Public Campaign Action Fund

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Public Campaign Action Fund (Public Campaign) is a U.S. campaign finance watchdog group. It describes itself as "a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to impoving America's campaign finance laws. We help enact, defend, and promote Clean Elections-style public financing in states around the country like Arizona and Maine, and advocate for similar legislation for all federal elections. ... With its pro-reform Campaign Money Watch project, the organization engages voters in hotly contested elections around the country to educate them about the impact of big money from special interests on the policy-making process. Since its founding in 1997, Public Campaign Action Fund has brought activists to the fight for comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s campaign finance laws and to make opposing reform a political liability for elected officials."[1]

Campaign Money Watch is a project of Public Campaign and is funded in part by Campaign to Defend America.


In 2009 in an online advertising campaign, Public Campaign named Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) its second "Insurance Puppet".

"Senator Lieberman has received $448,066 in campaign contributions from the health insurance industry during his time in Washington," said David Donnelly, Public Campaign Action Fund's national campaigns director. "With so much money from the industry filling his campaign coffers, it's not surprising that Lieberman has spent the last year parroting any and all insurance industry talking points he could find."

Each day the watchdog group will release an "Insurance Puppet" to educate the public about the influence that the health insurance industry has on the public due to the campaign contributions it makes. According to the Center for Responsive Politics (Open Secrets), the industry has donated $17.7 million in campaign contributions to the Senators taking part in the current health care debate.[2]

Getting voters to the polls

In the 2010 election, Public Campaign had a campaign to get out the vote, targeted especially at those aged 20 to 40 and with a focus on African-Americans. "The core premise of this new campaign—called "They Win. U Lose." - is to break through the corporate-funded advertising noise to urge voters to get out to vote and not let special-interest money choose the next U.S. Congress." Various celebrities were used, for example Wyclef Jean, musician and former Haitian presidential candidate. Wyclef debuted a new song Election Time.

A $750,000 paid - and earned-media campaign was specifically targeted for six states: Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Because young people have integrated digital and social media into their lives—and use social media increasingly as an agent of social and political change, the campaign placed emphasis on those media.[3]

Example of current campaign finance methods

David Donnelly of Public Campaign gave one of his favorite examples of the dishonesty or corruption that the current campaign finance methods causes. "One of my recent favorites is car-salesman-turned-Congressman John Campbell's push for an exemption for car dealers in the new consumer-protection law. Campbell makes millions in income from properties he rents to car dealers and has taken $160,000 in campaign contributions from them.

"But as Lawrence Lessig points out, it's not about the rotten apples. The whole damn congressional barrel is rotten. The New York Times reported in July that the newly established Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating the fundraising practices of eight members of Congress—three Democrats and five Republicans. The Office, which is headed by former Representative Dave Skaggs, is looking into the eight lawmakers' fundraising events with Wall Street executives or lobbyists in the few weeks surrounding a House vote on financial-regulation legislation last December.

"What is remarkable about this example is that the ethics investigators have set the bar so low. Holding fundraising events at or around times of official action is commonplace in Washington and in state capitals. With this investigation, the new agency basically is saying that the whole system is failing."[4]

Fair Elections Now Act

Citing the 2008 elections that were the most expensive in history, costing a record $5.3 billion, Public Campaign Action Fund supported the Fair Elections Now Act introduced by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, Senate assistant majority leader, and Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter.[5]


$20,000+ (in a calendar year):[1]


Board of Directors

Contact details

1133 19th St, NW Suite #900
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-293-0222
Fax: 202-640-5601
Email: info AT

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 About page, Public Campaign Action Fund, accessed June 2008.
  2. "Public Campaign Action Fund names Sen. Joe Lieberman its second 'Insurance Puppet'", Public Campaign Action Fund/The Medical News, December 4, 2009.
  3. "Campaign Money Watch Launches ‘They Win. U Lose.’ Campaign", U Wire PR, October 26, 2010.
  4. David Donnelly, "We Need More Citizen Participation", Boston Review, September/October 2010.
  5. Nick Nyhart and David Donnelly, "Fair Elections Now!", The Nation, March 26, 2009.

External articles