March 27, 2000
Gore?s Campaign Finance Proposal: A Step in the Right Direction
Statement by Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
Public Citizen commends Vice President Al Gore for proposing a campaign finance reform plan that is designed to end the stranglehold that special interests currently have on our political system. Such a step is desperately needed, and we are pleased that the Vice President recognizes this need by making the McCain-Feingold soft money ban a first step and supporting more sweeping reform.
The private-public funding mechanism of Gore?s Democracy Endowment is innovative, although we are uncertain of its feasibility. It is clearly designed to attract Republican support. If Texas Gov. George W. Bush believes that the tax code can be used to prompt corporations and individuals to provide billions of dollars to aid social service agencies, we would expect him to support the use of $2 billion in tax deductions to wrest our democracy from the clutches of America?s wealthiest individuals and corporations. This, in turn, would benefit the least fortunate Americans, as fewer tax dollars would go to corporate welfare and could instead be used for vital human needs.
Gore proposes that television broadcasters provide five minutes of free air time to candidates each night for 30 nights before general elections. But his plan relies on broadcasters to donate this time, which is unlikely. Donating air time to candidates should be a mandatory condition for receiving a public operating license, not a voluntary one.
Unfortunately, Gore?s proposal about issue ads would take us back a step. He would require disclosure of donors who pay for issue ads, but that is not enough. The funders of issue ads that appear within two months of elections — who usually are corporations and unions — should conform to the same contribution limits as exist in current campaign laws. This idea is embodied in the Shays-Meehan bill that passed the House last year and an earlier version of the McCain-Feingold bill that had majority support in the Senate.