Campaign Finance Bill Lacks Ban

Politico — Wednesday, April 1, 2009

By: Chris Frates

A new campaign finance reform bill that supporters promised would ban lobbyists from contributing to candidates was introduced Tuesday without the prohibition.

David Donnelly, the national campaigns director for the Public Campaign Action Fund, said he made a mistake last week when he included the lobbyist ban in interviews and materials promoting the measure.

"This was my screw-up. It was a provision that I represented was going to be in it, and it's not going to be in the bill," Donnelly said.

He called the mistake "a complete, simple miscommunication" between the reform coalition and the legislation's lead sponsors.

Indeed, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said Tuesday that he didn't believe banning contributions from lobbyists was ever included.

The legislation would create a public campaign finance system that would reward candidates who can raise small donations from a large number of people in their home states. Candidates who opt in would be subject to contribution limits of $100, Donnelly said.

House candidates would have to raise 1,500 small, in-state contributions totaling at least $50,000 to trigger an average of $900,000 in public funding, he said. Senate candidates would have to raise a baseline of 2,000 contributions, plus an additional 500 for each congressional district in the state to qualify for a minimum of $1.5 million in public funding, Donnelly said. The House and Senate bills differ on where the public campaign money would come from. In the Senate version, the public money would come from assessing the country's largest government contractors with a small surcharge, Donnelly said. In the House, the money would come from the sale of broadcast spectrum.

"As senators and congressmen, we find ourselves spending more and more of our time raising money for our own elections and reelections. That means we spend less and less time focusing on the issues that challenge our country," Durbin said. "Under our plan, candidates would really get out of the fundraising business."

Durbin and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) are sponsoring the legislation in the Senate. Reps. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) are sponsoring it in the House.

The coalition behind the effort includes the Public Campaign Action Fund, U.S. PIRG, MoveOn.org, Common Cause and the Service Employees International Union.

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