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An Open Letter to MarketPlace

20 October 1997

Dear MarketPlace,

On today’s program (10/20/1997) you asked how we would rate Congress on Campaign Finance Reform. The only conceivable grade for their efforts to date is F. This should not be surprising; there is a clear conflict of interest when our representatives decide the rules by which they raise money. If they had the integrity of most judges, they would recuse themselves from the matter. Of course that would leave no one to vote on such regulation, which proves that this is not just any issue before Congress, but a constitutional crisis. The authors of our Constitution did not, and could not, imagine today’s electoral campaigns and the consequences thereof, and thus they left us no method for deciding issues our Congress should not honorably address.

Several states do have constitutional remedies for this quandry: the ballot initiative. The initiative process is often abused, and I hesitate to suggest a Federal equivalent, but I can think of no other solution to the current crisis.

On a related note, Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson’s commentary on MarketPlace on the McCain-Feingold bill left me boiling. Nicholson’s assertion that the real problem is forced contributions to candidates by unions is nothing short of dishonest. Nicholson surely knows that the Supreme Court’s Beck decision already addresses this issue, and that McCain-Feingold would codify the Court’s position in statute. So why isn’t he in favor of McCain-Feingold? If union contributions aren’t the problem, what is? The answer to both these questions is corporate campaign contributions. Corporations outspent unions twenty-six to one in in soft money the first half of 1997, and sent two and half times as much to the Republicans as the Democrats [1]. So of course Nicholson and his party don’t want campaign finance reform (save for a few with a conscience like Senator John McCain).

If the issue is forced contributions, then Nicholson should consider testimony given before Congress by businessmen that they feel virtually compelled to donate to both parties so as to simply maintain a level playing field vis-a-vis their competitors.


Earl Killian
Los Altos Hills, CA


  1. http://www.commoncause.org/publications/081997_toc.htm