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Campaign Finance Reform
"Democracy as we know it will be lost if we continue to allow government to become one bought by the highest bidder, for the highest bidder. Candidates will simply become bit players and pawns in a campaign managed and manipulated by paid consultants and hired guns." - Sen. Wendell Ford. (Wash. Post, 3/11/97)
"Elections are more often bought than won." - Rep. Lee Hamilton (Wall St. J., 2/19/97)
"The completely frank and honest answer is that the method of campaign funding that we currently have ... has a serious and profound impact not only on the issues that are considered in Congress, but also the outcome of those issues." -Rep. Eric Fingerhut (Martin Schram, Speaking Freely, Center for Responsive Politics)
"People who contribute get the ear of the member and the ear of the staff. They have the access and access is it. Access is power. Access is clout. That's how this thing works." - Rep. Romano Mazzoli (Martin Schram, Speaking Freely, Center for Responsive Politics)
Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced S. 26, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 1999, on January 19th. During the 105th Congress, the McCain-Feingold bill received support from a majority of the Senate but fell short of the 60 votes required to break a filibuster led by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican-MS) and Senator Mitch McConnell (Republican-KY).
On September 16, Senators McCain and Feingold introduced a revised version of their bill, expecting it to come to the floor of the Senate in early October of 1999.
--On Oct 18 & 19th 1999 the revised (weakened) version of the bill also
failed to break the filibuster led by the same republican senators.
Even though soft money has only been around since 1978, and not really exploited until 1988, the problem is getting worse by the minute. Soft money exploded from $86 million in the 1992 election to $260 million in 1996, and it could well triple again to $750 million for the presidential campaign in the year 2000. It is not wild speculation, but reflects the dynamic of a process that, like an arms race, is subject to constant escalation in the demand for money. That is why Congress must ban soft money - now - before it overwhelms our campaign finance laws and our political process.
The overall congressional reelection rate of nearly 98 percent was slightly more than the previous record set in 1988.
According to the Common Cause analysis of candidate financial activity through October 14:
House incumbents had a nearly 5-to-1 financial advantage over challengers, with $309.6 million in campaign resources compared to $63.4 million for challengers.
Incumbents had an even larger financial advantage in political action committee (PAC) fundraising with $105.4 million in PAC receipts -nearly ten times the $10.9 million challengers took from PACs.
Senate incumbents raised more than double the funds of their challengers - $161.8 million to $70.8 million - including a nearly 9-to-1 advantage in PAC contributions. Senate incumbents also had more available funds - nearly eight times the cash-on-hand as their opponents.
"The current campaign finance system is an incumbent-protection racket destroying real elections," Common Cause President Ann McBride said. "This system fully benefits incumbents and the special interests who fund their campaigns. Under the current campaign finance system, those left out in the cold are challengers who don't have a chance and the American people who don't have a choice."
1996 Campaign Finance Facts and Figures
1996 total spending by candidates and parties on federal
campaigns (including Presidential): $2 billion, up 33% from the $1.5 billion spent in 1992.*
Senate and House candidates spent $743 million on 1996
The national Republican party committees raised a total $549 million, 70% more than the $323 million raised by the Democratic party.*
1996 soft money contributions (unlimited "non-federal" contributions from business, labor, and wealthy individuals) to the two major parties: $263 million, up 206% from the $86 million raised in 1992.*
Top 5 soft money contributors in 1996:
Philip Morris (Tobacco-$3 million);
Joseph E. Seagram & Sons (Alcohol-$1.9 million);
RJR Nabisco (Tobacco-$1.4 million);
Walt Disney Co. (Media-$1.4 million); and
Atlantic Richfield (Oil & Gas-$1.25 million).
Total PAC contributions to 1996 House and Senate candidates: $202 million (66% to incumbents; 14% to challengers; and 20% to open seat candidates.)*
In 1994, business interests (including individual contributions) out contributed
labor interests (including individuals) nearly 7 to 1. Business PACs out contributed
labor PACs nearly 3 to 1.
(Center for Responsive Politics, Open Secrets 1994, www.crp.org)
In 1996, over 95% of House and Senate incumbents were re-elected.*
In 1996, the average winning Senate candidate spent more than $3.6 million. To raise that amount, a sitting Senator must raise nearly $12,000 a week, every week for six years.*
In 1996, the average winning House candidate spent $660,000. To raise that amount a sitting House member must raise more than $6,000 per week for their two-year term.*
In 1994, just one third of 1% of the total U.S. population made a political contribution of over $200 to a candidate. (Center for Responsive Politics, Open Secrets 1994, www.crp.org)
Outside groups (including political parties) spent nearly $21 million on independent expenditures for and against Congressional candidates in 1996, four times more than the $5 million spent in 1994.*
*Compiled from publicly available Federal Election
The year 2000 figures which do not have complete totals as of this writing are even greater than the above figures at this time.
Some early campaign figures organized by industry for Bush and Gore:
BUSH GORE MONEY TRAIL (source Center for Responsive Politics as of 6-1-00)
Agribusiness: Bush : $2,148,624 - Gore $240,350
Oil & Gas: Bush $1,463,799 - Gore $95,460 (Bush once said "You can't get too close to the oil industry")
Construction: Bush $3,472,821 - Gore $920,938
Real Estate: Bush $3,661,372 - Gore $1,213,310
Automotive: Bush $1,019,581 - Gore $79,085
Drug companies: Republicans/Bush 73% of $13,800,000 - Democrats/Gore 23% of $13,800,000 (Wall Street Journal 7-7-00)
Recent new record totals: As of 8-31-00 Presidential Race: $100 million Bush
(old record Bob Dole $46.7 million); Spent Bush $91.1 million); for US Senate
Race money spent $35.5 million, Jon Corzine Democrat New Jersey (old record
Huffington CA, Republican $30 million.)
Polling overwhelmingly shows that Americans want some form of campaign finance reform. Yet, each year it is defeated in congress.
Without understanding all the ways that money is given to politicians, people intuitively understand that large sums of money donated by "special interests" to elected officials severely interferes with the politician's ability to represent the vast majority of the population's interests. In other words, you cannot have a democracy if the government is bought.
At election time most politicians will say they are for some form of campaign reform, but after elected will directly or indirectly vote against campaign finance reform.
Citizens have passed direct state initiatives on campaign finance reform, and then the most moneyed politicians have sued to block implementation and many times win in the court systems that is also money driven.
All the tricky ways politicians get money from special interests and how to solve this corruption.
Election Process Reform
If Campaign or Election Reform is a subject of special interest to you please email us and put "campaign reform" (without the quote marks) on the subject line. We will inform you of future updates to this subject area. If you have information you think should be included or questions please include them in the body of the message.Related Links
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