Sign-on letters

There’s no reason to relax rules around coordinated expenditures between political parties and candidates. So why is the Senate trying to?

  • Tyler Cole

Today, Issue One submitted a letter opposing a provision slipped into a government funding bill (FY2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill) that would weaken rules limiting coordination between political parties and candidates.

“This provision is a backdoor attempt that would allow more access and influence for deep-pocketed donors at a time when the American people are already frustrated with the current political system,” said Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee. “Congress should not move to further weaken the laws that help safeguard the public from corruption and the appearance of corruption through must-pass government funding legislation.”

Addressed to the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the letter explains that if the provision were to be enacted into law, it would allow candidates and donors to discuss large donations to the party committees, and then allow candidates and parties to discuss how that money should be spent. In essence, it is the same as allowing contributions many times larger than the current legal limit to go from donors to the campaign coffers of candidates.

The letter notes that the Supreme Court, in Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (2001), stated:

“There is no significant functional difference between a party’s coordinated expenditure and a direct party contribution to the candidate, and there is good reason to expect that a party’s right of unlimited coordinated spending would attract increased contributions to parties to finance exactly that kind of spending. Coordinated expenditures of money donated to a party are tailor-made to undermine contribution limits.”

Political parties are already allowed to spend sizable sums on coordinated expenditures — between $97,400 and $5.9 million on a congressional candidate. That is in addition to the unlimited amounts of money they can spend on independent expenditures. Parties have ample room to help elect their candidates to office, it is simply unnecessary to relax limitations on coordinated expenditures. The American people are frustrated with the current system of money-in-politics. Weakening the laws that help safeguard the public from corruption and the appearance of corruption poses an unacceptable danger to American democracy.

Read Issue One’s letter.