McNerney Reports on Second Congressional Campaign Finance Reform Caucus Meeting
The bipartisan Congressional Campaign Finance Reform Caucus (CFR Caucus) gathered together for its second meeting on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 in 2456 Rayburn House Office Building.
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and I were accompanied by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), another member of the bipartisan CFR Caucus. At this meeting, we invited former United States Federal Election Commissioner Trevor Potter to speak before the caucus and to share ideas on how to change the current campaign finance system.
In my opening remarks, I stated that “a recent New York Times poll said 84% of Americans say money has too much influence in politics and 85% of people would like to see the entire campaign finance system overhauled.” Rep. Jones and I both believe that there is a lot of support from the American people to pursue campaign finance reform and now is the time to fix it. We believe that money has too much influence in our political system and we need to get this “dark money” out of the system.
That’s why last year I proposed a Constitutional Amendment that would bring significant reform by ensuring that the only money coming into campaigns would come from individual donors and only to campaigns controlled by the candidates, and do away with PACs. The other thing my proposed amendment would do is require that money coming into a candidate’s campaign from outside his or her district could not exceed the money coming from inside his or her district among other things.
After my opening remarks, Rep. Jones gave the floor over to Trevor Potter to share his thoughts on campaign finance reform before the caucus. Mr. Potter is well respected on this issue and made the argument that Americans do not see this issue as a partisan issue, however in Washington it mostly divides along party lines. In fact, Mr. Potter mentioned that 80% of voters in both parties find campaign finance reform to be an issue.
Both of the major presidential candidates agree that we need to fix our broken campaign finance system as well. Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaigned on this issue and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has delivered speeches on the issue and called for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United. Even Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raised awareness about campaign finance reform and struck a national chord in the American people by emphasizing that he was financially independent and could not be influenced by Super PACs.
Did you know that Super PACs are a result of a lower court decision in SpeechNOW.org v. FEC?
Mr. Potter mentioned that if there is a constitutional right to give unlimited money then you should be able “to get together” and spend said money. Although, Mr. Potter contends that SpeechNOW.org does not suggest we should have SuperPACs as they are now. The FEC has allowed current candidates to raise money for these groups which is not a provision of SpeechNOW.org.
Our discussion touched on two solutions to tackle campaign finance reform. The first solution is to have full disclosure. Full disclosure would remove secret money from elections, and you would know where this money is coming from to hold candidates accountable.
The second idea that we discussed is to change the structure of the current Federal Election Commission so that it could not become gridlocked on issues. The current FEC has six commissioners divided equally by party. Adding one more commissioner could break the gridlock that exists on the commission. Having an odd number of commissioners is one possible fix, but not the only solution to the problem.
Rep. Jones stated that we have to create enough energy in Congress to get other representatives to reform the FEC. That it is not a partisan issue and both political parties are frustrated with the gridlock at the FEC. For instance, even when you do bring a lawsuit against the FEC, it could take years for any changes to happen.
If we do not move to improve our campaign finance system there is a danger of foreign money influencing our politics. There is no way to fully know all of the donors behind Super PACs. That’s why we must get reforms passed and need the pressure from the American people to make it happen.
The caucus meeting ended on a positive note and the next Congressional Campaign Finance Reform Caucus meeting will be held in September. To learn more about the CFR Caucus, visit: https://mcnerney.house.gov/about/CampaignFinanceReformCaucus.