- June 17- In an effort to debunk the most common myths
perpetuated about campaign finance reform, Public Campaign today delivered its new
consumer handbook, PACs, Parties, and Potato Chips: Myths and Misconceptions About
Reforming the Campaign Finance System, to members of Congress. Along with the book
came a bag of chips for members to snack on while reading the truth about the 16 most
popular myths of campaign finance reform, including the preposterous notion that since
Americans spend more money on potato chips than on political campaigns, there is not
enough money in politics, a favorite line of Congressional leaders opposed to reform
"There is a campaign finance bill with 11 substitute bills and more than 200
amendments before the House right now" said Ellen Miller, executive director of
Public Campaign. "Many of these proposals are based on misconceptions and blatant
dishonesty on the part of the lawmakers. But if comprehensive reform is our goal, we have
to decimate those myths and point the way to real solutions."
However, Public Campaign will assume no responsibility should a member gag on a chip in
surprise when they see common reform myths deflated. From the inaccurate notion that
the public doesnt care about campaign finance reform to the mistaken
idea that more, not less money should be spent on campaigns, this new handbook provides
all the information Congress and the public need to learn the realities about reforming
the campaign finance system. To wit:
Contrary to the claim that the public thinks that campaign finance reform isnt
important, polling shows that 60 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a
high, if not the top, priority of Congress.
While many people use the "money equals free speech" equation to argue that all
limits on campaign contributions and spending are unconstitutional, the 1976 Buckley v.
Valeo Supreme Court decision did not go that far. While the Court did equate spending
money in the political arena with the First Amendment right of free speech, the Court also
allowed some limits on the size of contributions in order to prevent the "corruption
or the appearance of corruption."
Putting aside the notion that we should compare the cost of potato chips or yogurt to the
cost of our election campaigns, those who argue for de-regulating the system say more
money would keep the voters better informed. But under the current system, most campaign
money is used to pay for the cost of fundraising and for producing and airing ads on TV
and radio, none of which has much to do with providing the public with straightforward
information about candidates and issues.
Term limits do not solve the harsh reality that in order to run a serious campaign for
office - whether as an incumbent or a challenger - you need access to large sums of money
from wealthy individuals and vested economic interests, or to be wealthy enough to
self-finance a campaign.
While free television time would help under-funded challengers reach voters, it will not
prevent their messages from being overwhelmed by the greater volume of
campaign ads coming from well-heeled incumbents, nor would it end the fundraising
"arms race." As a stand-alone reform, free air time will not solve the
problem of big moneys influence in our politics.
Full and immediate disclosure of all campaign contributions might allow voters to see
which candidates are getting how much and from whom, but even if voters could make sense
of all the data, public disclosure will not end politicians dependence on wealthy
individuals and economic interests.
For a copy of "PACs, Parties, and Potato Chips," call Public Campaign at
202-293-0222. The handbook is also available on Public Campaigns web site at
www.publicampaign.org. Actual potato chips, however, must be purchased separately from
Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working on behalf of
comprehensive campaign finance reform.