Common Cause: Democrats Hypocritical On Campaign Finance
July 7, 2008
Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - A group that advocates "open, honest, and accountable government" is blasting Democrats for saying one thing and doing another when it comes to campaign finance law changes.
Common Cause, the lobbying organization most closely associated with the "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act," (BCRA) is accusing the Democratic Party of "actively working to undermine" new campaign finance rules in the courts and at the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
At a press conference Friday on the steps of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters, Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger challenged DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe to stop the Democrats' hypocrisy.
"We're calling on the DNC and Mr. McAuliffe specifically today to make a choice," Harshbarger said.
"Mr. McAuliffe has said he supports [BCRA], has said it repeatedly, publicly, politically the Democratic Party has supported this," he continued. "But since the law passed in March, lawyers for the Democratic campaign committees have been working aggressively to undermine this law."
Harshbarger says his accusation is based both on what representatives of Common Cause have heard DNC lawyers say during FEC hearings and on their actions in court.
"DNC General Counsel Joseph Sandler is counsel for the California Democrats suit in federal court claiming that [BCRA] deprives the parties of equal protection," he noted. "Sandler and Robert Bauer, counsel to the Democratic congressional committees, have urged the Federal Election Commission to open huge loopholes to allow the parties to keep bringing the soft money in."
The DNC, Harshbarger says, has to make "a choice between Enron and the people," referring to the failed energy trading company that made financial contributions to candidates from both political parties and to both parties, as well.
He criticized Republicans for their efforts to overturn the law, as well. Conservative Republicans and advocacy groups have filed numerous lawsuits opposing BCRA on various free speech and free association First Amendment grounds while Democrats have openly expressed their affinity for the bill.
A prepared statement distributed by DNC staff members following the press conference reiterated the party's support for BCRA.
"The Democratic National Committee (DNC) fully supports a ban on the use of soft money by national political parties and has been a champion of this goal for decades," the document stated.
It went on to provide and explanation for some of the actions Harshbarger criticized.
"This is an extraordinarily complex and extensive law that regulates - under the threat of criminal penalty - virtually every aspect of political activity by party officers, elected officials, staff, and volunteers," the statement continued. "For this law to work, it is critical that there be clear, understandable, practical interpretations and guidance from the Federal Election Commission."
The DNC says it "appreciates the opportunity" to make suggestions to the FEC about how it believes the law should be implemented.
The statement did not specifically address the charges made by Harshbarger, and requests for an interview were not acknowledged prior to publication of this story.
The FEC will vote next week on whether or not to implement the "soft money" ban Harshbarger supports.
"At least we hope they implement it," he said. "All the signs are that they won't."
Harshbarger says Common Cause will be working with the primary sponsors of the BCRA to implement additional "reforms" on the FEC if the provisions of the bill are not implemented to the sponsors' liking.
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