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Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG Urge FEC to Remove Soft Money from National Party Convention

July 28, 2004

Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG Urge FEC to Remove Soft Money from National Party Convention

Based on This Year’s Abuses, FEC Should Overhaul System, Groups Say

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) today called on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to ban soft money from the national party conventions based on the abuses that are occurring at the conventions this year.

The conventions are awash in money donated by corporations, labor unions and special interest groups seeking favors from the parties. More than $100 million in soft money has been contributed to the conventions this year – $39.5 million for the Democrats and $64 million for the Republicans – according to the Campaign Finance Institute. Soft money is now the primary funding source for national party conventions, putting party leaders and politicians in the position of owing favors to the big-money donors.

The FEC in 2003 considered restricting the flow of soft money to the national party conventions but refused. After its ruling, Public Citizen urged the commission to document the uses and abuses of soft money at the 2004 conventions and then reconsider its decision. Today, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG sent a letter again calling on the FEC to take action curbing soft money for future party conventions in light of the documented abuses of unlimited corporate and union “soft money” at the Democratic convention in Boston and, later this summer, at the Republican convention in New York.

“The FEC should abide by the spirit and letter of federal campaign finance laws,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen. “The funding of this year’s conventions speaks volumes about the poverty of the FEC’s regulatory regime governing convention financing. Congress worked long and hard to purge unlimited and corrupting soft money from the system. The FEC should do its part in implementing the law and get soft money out of federal elections.”

The conventions are supposed to be paid for with about $15 million in federal money awarded to each major party. But the FEC promulgated a series of opinions and regulations that, over the years, allowed soft money to pour into the conventions.

“This runs counter to the objectives of the Federal Election Campaign Act and undermines the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain-Feingold law,” said Adam Lioz, an advocate with U.S. PIRG.

To read the letters and 2003 comments submitted to the FEC from Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG, click here.