Watchdog Decries Cost-Cutting Stunt to Put Corporate Donors in Charge

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. House of Representatives will take up a measure today (H.R. 359) that, if passed, will place elections more squarely in the hands of corporate interests by repealing the presidential campaign financing system, according to a leading national watchdog group, Public Campaign Action Fund. Republican lawmakers pushing the repeal claim they are doing so to save money, but a review of earmarks secured by the lawmakers pushing the change suggest they would have saved more by starting with their own legislative pork.

“This stunt isn’t about cutting costs—it’s about giving special interests more power in Washington, D.C.,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “Instead of focusing on jobs and the economy, the Republican leadership wants to move away from elections of, by, and for the people, and towards elections bought and paid for by corporate donors.”

The cost of the presidential financing system (estimates range from $520 to $620 million) is dwarfed by the amount of earmarks the cosponsors of H.R. 359 have received in the past two years, according to Public Campaign Action Fund research of data found at legistorm.com.

Member

Earmarks ‘08-‘10

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Lead Sponsor

$86,797,625

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.)

$99,243,000

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.)

$138,795,500

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)

$206,705,475

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.)

$2,714,000

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.)

$12,395,000

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)

$54,904,450

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas)

$10,403,000

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)

$52,823,650

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)

$118,949,750

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.)

$28,590,300

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio)

$13,083,500

Total

$825,405,250

The other sponsors, who have not requested earmarks, include Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Alan Nunnellee (R-Miss.), Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), and Blaine Leutkemeyer (R-Mo.). Ellmers, Nunnelee, Gardner, and Hanna are freshmen.

In addition, several members pushing the repeal bill are part and parcel of the pay-to-play system:

  • The sponsor, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), was appointed to the Ethics Committee in 2005 in order to protect former House Majority Leader and convicted felon Tom DeLay, and even donated $5,000 to his legal defense.
  • Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), a cosponsor, pushed an amendment last year to exempt car dealers from consumer protections even though he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from dealers and $280,000 in campaign donations from the automotive industry.
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) was formerly a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, and was called "the king of earmarks" by the Deseret News in Utah for requesting $6.5 billion in project funding, 95 percent of which was connected to political donors, the paper said.

The other cosponsors have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Wall Street interests, health insurance companies, and other industries hoping to roll back the progress made in the 111th Congress.

“From Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, the presidential financing system worked well for decades,” said Donnelly. “Instead of dismantling it, Republicans should work to modernize it—to lift the voices of everyday Americans in the political process instead of empower wealthy donors.”