April 14, 1999
Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen
on the “Blue Dog” Discharge Petition to Force House Action on Campaign Finance Reform
Every Republican and Democratic member of the House of Representatives should sign the Blue Dog and Democratic Freshman petition to ensure that bipartisan campaign finance reform is debated and passed by Congress this year.
It is plain as day that there is a conspiracy between House and Senate Republican leaders to delay consideration of the Shays-Meehan reform bill so that it arrives in the Senate in an election year, when it will be more difficult to break a filibuster. This strategy was pioneered last year by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) improbably maintains there is no time now to take up reform although little has been happening on the House floor and Shays-Meehan passed just eight months ago with a substantial bipartisan margin.
The real reason behind Hastert?s stalling was revealed last Friday by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), chairman of Senator Lott?s party fundraising arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Take away ?soft money? and we wouldn?t be in the majority in the House and the majority in the Senate and couldn?t win back the White House,” McConnell told Republican state party chairmen, according to The Washington Post. In other words, McConnell doesn?t believe his party could prevail on the merits. To achieve a partisan advantage — Republicans narrowly out-raised Democrats in national party soft money 53 percent to 47 percent in 1996 and 55 percent to 45 percent in 1998 — Republican leaders seek to perpetuate a system that puts both parties in hock to wealthy corporations, unions and individuals and subverts federal laws limiting campaign contributions.
Big special interest money influences virtually every decision Congress makes. And the biggest money is soft money, more than three-quarters of which comes from corporations and wealthy individuals. If we don?t act promptly, our hopes for a government that addresses the real concerns of the voters will be drowned by as much as a half billion dollars in soft money in the 2000 election.
Public Citizen appreciates the work of Rep. Christopher Shays and his fellow reform-minded Republicans and hopes they will join the Blue Dog and Freshman Democrats? discharge petition. Only with their kind of bipartisan vision of the national interest will reform ever move forward.