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No More Excuses: Pass Campaign Finance Reform Now

July 10, 2001

No More Excuses: Pass Campaign Finance Reform Now

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen

We are here to bury soft money, not to perpetuate it. Today, we are closer than ever to putting soft money to rest for good and reducing the crushing grip special interests have on our government policies. In recent days, we?ve seen some members of Congress waffling on pledges of support for banning soft money. The time for excuses is over. These House members are jeopardizing their futures, because the public is fed up with the legalized corruption of politics today. We must pass the Shays-Meehan measure.

Shays-Meehan is a huge step forward. It?s even better than McCain-Feingold, since it maintains the $1,000-per-election limit on individual contributions to House candidates. (The Senate hiked the maximum to $2,000 for all federal candidates, $4,000 for the primary and general elections.) Nearly half of all individual contributions to federal candidates in 2000 came from donors who gave at least $1,000, even though these contributors comprised only one-ninth of one per cent of the population. The House should sustain the lower Shays-Meehan level for its own races — which would not jeopardize final Senate approval of the legislation.

With the House having voted by decisive, bipartisan majorities for versions of Shays-Meehan in 1998 and 1999, there is no excuse for members to change their votes at this juncture. It would be hypocritical to twice vote against the corruption of our political system by soft money, then block reform when it is so close to becoming reality. Now is the best chance for the House to flush special interest money out of the halls of Congress for good.

No House member who votes against the Shays-Meehan bill can claim to be a reformer. No member who votes for a “poison pill” amendment ? which would break apart the pro-reform coalition ? can pretend to be a reformer. And no member who asserts that our political parties need to depend on big chunks of special interest money to get out their vote represents the spirit of democracy. Before the soft money explosion of the past 12 years, Democrats and Republicans traditionally used hard money and volunteers to get out the vote, and will do so again after soft money is banned.

It?s time for lawmakers to stop defending special interest money and give the government back to the people. Let?s say our final goodbyes to soft money ? today.