Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is calling on Congress to use the more than $350 million in idle funds set aside for public financing of presidential campaigns to purchase critical medical supplies needed for the actively spreading Wuhan coronavirus.
Ernst’s proposed legislation would eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and redirect the $357 million in untouched funds to the Department of Health and Human Services. The funds could purchase much-needed medical devices in shortage such as specialized face masks and other protective equipment.
“As I’ve said, it’s going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve heard directly from Iowa state officials and our health care providers about the need for additional masks and personal protective equipment,” Ernst said in a statement. “Right now, there’s more than $350 million in unused cash sitting around in the obsolete and outdated presidential election campaign fund. This is simple. We should immediately move that money to where it’s critically needed: let’s put it toward more masks and personal protective equipment for the health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic.”
Ernst has long been a proponent of dismembering the rarely used mechanism for public financing of presidential contests, introducing the “Eliminating Leftover Expenses for Campaigns from Taxpayers (ELECT) Act of 2020” earlier this year.
The use of taxpayer dollars to finance presidential campaigns has steadily declined since the 1980s as more private money continues to flow into elections. Former Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was the last candidate to draw money from the fund in 2008. Since then, major-party presidential candidates have opted out of public financing to avoid the restrictions that come with using taxpayer funds.