Public financing of federal campaigns needed now, more than ever

Common Cause is deeply disappointed by today’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) case that essentially eliminated restrictions on corporate- and union-funded TV ads that are broadcast close to elections.

“This decision will mark the return of millions of dollars of unregulated special-interest money funding sham political ads,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “If the Supreme Court is going to make it impossible to stop this flood of special interest money, it is all the more reason we need a voluntary system of publicly funded elections to provide a level playing field.”

Common Cause and coalition partners are pushing for a voluntary system of publicly funded elections for congressional races. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) are co-sponsors of the Fair Elections Now Act. The bill is based on state models of publicly funded elections 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.

When outside interests spend money to influence an election on behalf of a candidate, an opponent who has chosen to run with public funding would be eligible for dollar-for-dollar matching funds to wage a competitive campaign.

“The more wild and woolly campaigns get, the more attractive public financing is going to look to candidates because it levels the playing field,” Edgar said.