March 30, 1998
Brian Dooley 202-588-7703
Steve Weissman 202-546-4996
Statement of Frank Clemente on Campaign Finance Reform in the House
Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch
Under the Constitution, Congress is the embodiment of American democracy. But lately it is becoming known for its betrayal of democracy. That explains what is happening to campaign finance reform today. After all the work done by House Republicans and Democrats during this session to create bipartisan options for meaningful reform, the Republican leadership is massacring democracy.
Newt Gingrich and company were afraid to let the House vote on real campaign finance reform — the Shays-Meehan bill. So they made up a phony reform bill. We call it the FAT CAT AND INCUMBENT PROTECTION ACT OF 1998.
But they couldn’t get majority support to bring it to the floor for debate without also considering real reform legislation. So they put their sham bill on the suspension calendar which requires a two-thirds majority.
So this is what we’ve come to — when it comes to campaign finance reform Congress no longer operates by majority rule. A super majority is needed — two-thirds in the House and three out of five in the Senate.
Why is the House leadership afraid to have a public debate on campaign finance reform? Because like the Senate leadership, which recently filibustered the McCain-Feingold bill, it knows the majority in Congress would vote for real, bipartisan change. It knows the American people are disgusted with the current, corrupt campaign finance system. They want their representatives to enact meaningful reforms.
We don’t need a phony soft money ban that encourages donors to continue to evade federal election laws by giving soft money to state and local, rather than national, political parties; even the latest revision of the Republican bill has major loopholes.
We don’t need to open the floodgates for more big money in politics by tripling the total amount an individual can contribute under federal law from $25,000 to $75,000 a year;
We don’t need partisan proposals that try to weaken support for Democratic candidates by encouraging union members to withhold dues used to finance labor’s get-out-the-vote and political education programs;
We don’t need an unworkable, arbitrary citizenship verification program for minority groups that is a modern version of the shameful poll taxes and literacy tests formerly used to disenfranchise African-Americans.
Leaders should bring their bill to the floor with a rule permiting open debate. There should be votes on real reform — the Shays-Meehan bill– not only sham reform.
Let the House return to its roots and become the voice of the people again. Bring down the dictators! Oppose Sham Reforms! Support the Shays-Meehan Reform Bill!