St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bill would ban 3rd-party campaigns for Congress

Eight Democratic congressmen have filed a bill that combines a laudable goal – public funding of congressional campaigns – with a vicious attack on freedom of speech. The bill would effectively eliminate virtually all congressional campaigns by independent and third-party candidates.

The bill, HR 4694, would provide public financing for both Democrats and Republicans in most districts. But Ballot Access News reports that candidates not qualifying for funding would not only receive no government funds, but would also be barred from spending any privately raised money. No government money and no private money means that a non-qualifying candidate would be prohibited from spending any money at all, not one red cent. Not even a business card with the candidate’s name and office sought would be legal under the bill!

Requirements for qualifying for funding would be relatively easy for the major parties but almost impossible for independent and third-party candidates. The bill would provide public funding for nominees of parties that had averaged 25% of the vote for U.S. House in that district over the last two elections. Independent candidates who had averaged 25% would also get full public funding, but unlike party candidates, only the specific individual who previously got those votes would qualify. All others would be required to submit petitions signed by 20% of the last vote cast for full funding, and 10% for partial funding. For example, in Missouri’s 2nd congressional district, a candidate with a party that won less than 25% of the vote in the last two elections would need nearly 70,000 signatures to qualify for the public funding that her/his Democratic and Republican opponents would get automatically, and only signatures from the 2nd District would count. Nearly 35,000 signatures would be required in order to allow the candidate to spend anything at all on the campaign.

In certain districts where a single party is dominant, the bill would eliminate campaigns by the district’s second party as well. Not surprisingly, Democrats (who propose this bill) hold Republican opponents to below 25% in more districts than Republicans do the same to Democrats. If the bill were law today, a Republican campaign in Lacy Clay’s 1st District would be illegal without a massive petition drive. In Roy Blunt’s 7th District, Democrats would be less than a percentage point away from the same fate.

The offensive bill is sponsored by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) and co-sponsored by fellow Democrats Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Barney Frank and James McGovern of Massachusetts, Henry Waxman and Bob Filner of California, Steve Israel of New York, and Tim Ryan of Ohio. So much for standing up the for the little guy.

The Oracle wonders if the sponsors’ support for publicly financed elections is genuine, or if this legislation is merely a disguised attempt to discredit the whole concept.