Minority View on H.R. 359
Congress created the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to empower the public to reclaim the power of funding Presidential elections from large corporations and monied interests. Over the last five years, an average of 33 million taxpayers voluntarily chose to donate $3 of their income tax money to the fund each year. When a taxpayer chooses to donate $3, the entire sum is put towards the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Costs associated with the administration of the program are paid out ofthe FEC's annual appropriations.
The fund currently collects approximately $42 million annually. Campaigns that receive funding from the PECF must return any unspent funds. Approximately $8.7 million in unspent funds has been returned since 1976.
One of the most notable candidates to receive public funding is former President Ronald Reagan. During his 1976 presidential primary, Reagan 's opponent, Gerald Ford, had fifteen times more cash on hand. Reagan's acceptance of public funds allowed him to shape that debate by remaining a viable candidate. Reagan used the public financing system to such an extent that he holds the record as the only candidate to reach the public funding primary campaign maximum. In addition to President Reagan, several other qualified candidates owe their campaign viability to public funds: Jimmy Carter in 1976, George H. W. Bush in 1980, Gary Hart in 1984, Jesse Jackson in 1988, Paul Tsongas in 1992, Pat Buchanan in 1996 and John McCain in 2000. Public funds allow all qualified candidates to compete, even against well-funded incumbents.
The use of public campaign funds for qualified presidential candidates is regulated and monitored by the FEC. In addition, the FEC audits campaigns that receive public funds at the end of every Presidential election to ensure good stewardship. This emphasis on disclosure and transparency and what Justice Scalia has called "civic courage, without which democracy is doomed" (Doe v. Reed, _U.S._, 130 S. Ct. 2811 , 2817-18 (2010)) stands in sharp contrast to the growth of electioneering funded by unlimited, anonymous donations, from corporations as well as individuals after the recent Citizens United decision.
In the opening days of the 111th Congress, the House considered H.R. 359 without any Committee consideration of this legislation. The failure to convene a single hearing, call a single witness, or hold a mark-up where amendments would be considered is a highly unflattering reflection on the Majority Leadership's priorities and the respect granted to such important matters, and this Committee, in the 111th Congress. Had H.R. 359 followed regular order, the Majority might never have propounded such a misguided bill.
ACTIVITIES OF THE OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted in 1996 to legally prohibit federal recognition of same-sex marriages. On February 23, 2011, the Obama Administration made a decision no longer to defend, even while they continue to enforce, a section of the law after concluding that it is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection clause.
Deal done behind closed doors - Committee Minority excluded
At the direction of the Speaker, Majority Leader, and Majority Whip, the Majority approved a contract with the firm of King & Spalding, LLP, on behalf of the Office of the General Counsel, to defend DOMA-related cases in comt. They released no information on how those arrangements were arrived at, explanation for the rates to be paid, nor explanation of whence those funds would come. When this arrangement was made public, Minority Leader Pelosi and Minority Members of the Committee expressed concerns about the process and result of that contract. After King & Spalding withdrew from the case, the Committee approved an identical contract with the law firm Bancroft PLLC. Once again, and in spite of the aforementioned and prior complaints, the Minority members were neither consulted nor given the opportunity to review any parts of this contract nor even informed of it before its completion. We are unaware of even an attempt to address the concerns which had been expressed by the Minority. As a result, the Committee may have repeated and, thus, compounded errors that may cost the federal government significantly. If the Minority had been included in this process, we would have scrutinized the $500,000 fee, including how that figure was arrived at and whether it accurately reflected the reasonably expected costs of the contract's fulfillment, and insisted on a thorough review by the Ethics Committee for compliance with applicable rules and regulations of the House.
Lack of transparency - Democratic requests for answers ignored
In letters dated April 26, 20II and May I8, 20II, the Democratic Members of the Committee asked Speaker Boehner for more information regarding the process, fees, and scope of these contracts (see attachments).To this day, the Speaker has failed to provide any response.
Irresponsible use of funds
By forcing the Committee to enter a $500,000 contract to defend discrimination, the Republican leadership may have jeopardized the Office of General Counsel's ability to perform its core mission. By failing to disclose, if they even determined, the source of these funds, the Republican leadership has not been forthright with the Minority or the public on the details or ramifications of this contract. The extent of its impact and any potential overruns or funding shortfalls on House operations remains wholly unclear. This is not only irresponsible but creates a troubling atmosphere of uncertainty that could surround all House operations until these questions are resolved.
(following are the two letters referred to previously)