Magazine article Common Cause Magazine

House Democrats Must Act on Reform Now

Magazine article Common Cause Magazine

House Democrats Must Act on Reform Now

Article excerpt

DURING THE 1992 campaigns, House Democratic leaders and most current House Democratic members made a public commitment to their constituents to clean up the campaign finance system in Washington in this Congress.

That public commitment has not been met and, with time now running out in this Congress, the enactment of meaningful campaign finance reform legislation is in serious jeopardy.

The principal reason that campaign finance reform legislation has stalled, after bills passed the House and Senate last year, is the refusal of House Democratic leaders to reach a reasonable agreement with Senate Democratic leaders to cut the amount of money a PAC can contribute to congressional candidates.

There is no real justification for the position taken by the House Democratic leaders. House Democrats have already voted for an aggregate limit on the total PAC money a candidate can receive. Because of the PAC cuts that would be achieved by this aggregate limit, adding a cut in the individual PAC limit to the bill would not have a significant impact on House members. But a failure to cut the individual PAC limit will ensure that the campaign finance reform legislation is killed in the Senate.

Cutting the individual PAC limit is a central issue for the seven Republican senators whose votes were critical to breaking a filibuster on the campaign finance reform bill last year and will be essential to breaking another expected filibuster on a final reform bill this year.

As the New York Times editorialized recently, the campaign finance reform effort "is stalled mainly because House Democrats insist on a very high, $10,000, limit on the amount of money a candidate may accept from a single political action committee. ... The $10,000 ceiling is not only wrong on the merits but is also a prescription for killing reform. It is almost certain to cost the support of seven swing Senate Republicans whose votes are essential."

And a recent Washington Post editorial pointed out that "if House Democrats insist on keeping the current $10,000 limit, they could dutifully claim to be the friends of reform while making it impossible for Senate Republicans to support a bill. Everybody could blame everybody else, and reform would die."

While cutting the individual PAC limit would have a limited impact, killing the campaign finance reform bill will have a major impact:

* It will kill the aggregate PAC limit, a limit that would result in major PAC cuts for a number of House members. …

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