The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

On Campaign Finance Reform, Hoyer Had It Right the First Time


The stunning flip-flop on campaign finance reform executed this week by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland actually strengthens the case for a Presidential order requiring disclosure of all political spending by government contractors, Common Cause said today.

"The turnabout of Mr. Hoyer, who was for transparency before he turned against it this week, reminds us of why it's so important that voters know whose money is behind our elected officials," said Bob Edgar, president and CEO of the nonpartisan government watchdog group.

"By scrutinizing Mr. Hoyer's donor lists, which are laden with the names of corporate political committees and the executives of firms doing business with the government, we can put his `change-of-heart' in context," Edgar said.

As recently as last June, when he spoke on the House floor in support of the DISCLOSE Act, Hoyer argued that disclosure of corporate political giving would "restore the confidence of voters that they will know who's spending much money to influence their votes, their opinion, their actions." Now, he argues that disclosure will stifle the free speech rights of corporate donors.

"Mr. Hoyer had it right the first time," Edgar said. "Voters need to be able to 'consider the source,' when they watch television commercials supporting or attacking political candidates. His colleagues in Congress, constituents in Maryland and President Obama should 'consider the source' now as they weigh Hoyer's arguments against disclosure.

"Common Cause defers to no one in our reverence for the First Amendment and the freedoms it protects," Edgar added, "but the argument that disclosure of corporate political giving impinges on free speech is ridiculous. "Eight of nine justices on the Supreme Court have pronounced disclosure requirements constitutional. We have laws in place to ensure that contracts are awarded on merit and there are armies of well-paid corporate lawyers ready to file suit at any suggestion that a company has lost a government contract because it gave to the 'wrong' candidate.

"This controversy isn't about free speech; it's about a determined effort by some in Congress to help the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some corporate leaders hide behind the First Amendment while they attempt to buy our elections. President Obama should issue the disclosure order immediately."

The House Small Business and Oversight and Government Reform committees have scheduled a hearing on the proposed transparency order for 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

(202) 833-1200