Statement of the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and US PIRG Urging Senators to Vote Against Loophole-Opening Appropriations Rider
When the Senate considers the Transportation Appropriations bill, expected to occur shortly, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russell Feingold (D-WI) will lead an effort to strip from the bill a non-germane, loophole-opening campaign finance rider that is buried in the legislation.
This is an incumbent protection rider, pure and simple.
We have rarely seen a more irresponsible and discriminatory effort to undermine the nation's campaign finance laws than the one being attempted here.
The rider may sound innocuous in that it would allow Leadership PACs controlled by a Senator or Representative to give an unlimited amount of their funds to national party committees, instead of the current $15,000 annual limit. The national party committees, of course, would then be free to spend these funds on the campaign of the Senator or Representative whose Leadership PAC provided the funds.
Here, however, is what the rider would end up allowing for Senate races in its practical application:
It would allow a Senator to have two separate campaign committees, with two separate contribution limits available for each individual donor, to finance the Senator's campaign. Meanwhile, the Senator's challenger would only have one campaign committee, with one contribution limit available for each individual donor, to finance the challenger's campaign.
It would allow a Senator to raise a total of $34,200 from a single individual for the Senator's re-election campaign, over the course of the Senator's term. Meanwhile, the Senator's challenger would be limited to raising a total of $4,200 from a single individual for the same campaign. This would provide an eight-fold fundraising advantage for the incumbent Senator over the Senator's challenger.
It would allow a Senator to raise a total of $40,000 from a PAC for the Senator's re-election campaign, over the course of the Senator's term, while the Senator's challenger would be limited to raising a total of $10,000 from a PAC for the same campaign. This would provide a four-fold fundraising advantage for the incumbent Senator over the Senator's challenger.
The Leadership PAC rider would:
Increase greatly the undue influence of big-money contributors with Senators;
Provide an enormous, unfair and discriminatory advantage for Senators over their challengers;
Set a dangerous precedent for additional back-door riders to be added to appropriations bills to gut the campaign finance laws; and
Open the door to House leaders to add their own gutting campaign finance amendments in the House-Senate conference on the bill.
This is about as unfair, unsavory, discriminatory and incumbent protection a provision as one could dream up.
And yet, not only has this ''noxious provision,'' in the words of a Washington Post editorial, been dreamed up, it has been slipped into a huge Appropriations bill to bypass the regular legislative process and is awaiting Senate consideration.
We strongly urge every Senator who cares about the integrity of our political system and about preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption to vote for the McCain-Feingold amendment to strip the Leadership PAC rider from the Transportation Appropriations bill.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.