2016 brings with it another campaign for president (admittedly it has been going full tilt for months now), and that means it is time for NYRA to once again look into the issue of campaign contributions from young people. This is an issue NYRA has followed since 2002 when the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance bill was introduced that ultimately became the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which banned all campaign contributions from individuals under 18.
We followed the issue as it wound its way through the courts, and cheered when the ban was struck down in district court, especially the words of Judge Henderson who wrote: “no case of which I am aware holds that a minor’s speech is less valuable to himself — or to the political marketplace — simply because of his youth.” We waited with bated breath as the case was appealed to the Supreme Court and became the landmark McConnell vs. FEC. We were then happily astonished to see the ban on youth contributions struck down unanimously. And finally, after the ruling was handed down, NYRA participated in the FEC rules making process by submitting a whitepaper regarding regulations concerning youth contributions, rules that ended up being quite favorable for youth contributions.
After all that, you’d think the battle would be won, right? Sadly no. Even though there is no federal law requiring them to do so, many candidates choose to discriminate against young donors anyhow.
It seems counter-intuitive. Someone wants to give you money to support your aspirations of becoming president and you turn it away? Tell them that their support is not wanted? Just because of their age? With as expensive as campaigns are now, and how essential donations are to a successful political campaign, it is shocking that any candidate would turn down such support. Much is made of the corrupting influence of campaign donations, but do candidates refuse to accept the money of deep pocketed donors? No. They just refuse to accept the money of youth.
Denying donations from youth further cuts off candidates from the needs and desires of young people. It sends the strong message that their voices don’t matter. Even their dollars don’t matter. Young people can’t even buy a bumper sticker or a t-shirt from these campaigns. Apparently pornography, cigarettes and Marco Rubio t-shirts are all equally illicit. This is age discrimination and NYRA believes this is wrong.
NYRA did a survey of presidential campaigns and found that of the 16 presidential candidates we surveyed, seven refuse donations from those under 18, two refuse donations from those under 16, and seven appear to accept donations from individuals of all ages (hooray!). Here is the list:
Must be 18+ to Donate to Campaign:
Must be 16+ to Donate to Campaign:
No Age Limit (that we could see):
NYRA doesn’t presume, necessarily, that the campaigns refusing to accept donations from young people are doing so because they despise the participation, views and influence of young people, or that campaigns accepting youth donations are champions for the inclusion of youth. Often campaigns will refuse to accept donations due to a misunderstanding of the law, an inordinate sense of caution, and simple indifference (instead of hostility) to the voices of youth. So, giving each campaign the benefit of the doubt, we have contacted each of the nine discriminatory campaigns and informed them that the law does not require them to ban contributions from youth and have asked that they stop.
We ask that all NYRA supporters and friends of youth join us in reminding the campaigns that young people have a stake in this country too and deserve a chance to voice their support. Since the ballot box is not available to them, due to the too high voting age, political contributions are one avenue left to young people. Campaigns shouldn’t take that away too.