Sept. 15, 1999
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook on House Passage of the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform Bill
Last night?s vote for campaign finance reform in the House was a shining moment in an otherwise lackluster congressional session. By passing the Shays-Meehan bill — and soundly defeating poison pill amendments designed to kill it — representatives responded to the hopes of the vast majority of their constituents. The American people are clearly disgusted with the system of legalized bribery that is eroding the foundations of our democracy.
With a majority of 52 senators supporting the companion McCain-Feingold bill, we are inches away from eliminating soft money and its corrupting influence on legislation that affects every American. Soft money makes up about 30 percent of all large contributions in federal elections. Political parties collect it in huge amounts — often in chunks of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars — from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals. The question now is whether Senate Republicans, many of whom have publicly or privately expressed their concern about soft money, can summon up the same political courage as the 54 House Republicans who voted for Shays-Meehan. If just eight more Republican senators stand up next month to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who plans to lead a filibuster for the fourth straight time, the American people will finally get the reform they so clearly want and deserve.