Senator Enzi and Rep. Allen
March 5, 1997
in this forum:
Is there really bipartisanship in Congress? Who cares about the White House fund-raising scandal? Should there be free air time for candidates? Why can't Congress pass the balanced budget amendment? SEN. ENZI: Should Congress "frivolously" amend the Constitution? REP. ALLEN: How likely is REAL campaign reform? SEN. ENZI: Is Congress covering up a lack of personal political responsibility?
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A question from Dan Gorman of Chicago, IL:
A question for both Sen. Enzi and Rep. Allen: What do you think of the idea of providing serious candidates for federal office with free, or very low cost access to television time, coupled perhaps with restrictions on the purchase of commercial time for campaign advertising?
Skeptics point out that this kind of reform raises issues of fairness and free speech, and that it would certainly run into opposition from the commercial television lobby. Assuming that these concerns could be resolved, what do you think of the merits of such an approach to reform? If such legislation were introduced, would you be inclined to support it, or oppose it, and why?
Rep. Tom Allen responds:
I have compared what is happening with campaign finances to the nuclear arms race during the Cold War. We must put an end to the campaign finance arms race. The reforms suggested by Mr. Gorman are similar to bipartisan proposals currently before Congress. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) in the Senate and Representatives Chris Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA) have bills to provide free television and radio time and reduced postal rates to candidates who agree to abide by voluntary campaign spending limits. Both bills also restrict other finance abuses like the use of "soft money" contributions by political parties and special interests to influence campaigns.
I support these kinds of reforms. I recognize, however, that it will take support from both Democrats and Republicans to pass any reforms. That is why I am working with the other members of the bipartisan campaign finance reform task force of House freshman members to reach agreement on reforms we can pass this year. I am encouraged by the support campaign finance reform has received from President Clinton, Democratic leaders and many rank and file members from both parties.
The major obstacle to legislation is the Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate who control the agenda. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott have both refused to schedule action on the bipartisan bills. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has threatened to filibuster the McCain-Feingold bill. I hope that these Republican leaders will respond to the groundswell building in Congress and across the country to move campaign reform legislation ahead this year.
Senator Mike Enzi responds:
I oppose giving candidates for federal office free or very low cost broadcast rates on local television and radio stations. This proposal is another attempt to impose unfunded mandates on private business. Such a proposal would seriously hurt many local radio and television stations which depend on campaign advertising for a large part of their advertising revenue. I am a small businessman myself and and I know firsthand the difficulties many businesses face in trying to make a profit while also complying with many complex and burdensome federal regulations. I oppose any proposal that attempts to reform campaign finance law on the backs of small businesses.