July 22, 2005

TO:
  Members of the U.S. House of Representatives
FROM:
  Kay J. Maxwell, President
RE:
  Campaign Finance Reform

The League of Women Voters urges you to oppose H.R. 1316, the Pence-Wynn bill, and support H.R. 513, the Shays-Meehan legislation.

H.R. 1316 repeals fundamental protections to our election process put into place by the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1974 and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. These landmark reforms were hard-won responses to the Watergate scandals and the fundraising abuses of the 1990s. Americans want more reform, not a retreat from anti-corruption safeguards.

H.R. 1316 lifts the ceiling on individual contributions -- allowing upwards of $3 million to be given by a single individual -- and invites the corrupting influence of enormous campaign contributions back into elections. Members of Congress, the President and federal candidates could solicit these huge contributions and direct where they are spent.

The Pence-Wynn bill also allows unlimited solicitations from trade associations, increases by 50 percent the amount a political action committee (PAC) can contribute to candidates, repeals restrictions on the use of soft money to fund sham issue ads -- broadcast ads promoting or attacking federal candidates close to the election, and allows federal candidates to directly control the spending of unlimited sums of soft money on paid advertising campaigns run on the Internet.

H.R. 513, in contrast, would close the major loophole that allowed political groups organized under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code to raise millions of dollars of unlimited soft money to influence federal elections in 2004.

The Shays-Meehan legislation requires all 527s to register with the FEC as political committees and thus to abide by the source and size limitations that apply to all other political committees. Neither organizations with annual receipts of less than $25,000 nor those focused on state and local candidacies and issues would be covered. The legislation does not apply to Section 501(c) organizations.

Section 527 groups are self-declared political organizations. They should not be operating free from the federal campaign finance laws that apply to candidates, political parties and others that participate in federal elections.

The League of Women Voters urges you to cosponsor H.R. 513 and to publicly oppose H.R. 1316.