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Campaign Finance Reform

Read the remarks from:
Curtis Gans

  • Round Two

    Susan Tolchin
  • Round Two

  • Remarks From Sen. John McCain

    Part Two Of Five

    By Sen. John McCain
    April 1, 1997

    In agreement with Susan Tolchin's argument, there is a dire need to restore the public's faith in Congress and the electoral system. We believe the best way to do this is with campaign finance reform. Elections should be won or lost based on ideology, not fundraising. We must level the playing field between challengers and incumbents and bring a dramatic change to the status quo.

    The public believes that special interests control the political and electoral system. Poll after poll demonstrates that the public has lost faith in the Congress and wants campaign finance reform to limit the ability of special interests to control the process. Following is a list of current polling data released by Public Citizen:

    • 72% of people support campaign finance reform generally; just 14% are "content" with the current system. (Mellman Group poll, August 1996)

    • 86% believe that special interest contributors influence policy decisions, while 53% think they affect them "a great deal." (Campaign for America poll, July 1995)

    • 92% think too much is spent on campaigns. (Wall St. Journal/NBC poll, December 13, 1996)

    • 68% think that the American political system is more influenced by special interest money than twenty years ago. 24% believe special interests have "about the same" level of influence, only 4% believe they have "less influence." (Wall St. Journal/Hart poll, January 1997)

    • 87% support spending limits. 62% "strongly favor" such measures. (Campaign for America poll, July 1995)

    Some have charged that the McCain-Feingold bill limits soft money and hampers the ability of people to participate in the political system. The bill limits soft money and makes it "hard". But the bill in no way hampers people's ability to participate in the political system. Hard money means that the money can be traced to whoever gave it. This is exactly what the public wants.

    But soft money, otherwise known as sewer money, is corrupting. I do not mean by this that politicians or anyone here in Washington is corrupt. But I do mean that money that is untraceable calls into doubt the integrity of the process. If someone wants to give, let them give, but let them also have the courage to say who they are and be identified with the recipient of their largess. That is what this is all about--accountability. There is nothing wrong with hard money being spent on campaigns. But there is something wrong with sewer money. Our bill merely makes that distinction.

    Campaigns are not run for free. Our bill recognizes that fact. The bill does not end campaign spending, but it limits it in a manner that forces candidates to rely more on their message than their fundraising prowess.

    The last time the Congress passed campaign finance reform was in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Watergate shook the very foundations of our democracy. Should we really wait until the next Watergate before we act again? The answer is no.