A question from Ivonne Rovira of Louisville, KY:
Whether one supports House Speaker Newt Gingrich or not, his connection with a PAC (GOPAC) and some allegedly nonprofit foundations has thrown the government into turnmoil.
Forget blame or recriminations. Should not House and Senate leadership be barred from overseeing -- even indirectly -- foundations and PACs? These seem to invite abuse and the appearance of a conflict of interest. PACs open the way to an even greater money chase than the current corrupt campaign system; foundations invite the blurring of the line between what is permissible nonpartisan, nonpolitical action and violations.
Rep. Kay Granger responds:
I strongly agree that we should take a look at all campaign finance issues over the upcoming months. But we must be careful not to pass reforms which would violate First Amendment free speech rights of any citizen. The Supreme Court has expressly held in Buckley V. Valeo that, in the context of campaign financing, money equals speech. Any proposed limitation on Leadership PACs might violate that constitutional right. However, given that, if we in Congress bring common sense ideas to the table, we should carefully consider such solutions.
Rep. Jay Johnson responds:
I agree that Members of Congress should not be allowed to oversee PACs. I do think that there is a role for Members to play in the leadership of clearly, organized national or local charitable foundations. The law is very clear that non-profit organizations may not be involved in political activities. I am a volunteer member of the board of directors for two organizations, Easter Seals of Wisconsin and a youth drug and alcohol facility in my district; I feel that I can make a contribution to the community by serving those organizations. The role of PACs, as originally envisioned, was to give greater voice and bring the power of a group effort to the political campaign process. As in many laws, (not just campaign laws) there are efforts to circumvent and misuse the laws designed with the best of intentions. Organizations set up for the clear purpose of going around the law should not and must not be tolerated and indeed, this will be another reason for new laws regarding campaign finances.
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