In New Alliance, ACLU and Public Campaign Urge Support for Full Public Financing

October 26, 1999 12:00 am


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WASHINGTON — Seeking to end years of political deadlock, the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Campaign today announced a “common ground” effort to shift the focus of campaign finance reform to full public financing for all federal elections.

The groups announced their new alliance in an op-ed advertisement in the national section of today’s Washington Post. The advertisement will appear tomorrow in The Washington Times and on Thursday in The New York Times, and in five other national legal and political publications over the next two weeks.

“The perception has been that the ACLU and Public Campaign are diametrically opposed to each other,” said Ellen S. Miller, Executive Director of Public Campaign. “However, we have discovered a common ground and we are delighted to embrace that common ground with the ACLU and work towards the same goal — a system of full public financing of campaigns.”

Miller said the groups waited to act until the current campaign finance reform debate concluded — in a predictable dead-end — before coming forward with their new approach.

A system of full public financing, the ad’s headline declares, is “the kind of campaign finance reform Congress wouldn’t talk about — but should.”

“Here we are again,” the copy reads, “having just watched Congress go through its ritual dance, pretending to make a serious effort at campaign finance reform. Once again, the dance has ended in the way it always does: the music stops and nothing happens.”

Public financing, the advertisement said, “would make public officials more accountable to voters in general and less accountable to the often narrow economic interests of a few big contributors. And it would allow public officials to do their job instead of spending huge amounts of time raising money.”

This “third road to reform” approach is the result of a series of conversations between Miller and ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser that took place over a period of months, in which they sought to find common ground in their efforts to promote effective and constitutional campaign finance reform.

“In a society where money is so unequally distributed, there is no practical or constitutional way to reconfigure the current system of privately financed campaigns that will result in an equitable and democratic system,” Glasser said.

“Our goal is to put the issue of full public financing squarely before the American people, so that the next debate can achieve something more than an expenditure of hot air,” Glasser said.

The advertisement will be appearing in other publications as follows: Oct. 27- The Washington Times; Oct. 28 – The New York Times and Roll Call; Oct. 30 – National Journal; Nov. 8 – The Weekly Standard; Nov. 15 – The New Republic and The Nation.

“What we hope to achieve together is a re-focusing of the national debate about campaign finance reform,” said Miller.

To that end, the ACLU and Public Campaign will seek joint editorial board meetings and joint meetings with legislators and others involved in the reform effort. “Beyond that, of course, we want to achieve effective and constitutional reform,” Miller added.

The ACLU is a nationwide, non-partisan organization dedicated to defending and preserving the Bill of Rights for all individuals through litigation, legislation and public education. The ACLU can be found online at archive.aclu.org and through America Online at keyword: ACLU.

Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working on behalf of comprehensive campaign finance reform. The group is online at www.publicampaign.org.

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