WASHINGTON, D.C., April 7, 2014– A day after the Supreme Court of the United States declined to limit federal campaign donations by upholding Citizens United, President Obama quietly signed into law new legislation that ended the public financing of presidential campaign conventions.
“It’s good news to the taxpayers of America that after something like three decades, we will not be using tax money to pay for the political conventions,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after the measure cleared the Senate last month. “For balloons and all of the rest that are part of a political convention, that ought to be paid for by willing donors, not by the taxpayers of the United States.”
The reason you didn’t hear about it? The name of the bill had nothing to do with campaign finance reform. The bill is called the The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, and the amendment ending the tax payer subsidy was quietly tucked away deep within the bill.
President Obama posed with the bill’s chief House sponsor, Rep Eric Cantor (R- Va.), and the family of Gabriella Miller, who died after being diagnosed with brain cancer at age nine.
Obama championed the bill “a wonderful way to remember a wonderful girl”, while never mentioning its related requirement to “terminate the entitlement of national committees of eligible political parties to payments from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.”
Many have dissented that tax-payer funds should not be used to promote the two-party conventions every four years. However, they do have a choice. Every year when you file your taxes you are given the option to “donate” $3 to the presidential fund. This is where the money comes from.
The subsidy system provided $18 million to fund the Democrat an Republican national conventions in 2012. Third party conventions are not allowed direct access without clearing substantial hurdles.
Republican leadership say the funds will instead be used to conduct research on childhood illness.
Many oppose the bill. In fact, many Democrats were furious. House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.) voiced extreme opposition to the bill.
Common Cause, a nonpartisan government watchdog, called the move a step in the wrong direction.
“It strengthens the hold of millionaire donors, corporations, trade groups and other special interests on our political parties and their candidates,” warned Common Cause president Miles Rapoport. “Those big donors will swoop in to cover convention expenses now absorbed by public funds, and they’ll extract all manner of special favors in return.”
How the RNC and DNC not being funded from tax-payer wallets diminishes the tax-payer’s voice in Washington isn’t exactly clear. The $3 “donation” gives the average tax-payer no more voice in Congress as they have today over the lobbyist who can walk straight into a U.S. Senator’s office anytime and has that Senator’s personal cell-phone on speed dial. Do you have your U.S. Senator’s cell-phone number because you checked a box on your tax return?