Campaign Finance Reform
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Remarks From Sen. John McCainPart Four Of Five
By Sen. John McCain
I appreciate the sincerity of the strong views on campaign finance reform and on the McCain-Feingold legislation in this debate. I am pleased to address aspects of the legislation that have been questioned.
I believe that interest groups perform a valid service to the American public. However, they shouldn't be able to fund campaigns in the often negative manner they do today and stifle the average American citizen's voice. Members of Congress should be beholden to the individual American voter and not to any special interest. Individual American citizens should dictate policy and form the agenda. The only way this can happen is if the amount of money in campaigns is brought under control.
The idea that money doesn't buy public policy is naive. Why would someone want access? To influence policy. Once again, the example of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 comes to mind. The cable, satellite, broadcast, long distance carriers and local carriers were all present as Mr. Gans correctly states. He also says that the public interest was felt during those hearings through these special interests. So why does the FCC's annual report on video competition state that during the first six months of 1996, cable rates jumped three times the rate of inflation, and over the course of the whole year grew at more than double the rate of the Consumer Price Index? Does the public want higher cable rates? I would like to see that poll. The public interest was not felt, it wasn't even heard.
In reference to Ms. Tolchin's insightful statement regarding foreign money, her book tracks the encroachment of foreign contributions to American elections and its affect on national security. Her daunting example of the Soviet Union establishing a bank in Silicon Valley for technological secrets shows the tight connection between money and policy.
Fundraising is out of control. Soft money fundraising has tripled since 1991. For the 1992 election, $85 million was raised and for the 1996 election, $250 million was raised. The time Members of Congress should be dedicated to studying the issues of importance to the American people, not to raising money.
In the 1996 Senate race, incumbents raised $96 million. Challengers raised $43 million and only one incumbent lost in their bid for re-election to the Senate. In the House race from last year, incumbents raised $282 million and challengers raised $75 million. The incumbents, once again, had the advantage with 95% winning re-election. Clearly, incumbents have the monetary advantage and therefore the election advantage.
Voluntary spending limits, established in each state, will depend on the voting age population of that state. These limits simply create a level playing field. Strong incentives incorporated into the bill, such as free television time and reduced postage, will encourage candidates to comply by the limits, regardless of personal wealth or fundraising prowess. Our bill does not change the current limit of $1,000 per individual, allowing citizens to show financial support.
The idea that there is less corruption today than in prior years, and that we should be pleased is unacceptable. Whether or not there is less corruption today is irrelevant. No amount should be tolerated.
Campaigns are not run for free. Our bill recognizes that fact. It 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. Members of Congress should put the public good ahead of the job security that the current system fosters and pass campaign finance reform.