NER Washington forum; Election campaign reform, part 2
Frank I want to hear do stem from the campaign finance a 1967 it was only after I had been persuaded that the laws governing financing of campaigns were honored more in their breach than they were in their observance. The voice you just heard was that of United States senator James B. Pearson Republican of Kansas. Our guest this week on the NPR Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This week a discussion of election campaign reform. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities of W am you FM American University Radio in Washington DC. I'm Bill Greenwood. Our guest this week is serving in his sixth year as a United States senator. James Pierson was appointed to the Senate in 1962 to fill the vacancy created by the death of his predecessor. He has been elected to the post twice since that initial appointment. Senator Pearson has gained major attention in the 90 of Congress for his
interest in ways to reform the federal election campaigning system particularly the financial aspects of campaigning. He is author of a major piece of legislation on this subject. And for our first question Senator Pearce and perhaps you could tell us the details of that Senate bill. Yes Bill I began to actually it's a very complicated subject and I think one of the reasons some of my colleagues a minute attracted to this particular bill is the simplicity of it. It provides each contributor who's also a taxpayer may receive 50 percent of any gift to $10 as a tax credit. That is after you determines what is tax law about what is on his federal tax return he may take 50 percent of that up to $10. And as a complementary a measure or an alternative
way of giving and receiving a tax incentive. A contributor who wants to get more may may have a tax deduction up to $500. From his tax liability and so in summary it's 50 percent of any gift up to $10 as a tax credit or a $500 as a tax deduction now that's only half the building. The giving of money is important but that but the reporting is also important and this bill provides for right for disclosure of all monies that candidates receive and how they spend it. Well now you mention a tax credit and a tax deduction. How does this practically differ What's the difference there. Well the tax credit is simply that after you learn what your tax liability is taking as an example of my tax liability maybe it may be 200 and then
$5 if I give $10 up to any candidate or to any committee and the side that I want to credit I can take half of that or $5 off the amount of the government 80 duction which is the alternative way is. Well for instance we give to the church or to the Boy Scouts or to the United Front. And the deduction is that amount that we deduct from the gross income to determine our tax money income. So one is a credit and the other is a deduction. Senator Pearce and why do you think this legislation is necessary why have you introduced this bill. Well I mean reduced it frankly because it allows that are on the books now just just start working. As I said they're honored more in their breach and then they are in their observance. Let me give you some concrete examples. We have now the limits on the amount candidates may spam for instance an interstate committee and that be a committee that would provide for
for a national election the election of a president or vice president may only spin three million dollars. That's what the law says. But there aren't any limits as to the number of interstate committees one may have and. And actually the figures indicate that in one thousand sixty four. About 35 million dollars were spent on the national level and the presidential level about for all elections every place. In 1964 some 200 million dollars were spent. Well I'm going back to the candidates for the Senate and for the House of Representatives to limit the amount spent for a United States senator is $25000 and on a member of the House of Representatives $5000. Well now we know these numbers just are realistic to run for the United States Senate in a state like California New York may require three or four million dollars. Well what happens is that the limits are on candidates as to how
much they may spend. But there isn't a limit on the number of committees that one may form and and spend through the committees. There's a limitation $5000 on how much each individual contributor may may give. But he may give $5000 to any number of committees. Likewise the reporting system that that exist today is totally inadequate. I just think that the system of putting a limitation on on candidates and commit is unrealistic and it hasn't worked. What I would do is take the limits off and make a full disclosure a fir reporting system and then let the light of published prevail and I think that the tax credit broadening the base and broadening the participation so that candidates now need not be a rich man or rely upon rich
friends. So many qualified people today that are people of great wealth and and and I think democracy would be served by letting people participate in every phase of political activity and that's just not going to the polls and voting or handing out cards or licking ave Lopes and stamping on the low. It's giving in and I I think that this is a very important thing and it's one of the reasons I'm introduce this legislation. So what you're saying then is that you feel there should be no limit on the amount of money that a candidate can spend but that he should report it all three Isaura says the limit just hasn't worked. Take the limits off but just make it absolutely sure that the public knows where the money comes from and how it's spent. When I if you take this limit off and you mentioned earlier that you feel wealthy should not limit a person's candidacy Don't you feel that they have no limits might restrict
the people who could run for office financially speaking. No no more than it does now. They the limits that that are imposed in the law today. No inhibition at all on the amount can be spent. You just you just form 100 committees and go on and on. I think I think the broad participation of the public the incentives through the tax measure. Well let me give you a concrete example we anticipate through the mechanism of this bill that would be raised about 140 to 160 million dollars of which the federal government would participate about paying half of it through the tax credit if you take if you take your credit of 50 percent of $10 and we estimate and project out how many people we think would would participate in a system where we find that the cost of the federal government isn't
prohibitive it's about 78 and I mean dollars a year now would be aspects of your bill have any effect on local and state elections. No just federal election would you hope the state governments I would assume I would if this works out let me let me say that. This concept of this legislation isn't original with me I am actually it and it goes back to a committee in 1962 headed up by Alexander Hurd Usenet chancellor of Vanderbilt University. By and large we we were and we sought to improve we sought to modify we sought to make this this legislation more applicable to the current conditions but fundamentally I don't want to take a great deal of credit for something and very great now standing committee put together a long time ago. We changed it substantially but it's really the work of an in-depth
study. Senator you've talked about the laws now on the books to judge to regulate campaign financing. But there are several laws as you so well know the corrupt campaign act that there's a codify title on the subject. Is this the accuracy of reporting these things so widespread that that you feel these laws are totally unfeasible. Is there no salvage for them. Well perhaps they can. They can be modified but. But what you're going to have to do is to broaden them out so that you know where you have a limitation on a candidate you're just going to have to put limitations on the number of committees he can have. But but you then then you begin to patch it up and you begin to go back and try to plug this poll and another one pops over someplace else. I'm just persuaded
one basic concept and that is if we have a complete disclosure as to where the money comes from and where it goes if we can broaden out the contribution base so that we have the greatest number of people to participate in in in in political activity and indeed in contributions them selves then we're going to have a workable system and we're going to have a system that can stand the light of public inspection. Senator Pearce when you talk about the reporting process problems with respect to campaign financing How would your bill regulate the reporting who would do it. Well actually we set up what we call a registrar of election finances within the General Accounting Office and they would provide that candidates must report all contributions they receive and must report all expenditures they make.
And likewise any committee for a candidate would have to make a report of all expenditures and contributions that they receive $100 or are above. And so far as contributors are concerned any person who contributes more than twenty five hundred dollars must make a report this contribution. This gets then to be a public document and it is open to publication and inspection. Indeed we hope to have the greatest amount to publish upon it. Today we filed our return with the secretary of the house of the Senate. There's little or no published upon it and these records are thrown away two years after their five. What would be the composition of this Board of Registry. Well we leave it pretty much as I recall the terms of the bill it's some six people who act in advisory capacity
but actually the registrar of the office of the registrar and within the General Accounting Office would perform this function. The exact person they all would be. As I recall a point about the Senate by the president with the concurrence by the Senate. What would be the penalties for someone who violated the law. The bill provides for a for pay only fined up to $1000 one year in jail as I recall when I was senator a lot of people do not actually contribute money to campaigns on occasion they will contribute their time they will give certain products which their company may use printing as a big one I believe. Would your bill regulate these donations on monetary basis. Well if it doesn't in its present languish it ought to be modified so that it does. I think it's a very good point. I think it's one that isn't generally understood
by the public. Quite often services are donated and quite often supplies are donated and stamps and stationery and all of these things these are things of value and and if the bill is deficient in that regard and that's precisely why we run into committees and go over them with a fine tooth comb to pull out those those items just as you mentioned. If it doesn't cover that and I and I think it probably in the reporting system it refers only to money as it ought to refer to monies and services and articles of value. Senator there is currently legislation which would eventually allocate certain amounts of taxpayer money for use in presidential campaigns. This would seem quite relevant to your bill how do you feel about that proposal. I suppose you're referring to the
long checkoff call long check off. Well first it starts at the top and for just the president and vice president. Wow. My bill is limited to federal officers it would include Senators and members of the House of Representatives of course. I I really am. I just frankly don't believe that the game is going to be achieved under the so-called long Amendment. But without being facetious at all. I think in spite of the broadest educational program that can ever be instituted people are going to think that the check off for one dollar and what it amounts to is that each person is going to get 50 cents to each side to check off of one dollar I'm sure is going to be interpreted as an extra contribution or an extra tax rather than me. And then a tax credit. And if there's one time
and people are generally. Pretty unhappy with their with their government it's about time that they fill out their income tax return it's about time they signed that check. Sinon in their taxes and I just I just can't assume that at that time they're going to be motivated to participate in contributing $1 of whatever their tax liability may be. It's a step it's a step in the right direction I just I'm think the tax credit and tax reduction would be a better method. What you're saying that on the long checkoff part is that you feel even though it's only a dollar some people on a matter of principle might not donate $10. Well I think that's right. This bill as you so well know is now in a sort of state of limbo. They've agreed to keep the long provision but to withhold any use of the monies. What proposals do you foresee as the Senate wrestles with that problem.
I think you know take a look at all of these these proposals Senator Gordon day just you know I was yesterday but in a bail out I would provide for just outright appropriation by the federal government of so much money to finance the election of the president and the vice president and senators and members of the House of Representatives. Let Senator Gore's approach. My fault with that is that I think there still needs to be a citizen participation in the given in the contributing to political campaigns that contact between the candidate and those who work for him and those people who want to participate in his cause and the cause of his party or because of the principles he stands for I think is very important and. And so for that reason I wouldn't be in favor of Senator Gore's
proposal. I think Senator Proxmire has made a proposal of some sort and I forgot the details of it now but all of these are going to be taken for the appropriate committee and and it may be a combination of two or three bills if we come out with it. I happen to prefer mine of course. I wouldn't have introduced it but it did it. I'm sure it can be improved upon and in those places where we can make it a more meaningful measure and reach scenes we seek why I'm happy to have it amended So in answer to your question I would just guess that we're going to take these all to finance including along propose and come up with something and we have yet to hear from the president the president indicated that the administration would have a proposal that I have reason to believe that it's going to be very much along the same lines as a Bayliner
doost. One of the big criticisms of the use of the income tax return check off method has been that the taxpayer would have no means to designate a particular party if he wanted his money to go to a certain party. That's right they only if I check off a dollar why that funds tain are going to be divided 50/50 between the two major parties. So I'm going to give 50 cents to the Democrats and 50 cents to the Republicans. What you're saying then is that your bill would take care of this problem this problem would not exist through your legislation but you can you can donate to any candidate just as you can choose whether you want to give to the Girl Scouts or whether you want to give to the Boy Scouts. You can you can choose any candidate who's qualified and that would be any candidate who's been on the ballot. For any party that's been on the ballot in 10 or more states in the last general election. I would just hope that freedom of choice of political
contribution would still be left in the individual. Senator there have been several bills and many words spoken in the Congress concerning this election campaign reform. Congressman Jim Wright of Texas has a bill pending over on the House side. Could we say that the election reform is going to be a major consideration of the NIE Congress or is this just a small issue. Oh I am. They are live without seeming to to. To. Bigley I began our talk detrimental to the great work of the Congress. The Congress does legislative does legislate in Fayad. I'd say that in nine years Congress if you could put simple labels on what we've concentrated on it'd be in the field of consumer interest would be in a field of safety. You'd be in the field of
Government Ethics and because of this great emphasis I happen to serve on the Senate standard an ethics committee standard conduct committee and we've just for 14 months worked upon the so-called Dodd matter Senator Dodd of Connecticut filed a report. It now awaits Senate action but but in the whole. Political ethics and reform political financing is at the very heart of it and I think that's why there's been a great emphasis that and the rain and and the tremendously increased cost. The elections that prevailed today it's going up about five to six million dollars a year and as I said early in the program in 1964 and all elections we spent about two hundred million
dollars in this country four years earlier than that in 1060 we spent one hundred seventy million. Nineteen fifty six one hundred fifty five million or one thousand fifty to one hundred forty million. So these are statistics and they're rather hard to understand but. But just let me just say in summary say that in 1952 we spend one hundred forty million on elections in this country and in 1900 for 200 million. So the enormous cost of running for office today is one incentive to to make a reform in this field. The other is it is so that candidates may be insulated from. From those that finance his campaign I think generally and I say it also insanity to those in public life today are just as honest as in any other profession or any other group of people. But
the reliance upon pressure groups wealthy friends for the necessary finances to run is just an unhealthy condition and what you're implying then is rather than shutting off any current sources of campaign funds your bill would actually add new sources they add new sources broaden it out as as as greatly as we can. You mentioned your work on the Senate Ethics Committee Senator Pearce and does your bill have any is there any motivation resulting from Iraq. No no not at all I have and I did personally debated this with myself. Introducing it at this time. We had done the gradient of work on it in our office and and. And we introduced it this time but it it it will go it did go to the finance committee and it was not referred to the Ethics Committee. So I am. Let me let me make one point crystal clear and that is that the introduction of this bill has no
relationship to them. Any case pending before the Ethics Committee or the work of the Ethics Committee or the code that we are now i'm seeking to formulate and to adopt. Well as a case in point Senator let me ask you Senator Dodd has said that some of these fund raising activities which he knew which were held on his behalf were designed to raise money for his personal use. This of course is a debatable point I don't want to get in a debate on whether that's true or not. But would your bill allow such fund raising activities deductible for the personal use of a member of the federal government. Knowing this is intended to for to finance campaigns and not for personal use. And I think it's so drawn that it could not be interpreted any other way. Do you think your bill might prevent such fund raising activities from occurring in the future.
No I can't say but I would hope so. I would hope that we rely less on the wealthy giver or the buyer of the hundred dollar ticket by our thousand dollar membership in some club. They would broaden it out on the small giver may participate and in that way. Some of the dangers that exist today. We're back now talking about the real purposes of this legislation. Political ethics and also the enormous cost of running for public office. And of course one of the big costs we hear so often from members and Office is the cost of advertising particularly television and radio advertising you have NATO another bill which I feel is relevant to the one we're discussing and this would require equal time for candidates or rather the repeal of that requirement could you tell us a little bit about that a lot only refers to to the president and to the vice president and it doesn't refer to senators and
congressman. I am the cost of a national campaign the cost of television on a national basis for candidates. It's just an enormous. Of course I am and and the equal time provision means that if a network gives time to a candidate in one place a party they must seek out and offer equal time to every other candidate whether they be running on some minor splinter party and this is a great handicap. I think that it will not do harm to the fullest participation in political party activities by eliminating the equal time provision for for the Vice-President and for the for the president. I've introduced this bill did it today and it's it's related to this but it's another feel entirely. We've heard a lot of talk on this subject on the floor of the Senate recently and many
members of the minority party of which you of course I want to say that the president of the United States currently a Democrat gets a lot of free time which may or may not be political in nature and there have been some complaints about that. Do you feel that this bill might widen the area of complaint in that field. No I don't think so I can understand. We're really sad from my partisan standpoint to press on the United States is news. He's a most powerful figure in the most powerful nation in the world today. His decisions. Hold on. Matters of life and death for four individuals and for nations almost our last Sunday I if you want to really understand the awesome power of the presidency of the United States today. Bill you should have been with me last Sunday I flew out to our Air Force base at the Strategic Air Command sacks great since realized
headquarters there where they were there in touch with the entire globe and the control of all the missiles and aircraft that we have today whereby an exchange between the United States and Soviet Union would kill two hundred and forty million people within 30 minutes. Make that dramatic illustration of the power of the presidency to show that what he does do and what he does say is a vitally important step. Everybody in the world today and so so it is news. The exposure is what. Candidates would would very much like to have as they try to become known in China and want to become known and they think people of the old farm. I think in regard to the criticism of the president and all the free time he has on TV it's probably unjustified when you really look at the office he holds and the responsibility he has.
Senator Pearce in our time is up I'm sorry. Thank you sir. Thank their own. You've been listening to a discussion of the election campaign reform featuring United States senator James B Pearson Republican of Kansas. This program was produced for the national educational radio network through the facilities at WMU FM American University Radio in Washington D.C.. This is Bill Greenwood inviting you to listen again next week for another edition of The NPR Washington forum a weekly program concerned with the significant issues before us as a nation. This is the national educational radio network.
- NER Washington forum
- Election campaign reform, part 2
- Producing Organization
- WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- This program focuses on election campaign reform. United States Senator James B. Pearson, R-Kansas.
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- Discussion series featuring a prominent figure affecting federal government policy.
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Host: Greenwood, Bill
Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Speaker: Pearson, James B. (James Blackwood), 1920-
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University of Maryland
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- MLA: “NER Washington forum; Election campaign reform, part 2.” 1967-07-06. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-p55dh156>.
- APA: NER Washington forum; Election campaign reform, part 2. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-p55dh156