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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 Jan 21, 2015.
Empowering Citizens Act
Amends the Internal Revenue Code and the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) to revise the system of public financing for presidential primary and general elections occurring after January 1, 2016, 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 six-to-one match for contributions of $250 or less from individuals, with a limit on aggregate individual contributions of $1,000. Limits the total amount of payments to a presidential primary candidate to $300 million. Provides for an inflation adjustment to matching contributions beginning after 2015.
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.
Prohibits presidential 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 six-to-one match of contributions raised after June 1 of the general election year from individual donors giving up to $250 each.
Increases to $100 million the limit on coordinated spending by a national party and its presidential candidate in a general election campaign.
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.
Amends the FECA to prohibit federal candidates or office holders from soliciting, receiving, directing, or transferring funds to or on behalf of any political committee that accepts donations or contributions that do not comply with FECA limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements (Super PACs), or to or on behalf of any Section 527 organization which accepts such donations or contributions (other than a committee of a state or local political party or a candidate for election for state or local office).
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 Department 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.