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  NewsCenter > NewsWire > For Immediate Release     


JUNE 17, 1998
11:05 AM
CONTACT:  Public Campaign
Jodie Silverman or Eric Schmeltzer

Betcha Can't Eat Just One!
Public Campaign Sends Congress Over 10,000 Potato Chips… And A Message On Money In Politics
WASHINGTON - 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 efforts.

"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 doesn’t 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 isn’t 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 money’s 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 Campaign’s web site at Actual potato chips, however, must be purchased separately from your grocer.

Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working on behalf of comprehensive campaign finance reform.


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