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Posted by on Mar 14, 2007 in Politics | 8 comments

Eight reform organizations unite to promote public financing for elections.

On March 8, 2007, eight reform organizations wrote to all of the presidential candidates in both parties urging them to take steps to help save the system of spending limits and public financing for presidential elections.

The organizations included the Americans for Campaign Reform, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Campaign Action Fund, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

It seems to me that most of these reform groups are left leaning in temperament. Where are the GOP leaning groups promoting a reduction in special interest influence?

Democracy 21 Press Release, March 13, 2007, www.democracy21.org
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Senator Obama’s Effort Provides New Momentum for Saving the Presidential Public Financing System

Senator Feingold and Representatives Meehan, Shays and Price Lead Effort in Congress to Fix the System

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has provided new momentum for saving the presidential public financing system and preserving the integrity of the presidency.

Obama’s effort came as Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Representatives Marty Meehan (D-MA), Christopher Shays (R-CT) and David Price (D-NC) have taken the lead in Congress in sponsoring legislation to repair the presidential public financing system for future elections.

On March 1, 2007, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), in response to a request from Senator Obama, ruled that presidential candidates could raise contributions for the 2008 general election on a provisional basis, with the option of returning the money and using the public financing system in the presidential general election if they won their party’s nomination.

The presidential public financing law states that a presidential candidate who wants to accept public financing and spending limits for the general election must certify that the candidate has not ”accepted” private funds for the general election.

The FEC ruling on Senator Obama’s request interpreted this language to allow a candidate to raise private contributions for the general election and put the money in a segregated bank account. If the candidate later decides to accept public financing and spending limits for the general election, the candidate can return the private contributions to the donors.

The FEC concluded that by following these rules a candidate will not have ”accepted” private contributions within the meaning of the law, and will preserve his or her eligibility to use the public financing system in the general election.

The FEC ruling means that a presidential candidate who wants to accept public financing for the general election can also preserve the option of raising and using private contributions for the general election, in case the candidate faces a general election opponent who rejects public financing to spend substantially more than the spending limits for publicly-financed candidates.

Following the FEC ruling, Senator Obama immediately made a commitment to accept public financing and spending limits for the presidential general election, if he is nominated and his major party opponent also agrees to use the public financing system.

Later on the same day, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) made the same commitment.

On March 8, 2007, eight reform organizations wrote to all of the presidential candidates in both parties urging them to take steps to help save the system of spending limits and public financing for presidential elections.

The organizations included the Americans for Campaign Reform, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Campaign Action Fund, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

The reform groups called on all other presidential candidates to make the same public commitment made by Senator Obama and Senator McCain to use the public financing system for the 2008 presidential general election, if they are nominated and if their major party opponent also agrees to use the system.

”As a result of Senator Obama’s effort, the door has now been opened to the major party nominees accepting spending limits and public financing for the 2008 presidential general election,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.

”This outcome would be extremely important to protecting the integrity and health of our democracy and to preserving the long-term viability of the presidential system,” Wertheimer said.

The reform groups also called on the presidential candidates to co-sponsor legislation to fix the presidential public financing system, if they are in the Senate (S. 436) or the House (H.R. 776), or, if not in Congress, to agree to publicly endorse the legislation. The Senate and House bills would be effective in 2009, for presidential races following the 2008 election.

Senator Obama, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill to fix the presidential public financing system, is the only presidential candidate in Congress, to date, who has co-sponsored this legislation.

The reform groups also urged the presidential candidates to make a public commitment to work for the enactment of legislation to fix the presidential public financing system if elected president.

In Congress, two members of the House Democratic leadership are original sponsors of the House bill to fix the presidential public financing system, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The House bill is under the jurisdiction of the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections, chaired by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and efforts will be made to obtain hearings on the bill later this year.

In the Senate, the presidential public financing bill is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The Committee is expected to have hearings on campaign finance reform issues in the late spring or early summer and efforts will be made to include the presidential public financing legislation as part of those hearings.

”The basic goals of the presidential public financing system remain as important today as they were in 1974 when the system was created in the wake of the Watergate scandals: to reduce the undue influence of big contributions on government decisions and on our political process, and to provide the opportunity for candidates to be heard and to run competitive races,” Wertheimer stated.

”The presidential public financing system has served the nation well for most of its existence,” Wertheimer said. ”The system should be renewed and revitalized for the good of the country.”

Contact: Elenia Saloutsi
202-429-2008
[email protected]

For the latest reform news and to access previous reports, releases, and analysis from Democracy 21, visit www.democracy21.org.

Also:

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) has announced his intention to introduce a Clean Elections bill in Congress very soon. Though we know we have a hard fight ahead of us to win full public financing for congressional races, the fact that Sen. Durbin has pledged to lead this fight in the Senate represents a significant milestone in the history of Clean Elections. Over a decade ago conventional wisdom held that a full public financing law was only a dream; a nice idea that would never get off the ground. A dedicated group of organizers in Maine proved them wrong, passing the first Clean Elections law in the country in 1996. Since then, six other states and two cities have joined Maine on the Clean Elections roster, and helped to spread the word about ending pay-to-play politics, and making elections about voters – not big money donors.

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