Coalition Letter to Hillary Clinton regarding presidential public financing

February 20, 2008



Dear Senator Clinton,

Our organizations strongly urge you to make a public commitment now to use the public financing system in the presidential general election if you are the Democratic nominee and if the Republican nominee also agrees to use the public financing system in the general election.

Our organizations include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

The presidential public financing system was established to protect the integrity of the presidency and the interests of the American people. Every Democratic and Republican nominee for president since 1976 has used the public financing system for their general election campaigns.

Last year, our organizations sent a letter to you and other presidential candidates (March 8, 2007) that asked you to make a public commitment to use the public financing system for the 2008 presidential general election, if you are nominated by your party and your major party opponent also agreed to use the system.

The letter also asked presidential candidates to co-sponsor the legislation introduced to fix the presidential public financing system, if they were members of the Senate or the House or, if they were not in Congress, to agree to publicly endorse the legislation.

In December 2007, you joined with Senators Collins (R-ME), Obama (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL) and others to cosponsor Senator Feingold's re-introduction of legislation to repair the presidential public financing system (S. 2412). The legislation had originally been introduced in this Congress in January 2007 by Senators Feingold and Obama (S.436).

However, we did not receive a response from you regarding the request that you participate in the public financing system in the 2008 general election if your Republican opponent also agrees.

Last year, on March 1, 2007, the FEC issued an advisory opinion in response to a request by Senator Barack Obama, which stated that a presidential candidate could raise private contributions for the general election and still participate in the public financing system for the presidential general election by refunding the contributions to the donors.

As you know, this means that the fact that you have already raised private contributions for the 2008 presidential general election is not an impediment to your participating in the presidential general election public financing system, if you are the Democratic nominee.

In our March 8 letter to you last year, we stated:

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.

We also noted in the letter that in upholding the public financing system's constitutionality, the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) set forth the policy goals that led to its enactment: Congress was legislating for the "general welfare" - to reduce the deleterious influence of large contributions on our political process, to facilitate communication by candidates with the electorate, and to free candidates from the rigors of fundraising.

We further stated in the March 8 letter:

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.

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.

We noted in the letter a Washington Post editorial (March 2, 2007) stating:

The FEC ruled that candidates can raise general election money now -- as most top-tier contenders are doing -- but change their minds down the road, return the private money and accept public financing instead. Candidates who are sincere supporters of public financing ought to be willing to pledge to stay within the system if they win their party's nomination and the other side's nominee promises to do the same.

Our organizations believe it is in the Nation's best interests for the 2008 general election to be run under the presidential public financing system.

We strongly urge you to make a public commitment now to use public financing in the general election if you are the Democratic nominee and if the Republican nominee also agrees to use the public financing system in the general election.

Campaign Legal Center

Common Cause

Democracy 21

League of Women Voters

Public Citizen

US PIRG


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