Overhaul of campaign fundraising takes step forward

Mary Boyle, Common Cause (202) 736-5770

Gary Kalman, U.S. PIRG (202) 546- 9707

Jonathan Rosen, Brennan Center for Justice, (646) 452-5637

Laura MacCleery, Public Citizen, (202) 454-5130

A coalition of public interest groups commends the Senate Rules and Administration Committee for holding a hearing today on the Fair Elections Now Act, the first bipartisan public financing bill that would create a voluntary system to provide congressional candidates the option to forego private funding of their election campaigns without having to unilaterally disarm. The coalition, Common Cause, Democracy Matters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, US Pirg and the Brennan Center for Justice, also urges the full Senate to pass the bill, which is sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa).

“A system of public funding for congressional campaigns would level the playing field and give people from different backgrounds a fair shot at getting elected without owing favors to special interest groups, their lobbyists and contributors,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “The public benefits from having good people with diverse backgrounds with new ideas to help shape public policy.”

“Our elections should allow equal participation of all Americans-not just those with deep pockets,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. “Today’s hearing on the Fair Elections Now Act brings us one step closer to making our elections about voters and volunteers instead of campaign dollars and donors.”

“The system we use is clearly broken, and voters’ confidence in their elected representatives will continue to suffer until we fix it,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “Fair elections would be an investment in a fiscally responsible and more independent Congress.”

“The Fair Elections Now Act challenges directly the pay-to-play culture in Washington by offering candidates an alternative to chasing special interest dollars for their campaigns,” said Gary Kalman, democracy advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “We applaud Senators Durbin and Specter for sponsoring the bill, and Chairwoman Feinstein for holding this first-ever hearing on a bipartisan public financing bill.”

“The Fair Elections Now Act is something young people across the country have been rallying around for sometime,” said Daryn Cambridge of Democracy Matters. “It is an essential step in

deepening our democracy and making sure that all our voices are considered on a level playing field.”

The Fair Elections Now Act is based on the successful Clean Elections programs in Arizona, Maine, and five other states and two localities that provide full public financing to candidates to run competitive campaigns once they qualify by collecting a set number of small contributions-usually $5. Once qualified, candidates agree to forgo all private fundraising and to abide by strict spending limits. For a summary of the technical aspects of the bill, visit: http://www.publicampaign.org/fair-elections-now-summary.

The bill was introduced in March 2007 by Sens. Durbin and Specter and became the first full public financing legislation introduced in either chamber of Congress with bipartisan support. The last time Congress considered a public financing proposal was 1992.