Udall eyes campaign finance changes

WASHIGNTON – Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., praised a bill that cleared the House of Representatives on Wednesday that would cut off public funding for national party conventions.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., passed 310-95. Udall and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., passed a similar measure in June as an amendment to the Senate version of the farm bill.

But some campaign-finance groups say Cole’s bill does not go far enough, calling it a short-term fix for the broken system of public financing.

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, agreed that parties shouldn’t continue receiving public money while private money still is flowing in, and the public-financing system needs further reform.

The Campaign Legal Center joined Common Cause, Democracy 21 and several other reform organizations in a letter urging House members to reject Cole’s bill.

“It’s a vestige left from the previous system when it worked,” McGehee, said of the publicly financed conventions.

McGehee pointed to another bill in the House, which not only proposes cutting public funding to conventions but also replaces presidential public funding with small, matchable contributions.

The alternative measure, proposed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen D-Md., is stuck in committee in the House with only one Republican co-sponsor. Udall introduced a companion bill in June, which currently has no co-sponsors.

For now, both Cole’s bill and Udall’s measure are short-term fixes for problems in the current public-funding system for campaigns.

“The big difference is, Udall is saying what we really need to do is fix the system; Cole is saying we shouldn’t have public financing from any other source,” McGehee said. “So their long-term goal is different.”

Leigh Giangreco is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at lgiangreco@durangoherald.com.

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