WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House Administration Committee, under the leadership of Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), will consider legislation on Thursday to gut some of the nation's most important post-Watergate reforms in campaign finance. Public Citizen is appalled that Ney’s committee is even entertaining the bill, proposed by Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Albert Wynn (D-Md.), which would open federal elections to a flood of special interest money.
Ironically, the House Administrations Committee is debating allowing more money in federal elections just as its chairman is finding himself enveloped in allegations of corruption and favoritism stemming from legislation benefiting an Indian tribe he had promoted and luxurious trips he took at the expense of lobbyists and special interest groups. These include a $150,000 golf trip to Scotland for Ney and his friends and casino gambling in London, all paid for by special interests seeking legislative deals. In one gambling excursion – it is not clear who paid for this particular trip – Ney won $34,000, enough to pay off his mounting credit card debt.
For a fact sheet on Ney's ethical transgressions, click here.
"Rep. Ney should be promoting legislation to clean up Congress and his own House, not legislation that brings more special-interest money into politics," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. "For most other politicians this would be brazen, but maybe for Ney, it is just a lifestyle he is accustomed to."
Dishonestly labeled the "527 Fairness Act," the Pence-Wynn bill would:
- Repeal the limit on the total amount individuals may contribute to all candidates and party committees that was enacted in 1974 following the Watergate scandal.
- Repeal the ban on business trade associations and labor unions paying for campaign ads immediately before an election, thereby overturning an important provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
- Repeal the soft money ban against state and local parties using unlimited corporate and union money for voter registration drives in federal elections.
"These changes alone would mean that wealthy individuals could now shower candidates and party committees millions of dollars in campaign contributions every election cycle," said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. "This bill should more appropriately be named the 'Big Money, Special-Interest Loophole Act.'"
Public Citizen strongly recommends that the House Administration Committee refuse to venture down Ney's path and reject the Pence-Wynn proposal to roll back campaign finance limits.