Current Federal Election Commission regulations regarding paying candidate salaries with campaign funds heavily favor incumbents and wealthy individuals. The FEC should amend its regulations around candidates’ salaries to remove salary caps that disproportionately affect low-income and younger candidates, while lowering the cap for the wealthy, according to a comment CREW sent today. 

While there are risks involved in allowing candidates to spend more campaign funds that circumvent the general ban on personal use, the benefit of making it more accessible for lower-income and younger candidates to run for office generally outweighs those risks. CREW strongly urges the FEC to amend the current regulations to allow a candidate to receive a salary from their campaign committee that is no more than 50% of the salary of the federal position.

However, some proposals currently before the FEC would cap the amount of salary that a candidate could receive by tying these restrictions to a candidate’s income from prior periods before becoming a candidate. CREW believes that any provision that limits a candidate’s compensation based on their prior income entrenches economic stratification. We urge that these disadvantages are taken into consideration and the FEC avoids unintentionally creating barriers preventing those with lower incomes from running for public office.

CREW also supports proposed changes that would extend the date on which a candidate may begin drawing a campaign salary to at least 180 days before the primary election, and permit a candidate to use campaign funds to pay for any health benefit plan already provided to other campaign employees for the candidate as well.

The changes outlined in the comment would help guarantee that individuals regardless of their financial background and income are able to pursue, win and serve in the highest positions of government—without undermining existing safeguards against personal use. They would prevent exploitation of our campaign finance system by corrupt actors, including many who have been subjects of past CREW complaints.

CREW believes the FEC can facilitate a more representative and ethical process by revising its rules and building a regulatory system that improves the campaign finance system for all Americans. With guidance from this comment, the FEC should pass a set of regulations that ensures access to the political system for people who might not have deep pockets, wealthy financial backers or a congressional legacy to hoist them into the halls of Congress.

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