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Letters to the 107th Congress

July 11, 2001

Dear Representative:

As the House begins to debate campaign finance reform legislation, I write on behalf of the American Bar Association to urge you to support reform that will increase disclosure of contributions and expenditures, adjust the individual contribution limit for inflation; ban the solicitation and use of soft money in federal campaigns; and preserve the First Amendment rights of eligible individuals to participate in political campaigns.

As you know, campaign finance laws have not been substantially revised by Congress for over twenty years. Changes in campaign finance mechanisms, the infusion of soft money into the system, the burgeoning use of electronic media, and the emergence of issue advertisements have literally transformed the ways in which campaigns are financed and run. Yet our laws and regulations have not kept pace with the innovations in campaign activities. We believe that the statutory framework for campaign finance regulation needs to be modified to address these changing trends in order to ensure the integrity of the campaign finance system.

The American Bar Association recommends that the following principles be included as a part of any campaign finance legislation:

Full Disclosure. Disclosure is a vital and necessary component to maintaining the integrity of the campaign finance system. The ABA supports full and timely disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures in excess of minimal amounts. All contributions to and expenditures by state and federal party committees should be reported publicly and electronically.

Reasonable Contribution Limits, Adjusted and Indexed for Inflation. Campaign contributions to candidates and political parties should be limited to reasonable amounts. The current individual contribution limit was set in 1974 and has not been adjusted to take into account inflation, increases in the size of the electorate and the dramatic rise in campaign costs. Raising the individual contribution limit would allow candidates to spend less time fundraising and more discussing substantive issues, help level the playing field between incumbents and challengers, and channel money currently being contributed outside the federal system (soft money) back into the regulated process. Therefore, the ABA believes that current individual campaign contribution limits should be adjusted for inflation and indexed thereafter.

Soft Money Ban. The ABA opposes the solicitation and use in Presidential and Congressional campaigns of what is now commonly known as soft money, i.e. contributions to political party committees in unlimited amounts by corporations, labor unions and individuals, and supports efforts to prohibit such contributions. Soft money has been used as a method by which contribution limits and prohibitions under the Federal Election Campaign Act have been successfully circumvented and has created at least the appearance, if not the reality, of corruption in the political system. This issue must be addressed in order to help restore public confidence in the electoral process.

Public Participation - Contributions by Legal Permanent Residents. Campaign finance laws should not discourage the participation of individuals, political parties, and organized political groups in all aspects of the electoral process. Of particular concern are efforts to restrict the political activities of legal permanent residents. The fundamental rights of free speech and association are an integral part of this nation's democratic process, and are not restricted only to citizens. Legal permanent residents, who bear most of the same civic responsibilities as citizens, including paying taxes and registering for the draft, must not be prevented from exercising their constitutional right to participate in the political process. The ABA therefore opposes any diminution of the existing rights of legal permanent residents to make campaign contributions and expenditures to the same extent as U.S. citizens.

We are pleased to note that H.R. 2356, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001, sponsored by Representatives Shays and Meehan contains provisions that reflect a number of these important principles, and is the currently pending bill which most closely reflects our views. We also hope that consideration will be given to adjusting for inflation the individual contribution limit to a candidate per election.

Reforming campaign finance laws to reflect the foregoing principles will help ensure increased citizen and candidate participation and restored public confidence in the electoral process. We urge you to keep these principles in mind during the forthcoming debate and to vote in favor of legislation that would enact the needed changes to our campaign finance system. If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact me or Kristi Gaines in the Governmental Affairs Office at 202-662-1763.


Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

107th Congress Letters Home

Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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