Reform Groups Urge Members to Oppose All Campaign Finance Riders to Funding Bills

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  • David Vance

In a letter sent today, reform groups urged members of Congress to oppose all campaign finance riders and other “poison pill” riders to any CR or omnibus bill to be considered in the remaining days of this Congress. 

The groups included the Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, Demos, Every Voice, Issue One, League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Represent.Us, The Rootstrikers Project at Demand Progress and U.S. PIRG.

Last year, “poison pill” campaign finance riders were enacted in the Omnibus Appropriations bill to prevent the IRS from doing any work on new regulations to govern the political activities of section 501(c)(4) organizations, and to prevent the SEC from issuing any final regulations to require public corporations to disclose their political activities to shareholders. In September 2016, Congress passed a CR that extended the SEC rider.

The letter stated:

The two campaign finance riders currently in the law serve to keep the American people in the dark about hundreds of millions of dollars in secret contributions that have been poured into federal elections. Secret campaign contributions prevent voters and others from holding officeholders and influence-seeking donors accountable for their potentially corrupt practices. These two riders should be rejected and not included in any funding measures passed in the lame duck session.

The letter continued:

Unsuccessful efforts also were made last year during the FY 16 Omnibus bill negotiations to add other campaign finance riders. This included riders to do away with the presidential public financing system and checkoff fund, to repeal the longstanding limits on the amounts parties can spend in coordination with their candidates, and to prevent the Obama administration from issuing an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.

The presidential public financing system served the American people and presidential candidates well for more than two decades until it became outdated. The system needs to be repaired, and not eliminated as the rider would have done.

The unprecedented role played by the Super Rich and outside spending groups in the 2016 election has made an overwhelming case for providing candidates with incentives to raise small contributions from millions of ordinary Americans. Candidates need an alternative means to finance their presidential campaigns without becoming obligated to big money funders.  

The letter concluded:

Any effort to rewrite the Nation’s campaign finance laws and to restrict related campaign finance measures must be done by regular order and through the legislative process. This should not be done by a back door misuse of the appropriations process. 

Poison pill riders have no place in any budget bill. We urge you to oppose any campaign finance riders or other poison pill riders from being included in any funding measures for FY 2017.

To read the letter: click here.