The Federal Election Commission on Thursday (May 31) announced that Libertarian Party presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has qualified for federal matching funds and that Johnson’s third-party bid for the nation’s highest office will receive an initial payment of $100,000 in public funds.
“The fact that our campaign has attracted the broad-based support required to qualify for matching funds is yet another clear indication that we are having a very real impact on this election,” Johnson said in a statement. “Poll after poll confirms that a great many Americans are not finding what they want in the limited choices presented by the two ‘major’ parties, and these matching funds will help us give those voters a real voice in November.”
Matching funds come from American taxpayers who choose to check a box on Internal Revenue forms to pay $3 to that goes into a fund for presidential elections. In order to receive matching funds, a candidate must be a member of a political party and raise in excess of $5,000 in at least 20 states, with no more than $250 coming from a single person.
According to the news release the FEC put out Thursday announcing its decision, the Johnson campaign “may submit additional contributions for matching funds” each month between now the November presidential election and that the maximum amount “is currently estimated to be about $22.8 million.”
That’s great news for Johnson, who is eager to get out his message of curbing federal spending while promoting social issues such as gay marriage and reforming the nation’s drug laws.
But does accepting public funding run counter to the “less government, the better” message that libertarians espouse?
Capitol Report New Mexico e-mailed that question to the Johnson campaign late Thursday afternoon and received this response from spokesman Joe Hunter:
“The dollars that go into the Presidential Election Campaign Fund are directed into that fund voluntarily by taxpayers. While Governor Johnson is certainly not a fan of any form of public campaign financing, reality is reality. And the reality is that it would be unfair to our supporters and to those who truly want a third choice in November if we were to handicap ourselves by not taking advantage of the legal, established system by which contributors’ dollars can be leveraged to reach more voters.”
Johnson is banking on voters who are turned off by the Democratic and Republican parties as well as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and might be open to a third-party challenge.
On the same day the FEC announced that Johnson will receive matching funds, a Rasmussen poll came out showing just 19 percent of likely voters believe Romney and President Obama are the two best people running for the presidency.