July 26, 2007
House Votes to Deny Funding for Regulation and Disclosure
of Sham Issue Ads in Elections; Amendment by Pence Is Direct Attack on Current Campaign Finance Law
Statement of Laura MacCleery, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division
Public Citizen roundly condemns the House of Representatives for its vote today to de-fund enforcement of the “electioneering communications” provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). If this legislation is approved by the Senate, the public would no longer know who is paying for the flood of electioneering ads that swamp our airwaves immediately before an election, and many of these ads could be paid for using corporate treasury money that, under current law, is limited in federal elections.
BCRA’s electioneering communications provisions state that broadcast campaign ads that air shortly before an election cannot be paid for by “soft money” (funds from corporate or union treasuries) and that the sources and amounts of expenditures for these ads must be disclosed to the public. The amendment approved by the House would prevent any money from being spent on enforcement of this provision.
In one of his first successful attacks against federal campaign finance law in years, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) slipped through this attack on BCRA by a narrow vote of 215-to-205. Pence bamboozled lawmakers, suggesting that the recent Wisconsin Right to Life decision by the Supreme Court invalidated the electioneering communications provision.
This argument is false. The court ruled only that “genuine issue ads” that do not function as electoral advocacy were exempt from the soft money restriction. Other electioneering ads that use soft money continue to be restricted. And an entirely distinct provision that requires the funding of electioneering communications to be disclosed was utterly unaffected by the case and remains in full effect.
The Pence amendment is an effort to re-open the flood gates for rampant campaign spending by deep-pocket corporations and to keep the public in the dark about who is trying to influence elections with political advertising.
Public Citizen calls upon the Senate to preserve the law by rejecting the Pence amendment.