House Republicans Pass Amendment to FY 11 Spending
Bill to Shut Down Presidential Public Financing System

Key Battle Against Assault on Nation’s Campaign Finance Laws Lies Ahead When Senate Returns to Consider FY 11 Spending Bill

Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer

Yesterday, House Republicans passed an amendment to the pending FY 11 Spending Bill that would shut down the presidential public financing system.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to attempt to attach the House-passed amendment or a very similar amendment to the Senate FY 11 Spending Bill, when the Senate considers this legislation during the week of February 28.

The presidential system needs to be repaired, not killed.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin and Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chair Charles Schumer have critical roles to play in providing the leadership necessary to block and defeat Senator McConnell’s effort to destroy the most important and effective reform to come out of the Watergate scandals.

Senate Democratic leaders need to take all steps necessary to thwart the McConnell-led effort to destroy this essential campaign finance law.

The Senate effort led by Senator McConnell to kill the presidential public financing system is stage 2 of an all-out assault on the nation’s campaign finance laws that were enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.

Stage 1 in this assault was the Supreme Court decision last year in the Citizens United case which opened the floodgates for corporate money to influence federal elections and government decisions, for the first time since the Robber Baron era.

Stage 2 is the current Republican-led effort in Congress to kill the presidential financing system.

The assault on the nation’s anti-corruption campaign finance laws must be stopped now in the Senate. If it is not, the consequences for citizens will be disastrous and the assault will move on to additional stages.

Every Senator faces a basic choice in this battle: do you stand with average citizens and small donors or do you stand with influence-seeking corporate spenders, bundlers and big givers?

The choice should be clear. Senators should stand with the American people and vote to defeat Senator McConnell’s effort to kill the presidential public financing system.

The presidential system has served the nation well for most of its existence. It has been used since 1976 by every President to finance their general election races, with the exception of President Obama, and by most candidates in both major parties to finance their primary races.

The presidential system has protected against corruption.

The presidential system has given average citizens and small donors a major role in financing our presidential campaigns. Tens of millions of citizens have participated in the political process by using the tax check-off to direct a small amount of their taxes to fund presidential elections. Many millions of citizens also have participated by providing small contributions that were magnified in importance by public matching funds.

Senator McConnell and other congressional opponents, however, want a system for financing presidential elections that has little use for average citizens and small donors and that is instead dominated by influence-seeking corporate spenders, bundlers and big donors.

President Obama recently made clear that he is strongly opposed to the effort in Congress to kill the presidential public financing system and that it is critical for the system to be fixed rather than dismantled. 

A national poll taken at the close of the 2008 presidential campaign showed widespread public support for public financing of presidential elections. The USA TODAY/Gallup poll (October 28, 2008) showed that more than 70 percent of the public supported presidential public financing system and only 20 percent said the system should be eliminated.

The effort to kill the presidential public financing system must be defeated.