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Campaign Finance Reform Backgrounder

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The voices of American voters are being drowned out byspecial interest money. Millions of dollars are poured into campaignseach election, and the amount continues to climb. Instead of turning to theirconstituents, members of Congress look to wealthy individuals and businesses tofund their campaigns.

Public Citizen is working hard to change the current system ofcampaign finance so that members of Congress are responsible to their voters,not to their contributors. You’ll find the latest analysis in the Watchdog Blog. Jointhe conversation!

We need to make sure that our campaign finance laws limit theinfluence of wealthy special interests, and we hope that you join us in thisfight.

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  • What’s Happening?

There is one drive for major campaign finance reform now pending beforeCongress: the FairElections Now Act to create a voluntary system for full public financing ofcongressional elections.

In addition to the public financing measures, we are seeing the usualonslaught of legislative attacks on BCRA, contribution limits and the ban onillegal “soft money” in federal elections. Also, many other aspects of campaignfinance reform are being discussed by Congress and the Federal ElectionCommission (FEC).

The FEC Has Closed Its Doors

The Bush Administration has shut down the FEC with its insistence on theconfirmation of Hans vonSpakovsky as commissioner on the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Now theagency has no quorum. While campaign contribution information is still beingprocessed, no opinions are being issued, no violations are being corrected, andno further presidential public funds will be distributed. Public Citizen callsfor an up-or-downvote on all nominees, so that the FEC can reopen its doors and regulatecampaigns fairly.

Sham Issue Ads

In FECv. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL), the Supreme Court struck a strongblow to the ban on corporate money paying for election advertising, ruling thatan exemption must be made for “genuine issue ads.” Fortunately, instead of farexceeding the scope of the Court’s ruling and gutting the BCRA ban on corporate“soft money” being used to fund election advertising, the FEC’s ruling was much morereasonable. The newregulations still ban corporate “soft money” paying for electioneeringcommunications near elections, but allow a broader exemption for “genuine issueads.” Still, voters should be aware that far more sham issues ads paid for bycorporate interests are likely to overwhelm the airwaves.

Ourguide to limiting the influence of wealthy special interests through campaignfinance reform. The best and most comprehensive reform is voluntary publicfunding of all federal elections, or FairElections. But there are other major intermediary reformsneeded.

There is a widespread problem of potential government contractors attemptingto “buy” lucrative government contracts through campaign donations known as“pay-to-play.” Public Citizen has advocated for state and federal legislation tocurtail pay-to-play abuses.