Saturday, February 18, 2006

Millionaire Amendment

People, including apparently the Lamont campaign, are getting this wrong.

Anti-war activists embraced Greenwich millionaire Ned Lamont for his money and his politics, but a recent campaign filing indicates Lamont might not spend too freely to underwrite a Democratic primary against U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.

Some critics of Lieberman's support of the war in Iraq have been drawn by Lamont's willingness to challenge a three-term incumbent and encouraged by his ability to self-finance at least a portion of a steep, uphill challenge.

But under the "millionaire's amendment" to the federal campaign reform act of 2002, Lamont cannot spend more than $514,000 of his own money without providing a potential windfall for Lieberman.

Lieberman's donors would be able to triple their maximum contributions from $2,100 to $6,300 if Lamont's personal spending hits $514,000. The contribution limit for Lieberman donors would double again to $12,600 if Lamont's personal spending reached $1,028,000.


In a written declaration filed this month, Lamont notified the FEC he does not intend to spend above the $257,000 threshold, but Swan said the campaign intends to amend that declaration.

Swan declined to say how much Lamont would spend, though it now appears that exceeding $514,000 could be counterproductive. Lamont will use his personal funds for "seed money" to get the campaign started and partly offset Lieberman's fundraising advantages, Swan said.

"It just reinforces for me we have to go out and make this a grass-roots campaign," Lamont said. "That includes financial support."

Swan said campaign lawyers are researching whether Lamont's personal spending could rise without penalty under federal elections law if Lieberman's spending becomes excessive.

I don't know how much Lamont is worth and don't think he's obligated to blow his personal fortune on the race, but the Millionaire Amendment includes this other provision:

he Millionaires' Amendment also takes into account fundraising by the campaigns. Campaigns must use the "opposition personal funds amount" formula to determine whether an opposing candidate has spent sufficient personal funds in comparison to the amounts raised by the campaigns to trigger increased contribution limits

A candidate with a significant fundraising advantage over a self-financed opponent might not receive an increased contribution limit. In this way, the regulations avoid giving increased contribution limits to candidates whose campaigns have a significant fundraising advantage over their opponents.

Short version is that as long as Lieberman outspends more than Lamont generally it doesn't matter how much Lamont dumps into the campaign himself.