Omnibus Bill Is A Toxic Cocktail of Giveaways

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  • Dale Eisman
Common Cause Urges Lawmakers to Reject Deal

The omnibus appropriations bill fashioned in secret by congressional leaders this week is larded with goodies for the lawmakers who will be voting on it and the special interests – from the gun lobby to Wall Street – that are their financial patrons, Common Cause said today. If passed, it will include the biggest increase in campaign contribution limits ever enacted by Congress.

The non-partisan “citizens lobby” dispatched a letter to lawmakers calling the bill “a toxic cocktail of giveaways” and urging its defeat. In its place, Congress should pass a stopgap measure to keep the government open beyond Thursday’s deadline for funding most federal agencies, the group said.

“Not only will it lead to scandal, the bill is itself a scandal, providing political payback to some of the biggest spenders in the 2014 midterms,” the letter said.

“If this is a sign of things to come in the next Congress, the country is in for a rough couple of years,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “This bill’s passage will be proof positive that big campaign donors – not elected Democrats or Republicans — are calling the shots on Capitol Hill.

“President Obama should have his veto pen at the ready should the bill reach his desk,” she added.

Among the provisions drawing the group’s fire: 

  • A massive increase – up to $777,600 — in the amount of corrupting money one donor can give to a political party each year. Combined with the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision earlier this year, one individual’s political reach could include nearly $5 million to a single party’s committees and candidates in one election cycle.
  • A freeze in funding to the Federal Communications Commission as it considers the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger and new rules to protect the Open Internet.
  • A prohibition on disclosure of political donations from government contractors.
  • A ban on the District of Columbia government using tax dollars to press Congress to grant full voting rights to the city’s representative in the House.
  • Cuts in funding that leave the IRS with its smallest budget in seven years, likely crippling efforts to enforce tax laws that would shed light on secret political spending by billionaires and corporations.
  • Special treatment exempting big polluters, Wall Street, and the National Rifle Association, among others, from existing regulations that protect the public interest.

    “Those who spent millions of dollars collectively on the 2014 midterms stand to receive very special treatment in return…” the letter asserted. “The omnibus will permit financial firms to make risky bets at the public’s expense, with guaranteed bailouts from federal insurance programs when the bets fail. The omnibus cuts the EPA’s budget 21% below 2010 levels, grants exemptions to certain clean water laws, and even prohibits the agency from regulating lead in gun ammunition.”