Filling The War Chest For Campaign '96

Tax revenues may have dried up for the Superconducting Super Collider, but there ought to be plenty for Super Tuesday and the other costly events on the next Presidential election calendar. Not enough people were checking the tax-form box that allocates a dollar to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, so in a little-noticed maneuver, Congress has jacked up the amount to $3 ($6 on a joint return). The change doesn't increase the amount you owe in taxes. It just puts more tax money into the war chest for Presidential campaigns and conventions, effectively reducing government revenue.

Without the increase, the fund could have run dry by the next election, says Herbert Stone, staff director of the House subcommittee on elections. Inflation has whittled away the value of that $1 since its 1974 debut as a response to the dirty-money outrages surrounding Watergate. Plus, the number of checked-off returns has declined from a high of 29% in 1980 to a low of 18% in 1991.

Why are fewer people willing to contribute to public financing of elections? Says Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, an advocacy group: "General disgust." This Watergate reform may have cleaned up Presidential elections some, but it hasn't made them any more popular.