Thursday, March 08, 2007
Groups also Call on Presidential Candidates
Pending Legislation to Repair the Presidential Public
Financing System for Future Elections
Eight reform groups sent a letter today to the 2008 presidential candidates urging them to make a public commitment now to use the system of spending limits and public funds in the 2008 presidential general election, if they receive their party's nomination and if their major party opponent agrees to use the system.
The groups also called on the presidential candidates to endorse the legislation currently pending in Congress to repair the presidential public financing system for future elections.
The reform groups include Americans for Campaign Reform, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Campaign Action Fund, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.
In their letter the reform groups urged the presidential candidates to make the following commitments:
- make a public commitment now to use the public financing system for the 2008 presidential general election, if they are nominated by their party and their major party opponent also agrees to use the system;
- agree to co-sponsor the legislation to fix the presidential public financing system, if they are in the Senate (S. 436) or the House (H.R. 776), or, if they are not in Congress, agree to publicly endorse the legislation. The Senate and House bills would be effective in 2009, for presidential races following the 2008 election; and
- make a public commitment now to work for the enactment of legislation to fix the presidential public financing system if they are elected president.
According to the letter, ''It is essential to the health of our democracy that we avoid having the presidency on a permanent auction block and presidential candidates engaged in a never-ending race to spend ever-growing massive amounts of private contributions.''
The letter states, ''The presidential public financing system was established in 1974 in the wake of the historic Watergate scandals. The system has served the nation and the presidency well for much of its thirty-year existence.''
The letter adds, ''All Republican and Democratic presidents elected since 1976 have used the public financing system to finance their general election races. This included Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.''
The letter states, ''All of the Democratic and Republican opponents they faced in the general election also used the system to pay for their general election campaigns. In addition, almost all of the presidential primary candidates in both parties also used the public financing system to pay for their primary races during the period from 1976 to 2004.''
The letter continues, ''As you know, however, the presidential public financing system is now broken and it needs to be fixed. The spending limits for presidential primaries, for example, are far too low to meet the costs of running a modern presidential primary campaign. This has resulted in primary candidates in both parties rejecting the system for their 2008 races.''
According to the letter, ''The problems with the presidential funding system today are primarily the result of the failure of Congress to take action to modernize and update the system since it was enacted thirty years ago. These problems can and must be solved.''
The letter adds, ''In the 2008 presidential election, for example, if the two major party nominees run their primary and general election campaigns wholly on private contributions, they are expected to spend a combined total of $1 billion on their campaigns.''
According to the letter, ''This, in turn, places an unyielding demand on the candidates to raise huge amounts of private contributions and to use individual 'bundlers' to provide six-and-seven figure total amounts for their campaigns. The big-money donors of the Watergate-era presidential election will be big-money bundlers in the 2008 presidential election.''
The letter states, ''The absence of an effective system for the presidential primaries, furthermore, makes it much harder for candidates who are not initial frontrunners to raise sufficient funds to be heard and to compete in the primaries.''
According to the letter, ''Last week, in response to an advisory opinion request by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), the FEC ruled that a presidential candidate could raise private contributions for the general election on a provisional basis, and then return the money and opt into the public financing system if the candidate won his or her party's nomination.''
The letter adds, ''As a result, the public financing system remains viable for the 2008 presidential general election, provided both major party nominees opt into the system.''
The letter states, ''The FEC ruling sets the stage for the two major party nominees to accept public financing for the general election without being placed at a competitive disadvantage.''
The letter continues, ''The ruling allows a presidential candidate to raise sufficient private funds during the primaries to be able to run a competitive general election against a candidate who does not accept public financing, while also being able to opt into the public financing system for the general election if the other party's nominee also agrees to use the system.''
According to the letter, ''The public financing system for general elections was good enough for Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush to use in winning the presidency. It ought to be good enough for the next president to use as well.''
The letter adds, ''To date, Senator Obama and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have publicly committed to use the public financing system in the 2008 general election if nominated by their party and if their major party opponent also uses the system.''
The letter states, ''We urge you to make a public commitment now to use public financing in the general election if you are nominated and if your major party opponent agrees to use the system.''
According to the letter, ''The legislation to fix the presidential public financing system was introduced in the Senate by Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and in the House by Representatives Marty Meehan (D-MA), Christopher Shays (R-CT) and David Price (D-NC).''
The letter adds, ''Support for this legislation is a key test of where you and other presidential candidates stand on preserving the integrity of the presidency and providing sufficient resources for presidential candidates to be heard and to run competitive races.''
The letter states, ''The presidential public financing legislation has been endorsed by our organizations. This includes Americans for Campaign Reform whose bipartisan leadership includes former Senators Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Warren Rudman (R-NH), Bob Kerrey (D-NE), and Alan Simpson (R-WY). This legislative effort also has been endorsed by the Committee for Economic Development, an organization of national business leaders and educators.''
According to the letter, ''While S. 436 and H.R.776 would not take effect unt 2009, reflecting the practical realities that the presidential race for 2008 is already underway, enacting this legislation as soon as possible is critical to protecting the presidency and our democracy in future years.''
The letter states, ''We urge you to co-sponsor this legislation if you are in Congress or endorse it if you are not, and to publicly commit to working for its enactment if you are elected.''
The letter also notes, ''A number of us will also be asking you to co-sponsor or endorse legislation to establish a system of spending limits and public funds for congressional races, after legislation to create such a system is introduced in Congress.''
A copy of the letter is available at www.democracy21.org.
The following is a list of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates who received the letter from the reform groups:
Democratic Presidential Candidates
Senator Joseph Biden
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Senator Chris Dodd
Former Senator John Edwards
Former Senator Mike Gravel
Representative Dennis Kucinich
Senator Barack Obama
Governor Bill Richardson
Republican Presidential Candidates
Senator Sam Brownback
Former Governor James Gilmore
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
Former Governor Mike Huckabee
Representative Duncan Hunter
Senator John McCain
Former Governor Mitt Romney
Representative Tom Tancredo
Former Governor Tommy Thompson
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Released: Thursday, March 8, 2007