Controversy over Reid fundraiser exemplifies need for Fair Elections

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  • Dale Eisman

The controversy over Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) request to delay weekend votes on the omnibus spending bill purportedly to attend a fundraiser in New Orleans exemplifies our broken campaign finance system, two national campaign finance watchdogs said today. The groups criticized the money-driven political system which forces elected leaders to spend too much time fundraising when they should be addressing the critical issues that face our country.

“As Congress works to fix our ailing health care system, Sen. Reid appeared ready to delay Senate proceedings to jet off for a $1,000 a plate fundraiser,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. “Our leaders should be solely focused on what’s best for the nation without having to worry where their next campaign check is going to come from. Campaign cash and fundraising events prevent Congress from fully tending to the people’s business, and that has to end.”

“That the leader of the US Senate would even consider delaying Senate proceedings and negotiations on an issue as important as health care reform, reportedly to attend a fundraiser, speaks volumes of the constant pressure that members of Congress are under to raise money for themselves, their colleagues and their political party,” said Bob Edgar, president and CEO Common Cause. “We need a Congress that is immune to the pressures of fundraising and that serves the public interest. It’s time to pass the Fair Elections Now Act.”

On Thursday, Sen. Reid requested that debate on the omnibus spending bill be delayed, pushing back negotiations on health care legislation even further. He had previously told his colleagues to be prepared to debate health care legislation every weekend until Christmas. Republicans quickly jumped on the request, noting Reid’s weekend fundraiser in New Orleans. Reid admonished his colleagues, saying he would never reprimand his colleagues for attending a fundraiser, as reported in The Hill this morning.

The Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752, H.R. 1826), sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) would create a voluntary system that combines small dollar donors with limited public financing. Under the proposal, candidates would be free from the campaign money chase, able to focus on our nation’s challenges instead of dialing for dollars. The House legislation currently has bipartisan, cross-caucus support 120 representatives.