Public Campaign (PC)

Public Campaign (PC)


* Promotes legislation that would purge the political process of large contributions from big-money donors, bundlers, and lobbyists

Established in 1997, Public Campaign (PC) describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special-interest money in American politics.” Toward that end, PC provides strategic, tactical, and financial support to organizations and individuals “fighting for comprehensive change in election campaign financing.”

Specifically, PC backs the so-called Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), legislation that would purge the political process of large contributions from big-money donors, bundlers, and lobbyists. FENA would permit candidates for federal office to accept only small campaign donations—limited to $100 apiece—of which each dollar would, in turn, be matched by $5 in public funds.[1]  FENA was first introduced in Congress by 4 Democrats (including Senator Dick Durbin) in 2009. Four years later, it was reintroduced by 52 Democratic sponsors in the House of Representatives, among whom were Michael Capuano, Rosa DeLauro, Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Major Owens, Charles Rangel, Jan Schakowsky, and Henry Waxman.[

Sean Parnell](, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, characterizes FENA as a form of “welfare for politicians” and a “scam” that would undermine America’s existing “competitive political system.” Noting that Arizona, which in 1998 adopted a taxpayer-financed political campaign structure for state legislative candidates, has the highest budget deficit of any state in the Union, Parnell rejects “the argument that giving politicians access to the public treasury to fund their campaigns will somehow lead to sound public policy decisions.” Parnell also asserts that FENA would only “further entrench incumbents,” because “almost nobody except for incumbents will be able to qualify for this handout.”[2]

PC’s founder was the veteran social-change activist Nick Nyhart, who has served as the group’s president and CEO since 2000. In the 1990s, Nyhart was director of the Northeast Action Money and Politics Project, a six-state venture that laid the groundwork for the 1996 implementation of full public financing for political elections in Maine.

Other leading PC officials have been affiliated with such entities as the Advancement Project, the AFL-CIO, the Center for Community Change, Citizen Action, Democracy Matters, Demos, Friends of the Earth, In These Times, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Public Citizen, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and the U.S. Student Association.

PC’s current senior program advisor, Susan L. Anderson, was a supporter of, and active participant in, the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Moreover, Anderson is married to former Internal Revenue Service commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, who was a frequent White House guest (165 visits) during the 2010-12 period when the IRS was illegally targeting conservative and Tea Party-affiliated nonprofit groups with audits and extra scrutiny. When news of the IRS scandal broke in May 2013, PC president/CEO Nick Nyhart belittled the concerns of conservatives who had been affected by it. “There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups that are hiding behind a 501(c)(4) status,” said Nyhart. “It’s unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias.”

Among PC’s leading funders are the “hacktivist” group Anonymous, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Columbia Foundation, the Common Cause Education Fund, the Compton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Health Care for America Now!, the Proteus Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Streisand Foundation.


[1] To qualify for public funding, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives would have to collect, from donors in his or her state, a minimum of 1,500 small contributions with an aggregate value of at least $50,000. A U.S. Senate candidate, meanwhile, would be required to collect a base of 2,000 small donations, plus 500 additional contributions per each congressional district in his or her state. For example, a candidate running for the U.S. Senate in Maine, where there are two congressional districts, would require 3,000 qualifying contributions before receiving Fair Elections funding.

[2] Nor would FENA address the fact that nonprofit activist groups—nominally independent of any political campaigns—could continue to spend countless billions of dollars each year promoting their favored candidates and agendas.

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