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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Sep 20, 2012.
Empowering Citizens Act - Amends the Internal Revenue Code and the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to revise the system of public financing for presidential primary and general elections and to establish a system of public financing for congressional elections.
Increases the amount of matching funds for presidential primaries from a one-to-one match to a five-to-one match for contributions of $250 or less from individuals. Limits the total amount of payments to a primary candidate to $100 million.
Requires presidential primary candidates who opt to participate in the public financing system to certify to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that they have raised $25,000 (currently, $5,000) in each of 20 states, with individual contributions limited to $250. Requires such candidates to commit to accept public financing in both the primary and general elections.
Limits contributions to presidential primary candidates who participate in the public financing system to $1,250 from individual contributors (currently, $2,500). Prohibits primary candidates from accepting contributions or bundled contributions (i.e., combining small contributions into one large contribution) from lobbyists or political action committees (PACs).
Eliminates expenditure limitations for presidential primary and general elections.
Changes the period for payment of matching funds to presidential primary candidates from January 1 of the election year to six months prior to the date of the earliest state primary election.
Revises general election payment provisions to allow a grant of $50 million to candidates and an additional $150 million in matching funds based upon a five-to-one match of contributions raised after June 1 of the general election year from individual donors giving up to $250 each.
Increases to $50 million the limit on coordinated spending by a national party and its presidential candidate in a general election campaign.
Eliminates public financing for national party conventions. Allows individual contributions up to $25,000 in each four-year presidential election cycle to pay for national party convention costs. Prohibits the use of unregulated funds (soft money) to pay for national party convention costs.
Provides for public financing of congressional election campaigns. Establishes the Empowering Citizens Payment Account in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to finance congressional election campaigns.
Increases from $3 to $20 ($6 to $40 for joint returns) the tax check-off for contributions to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to prescribe regulations to ensure that approved tax preparation software does not automatically accept or decline a check-off of contributions for the public financing system.
Directs the FEC to issue regulations on best efforts for identifying persons making contributions to political committees.
Prohibits an authorized committee of a candidate from establishing a joint fundraising committee with a political committee other than an authorized committee of a candidate.
Revises reporting requirements for the disclosure of bundled contributions by lobbyists and to presidential campaigns.
Sets forth rules for judicial review of campaign finance laws and FEC actions.