Such a policy, however, is unlikely to pass Congress before the 2016 general election, let alone after.
Clinton’s endorsement of multiple matching contributions comes on the same day that Sanders’ campaign launched a big push for small dollar donations in honor of the candidate’s 74th birthday.