U.S. House: Reform Groups Call on House Administration Committee to Reject Efforts to Repeal Presidential Public Financing, Election Assistance Commission

CLC Staff
Jun 3, 2013
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In a letter sent today to members of the House Administration Committee, reform groups called on the Committee to oppose legislation to repeal the presidential public financing system and the financing system for conventions. The letter also urged the Committee to oppose proposed legislation to repeal the Election Assistance Commission. 

The reform groups sending the letter include Americans for Campaign Reform, the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Demos, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

The letter sent to Chairman Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) and Ranking Subcommittee Member Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA), and copied to the full Committee, is in response to the House Administration Committee’s consideration of several bills on Tuesday, June 4, that seek to dismantle important anti-corruption and voting laws.

The letter from reform groups stated:

[I]t is essential to repair the presidential public financing system -- not repeal it. We strongly support the legislation to revise the current presidential system by matching small contributions with multiple public funds for the primary and general elections, by closing the loophole that has allowed corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals to provide soft money to pay for the conventions and by replacing the public funding for conventions with a new system of hard money contributions.

According to the letter:

Together H.R. 94 and H.R. 95 would terminate the presidential public financing system and eliminate public financing for the conventions while placing no restrictions on funding party conventions with corporate and labor union money and large contributions from individuals. As a result, the parties would rely even more on unlimited soft money contributions that have the power to corrupt officeholders and government decisions, as happened in the Watergate scandals.  In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the Supreme Court held that the contribution limits enacted in the 1974 reform legislation were necessary to deal with the “reality or appearance of corruption inherent in a system permitting unlimited financial contributions.”

The “reality or appearance of corruption” that is “inherent in a system permitting unlimited financial contributions,” is precisely the danger that would be increased by these bills.

The letter stated:

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has created chaos in the nation’s campaign finance system and substantially increased opportunities for big-money corruption. It has also shown just how important it is to have an effective alternative means to finance campaigns that are based on a central role for small donors.

We urge you to oppose H.R. 94 and 95 and instead to support efforts to repair the presidential public financing system with an approach focused on matching small contributions and to reform convention financing by establishing a new system that prevents the use of soft money to pay for the conventions.

The letter further stated:

We also urge you to oppose H.R. 1994, the Election Assistance Commission Termination Act.  We believe the Commission, if fully staffed, could provide vital assistance in addressing the problems in our voting system, including modernized voter registration and ongoing issues with polling station lines so in some communities that voter turnout is actually driven down by them. Congress should strengthen, not terminate, the EAC and ensure that the agency can perform its critical functions in data collection, research, and information sharing among elected officials at every level, the public and concerned organizations. Congress should ensure that the EAC has sufficient authority to carry out these responsibilities.

The letter concluded:

The presidential public financing system should be repaired, not repealed. The Election Administration Commission should be strengthened, not terminated.  We strongly urge you to oppose these measures which would undermine the integrity and the public’s faith in our democracy.

To read the full letter, click here.

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