ACLU Testifies on Campaign Finance; Urges Senate Committee to Adopt Full Public Financing

March 22, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Ira Glasser today detailed the constitutional problems with leading approaches to campaign finance reform, telling a Senate committee that placing limits on campaign contributions and expenditures is a dead end. Congress, he said, instead should seriously explore public financing.

“Constructing a system of public financing will be a complicated task,” Glasser told the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. “But it is the right path for Congress to travel. The road we have been traveling – the road of limits on contributions and expenditures – is full of constitutional landmines and is inherently unfair. It is time to strike out on a new path.”

In his testimony today, Glasser said that he has been involved with the issue of campaign finance for almost three decades and personally authorized the ACLU’s involvement in the three main campaign finance cases, including Buckley v. Valeo, that have shaped all campaign finance legislation during the past two decades. He noted that the Supreme Court’s most recent decision on campaign finance, Nixon et al v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, did not change the law.

“Limits have proven to be a bogus reform,” Glasser said. “They have not — and cannot — prevent corruption. They do, however, enhance inequality, and make elections even more unfair. Limits inevitably lead to curbs on speech that everyone agrees should be protected by the First Amendment.”

Glasser outlined a plan of public financing that he said could minimize corruption, equalize access to voters and promote free speech. The plan is based on establishing a floor of support for all candidates, instead of a ceiling.

“Contrary to what they were intended to do, contribution limits actually invite corruption and abuse,” Glasser said. “Limits have been in place for almost 30 years, but the problems limits were designed to solve remain. It is time for a new approach.”

Glasser’s testimony can be found online at:

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