Our organizations strongly support the legislation introduced today by Senator Mark Udall to repair the presidential public financing system. We urge you to co-sponsor the legislation and support its enactment.
Our groups include
Companion legislation to fix the presidential financing system, also endorsed by our groups, has been introduced in the House by Representatives David Price (D-NC), Chris Van Hollen
(D-MD) and Walter Jones (R-NC).
[The following groups signed a similar letter we sent up last year opposing House repeal of the presidential system and supporting the similar Price-Van Hollen bill to fix the system: Americans for Campaign Reform, Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, U.S PIRG].
This past Sunday, June 17, 2012, marked the 40th anniversary of the burglary at the Watergate Hotel which began the worst political and campaign finance scandals of the 20th century. The scandals revealed widespread corruption associating with the financing of President Nixon's re-election efforts in 1972.
In response to the scandals, Congress enacted sweeping campaign finance reforms, including the establishment of the public financing system for presidential elections. Years later, leading campaign finance scholar Anthony Corrado would describe the presidential financing system as "the most innovative change in federal campaign finance law in American history,"
The presidential public financing system served the country and presidential candidates of both parties extremely well for most of its existence. It empowered citizens to play an important role in financing presidential elections and protected against corruption of the presidency, which had been central to the Watergate campaign finance scandals.
The viability of the presidential system declined in recent years as increases in the costs of running a presidential campaign have outstripped the public funds and spending limits provided by the system. Congress in turn has failed to take any steps to modernize the system. As a result, the presidential public financing system no longer provides candidates with an effective alternative way to finance their presidential campaigns.
The legislation introduced today by Senator Udall would repair the presidential system and make it once again a viable alternative for presidential candidates. In a presidential financing system dominated today by special interest influence-money, in large part due to the disastrous Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case an alternative financing system based on engaging and empowering citizens is essential.
Every Republican presidential nominee from 1976 to 2008 used the presidential public financing system to finance their general election campaigns. This included President Gerald Ford, President Ronald Reagan (twice), President George H.W. Bush, Senator Bob Dole, President George W. Bush (twice) and Senator John McCain.
President Ronald Reagan benefited more than any other candidate from the presidential public financing system, participating in the system for his three presidential campaigns including his successful presidential races in 1980 and 1984.
As a result, in 1984, "President Ronald Reagan ran for reelection without holding a single campaign fundraiser," according to the Washington Post (June 17, 2012).
Similarly all Democratic presidential nominees during this same 35 year period, with the exception of President Barack Obama, used the system to pay for their general election campaigns. This included President Jimmy Carter (twice), Vice President Walter Mondale, Governor Michael Dukakis, President Bill Clinton (twice), Vice President Al Gore and Senator John Kerry.
2012 has seen a return of unlimited contributions, secret money and corporate funds to our elections. The nation needs a modernized presidential financing system, focused on average citizens and small donors to provide presidential candidates with a viable alternative to influence-seeking political money.
We urge you to support and co-sponsor the legislation introduced today by Senator Udall to repair the presidential public financing system.