Republicans Aim to Expand Corporate Influence in Presidential Elections
Allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of American elections apparently isn’t enough for some congressional Republicans. GOP lawmakers are now set to vote on a bill aimed at further expanding the power of corporations and shaving hundreds of millions of dollars from the national debt by ending public financing of presidential elections. The bill, HR 359, is expected to reach the floor of the House of Representatives this week.
Introduced by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), HR 359, would eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account. Public financing of presidential election campaigns began in the 1970s in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Every presidential nominee, both Democrat and Republican, has used the system, with one exception– Barack Obama.
Still, President Obama strongly opposes HR 359, arguing the system should be fixed instead of scrapped. “The presidential election public financing system was enacted… to free the nation’s elections from the influence of corporations and other wealthy special interests,” the White House said in a statement. “HR 359 would kill the system, not strengthen it. Its effect would be to expand the power of corporations and special interests in the nation’s elections; to force many candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues; and to place a premium on access to large donor or special interest support, narrowing the field of otherwise worthy candidates.”
“A vote for HR 359 is a great way to tell the American people that you want to give corporations more power over our government rather than make democracy work for ordinary Americans,” said David Arkush, director of the Congress Watch division of the consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen.
It’s not like corporations need any more empowerment to influence the outcome of American elections. Last year the US Supreme Court effectively handed them the keys to our democracy when the justices voted 5-4 to allow corporations to spend as much money as they please on political candidates and campaigns. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are limited to a $2,400 contribution. The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling opened the floodgates for corporate donors just in time for the 2010 midterm elections. The result? An increase in special interest spending from $16 million in 2006 to more than $80 million in 2010.
In defense of HR 359, Republicans point out that the Congressional Budget Office estimates eliminating public financing of presidential elections will save $617 million over the next ten years.
Tagged 2010 midterm elections, Citizens United, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Congress Watch, Congressional Budget Office, David Arkush, House of Representatives, HR 359, national debt, Obama opposes HR 359, President Barack Obama, Presidential Election Campaign Fund, Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account, Public Citizen, public financing of presidential elections, Republicans, Tom Cole, US Supreme Court