The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #747

January 22, 1990

January 22, 1990 | Backgrounder on

A Conservative Agenda for Comprehensive Campaign Reform

(Archived document, may contain errors)

747 January 22,1990 A CONSERVATIVE AGENDA FOR COMPREHENSIVECAMPAIGN REFORM INTRODUCTION campaign reform is high on its agenda as Congress reconvenes this week.

Congress has pending before it a wide variety of reform proposals, including an eleven-point plan submitted by George Bush on June

29. At the heart of the campaign reform issue should be one overriding objective: making con gressional elections more competitive. Reforms are needed to end what me Imperial Congress,1 calls th e entrenched incumbency of an almost per manent Congress petition has been the federal campaign laws, especially the finance laws.

Originally intended to clean up politics and reduce the role of money in campaigns, the laws instead have insured that incum bents receive the great bulk of campaign money and have prevented challengers from mounting serious campaigns won 98.5 percent of their races Favoring Incumbents. A key reason for the disappearance of electoral com Incumbents running for reelegtion in the House of Representatives in 1988 1 Gordon S. Jones and John A. Marini, eds. The ZtnperiaI Congress (NewYork Pharos Books, 1989 2 Compilations of statistics in Federal Election Commission Final Interim Report, February %I, 1989, pp. 47-67 hereinafter FEC, 2/24/89).

Inymbent senators fared only slightly worse, winning 85 percent of the time.

The margins of victory in Senate and House races, moreover, have in creased dramatically in recent elections: Victors in nearly 86 percent of all 1988 House races were either unopposed or won by margins $f at least 20 per centage points. In 1976, only 69 percent won by such margins The share of senators running unopposed or winning with more than 60 percent of the vote rose from 38 percent in 1976 to 55 percent in 1988. 5 Discouraging Voter Participation. What causes increasing incumbent invul nerability and lack of competition in United States congressional elections?

Are incumbents winning because they are in step with the voters or because the rules give them an advantage? And what are the effects of seemingly in vincible incumbency on voter participation? Are even more voters inclined to opt out of the political pro cess when they see that their votes are unlikely to influence election outcomes?

Such questions have led observers from across the political spectrum to propose congressional electoral reform. Conservatives have criticized in creased use of the free mail f ranking privilege, other government-created in cumbent protection devices, and laws that give corporations and labor unions unfair fund raising advantages over individuals and grass roots or ganizations. Liberals argue that any system of privately funded elections is un fair.Their objective is to replace private financing of elections with a publicly financed and hence bureaucratically regulated election process.

Although such liberal solutions as public financing are deeply flawed and essentially anti-dem ocratic, reforms in the rules governing congressional elec tions clearly are needed to level the playing field for candidates and for voters PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT .CAMPAIGN SYSTEM Congress, predictably acting in its self-interest, has created most of t he problems that ensure incumbent re-election. Examples: Congress has given it self free mailing privileges and large staffs. It has given special advantages to corporate and labor union Political Action Committees (PACs It has man dated that union dues b e deducted directly from workers paychecks, thus financing labor union political activities. It has limited sharply the role of in dividual contributions to political campaigns and has curtailed the ability of political parties to support congressional can d idates 3 Ibid,pp.40-46 4 Compiled by former Representative Mick Staton, Manager of Political Affairs for United States Chamber of Commerce, from Federal Election Commission reports 5 hid 2 Some incumbent benefits exist due to congressional inaction.These i nclude the right to keep excess cash in a campaign account even after the election is won, and the lack of objective standards for drawing congressional district lines. Without such standards, a congressional district can be created accord ing to politica l standards that guarantee one-party control of the seat in Con gress The Franking Privilege and Other incumbent Perquisites Free mail, computer equipment and software, large staffs, increasing office expenses, and expanding district offices create a perma nent, taxpayer financed reelection effort for members of Congress. Since World War II, the combined House and Senate legislative budget wph pays for the members perquisites, rose from 54 million to $2.2 billion.

Although members of Congress have a legitima te interest in maintaining ties with their constituents and helping them on federal matters, incumbents resources far exceed those necessary to perform such tasks. Congressional of fice staff, for example, has exploded from a small group of personal aides to a massive contingent that performs the tasks of old-time ward heelers. From 1947 to 1986, the total number of member and committee staff rose from 2,400 individuals to almost 15,0

00. By 1986, about 44 percent of the House staff and more than one-third of the Seqate staff served in district and state offices rather than in Washington D.C. House reelection rates, meanwhil soared from 79 percent in the 1940s to nearly 99 percent by the late 1980s the greatest is the franking privilege: the ability of inc u mbents to send free mail to constituents. In 1988, members of Congress sent out nearly 900 mil lion pieces of mail. Franked mail allows incumbents to increase their name identification with voters. One study shows that congressmen send bout 50 percent mor e mail in an election year than in the previous off-year During the 1988 election year, franking costs to the taxpayer soared to an unprecedented 114 rnillion.1 Although Congress last year reduced from six to three the annual number of free bulk mailings o f newsletters allotted to each member, the franking privilege remains otherwise unscathed.The cut in bulk mailings, for example 8 Increasing Name Identification. Of all the incumbent advantages, perhaps 8 6 Norman Orstein, et. al Vila1 Sfatistics on Congre s s 1984-1988 (Washington, D.C. Congressional Quarterly 1990 p. 150, Bu&t offhe United States Government: Fiscal Year 1990, pp. 9-12 7 Ornstein, op. cit. pp. 142,144,145,146 8 Orstein, op. cit. pp. 56-57; Compilation from FEC, 2/24/89, pp. 40-67 9 Congressi o nal Research Service, US. Congress Oficial Mail Costs: Fiscal Year 1972 to Present, July 22,1988 p. 41 10Congressional Quattetfy, February 18,1989, p. 301.The estimate was made by the House Clerk who keeps the postage account for both the House and Senate 3 did not cover notices of town meetings at which a congressman plans to ap pear? House members, moreover, still can send an unlimited amount of tax payer-funded first class mail. And Congress is proceeding with plans to build a new 25-acre complex to pre p are, print, process, and receive congressional mail Gerrymandering Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing congressional district boun daries to guarantee one-party control of a seat. It is a crucial factor in the lack of competitiveness for seats in th e House of Representatives.

After each regular census, Congress is reapportioned in accordance with nationwide population shifts. When this occurs as it did in 1982 following the 1980 census, the state legislatures redraw the congressional lines in their j uris dictions. Often the lines are redrawn solely to benefit the political party that happens to control the state legislature.

Although Republicans readily engaged in the practice, the fruits of ger rymandering perhaps are most clearly demonstrated by th e seventeen states in which Democrats in 1982 held the governorships and majorities in both legislative houses. In 1980, Democratic House candidates in those seventeen states received only 55.5 percent of the statewide vote, yet won 63.4 percent of the Ho u se seats. In 1982, after gerrymandering, while Democrats in creased their share of the statewide vote to 58.3 percent, their proportion of seats jumped to 70.5 percent.13 Republican House candidates in 1984 actually won more statewide votes than did Democ r ats, yet Democrats took more House seats, increasing their mar gin to 27 to 18, from 22 to 21 in 1980.14 PolMcal Action Committees ideological groups have become increasingly prominent in political fund rais ing. In 1988 ncumbents received about 42 percen t of their campaign funds from PACs.

More important, PAC contributions heavily favor incumbents over chal lengers. Example: Incumbents in 1988 received a total of $118.4 million from 12 The most skillful gerrymandering took place in California. The result PACs formed by corporations, labor unions, trade associations, and 15 11 Senators Settle for Moderate Cuts on Franked Mailings, Congressional Quarterly, November 11,1989. 12 Mountains of Mailings Grows Ever Taller, 77te Washingfon Posf, July 21,1989, p. A l l3Partisan Redistridiag and the 1982 Congressional Elections, Journal of Polifics,Volume 45, pp. 767-770. 14Congressional Quatterly, Is Competition in Elections Becoming Obsolete? May6,1989, p. 10

62. California gained two seats through reapportionment l5Federal Election Commission, Interim Final Report, April 9,1989, p. 2 (hereinafter, FEC, 4/9/89 FEC 2/24/89, p.7 4 PACs, m re than six times the $18.7 million that PACs contributed to chal lengers.

There are two kinds of PACs, the separate segregated fun d and the non connected. Of the 4,828 PACs registered with the Federal Election v sion (FEC) in 1988, some 72 percent were separate segregated funds Sponsored PACs. These separate segregated funds largely are sponsored by labor unions, corporations, and t r ade associations.They were created in response to the 1974 federal election laws that prohibit direct contributions from the general treasuries of such organizations as labor unions, corpora tions, and trade associations ported with money from the sponsor ing organizations general treasury.

These funds pay for such PAC operating expenses as staff, office space phones, printing and other administrative costs. Once established, the PAC can seek voluntary contributions only from its sponsoring organizations me m bership or employees from union members or corporate executives, for ex ample.The contributions collected by the PAC then are donated to can didates within the limits specified by law Unaffiliated PACs. The remaining 28 percent of PACs are not affiliate d with a sponsoring organization, and thus are termed nonconnected. Unlike the separate segregated funds, nonconnected PACs are not required to limit their fund raising to finite, designated groups. However, nonconnected PACs may not use general treasury f unds of a sponsoring organization to pay operat ing costs.

Instead, nonconnected PACs -which tend to be ideological, issue-based groups with predominantly grassroots support -must use contributions from members to pay for operating expenses.

Many observer s from both sides of the ideological and political spectrum charge that the ability of union and corporate PACs to pay for administrative costs out of their general treasuries clearly gives them a fund raising ad vantage over the grassroots PACs and other nonconnected groups laws Favoring Labor Unions 18 Unlike other PACs, a separate segregated fund can be established and sup 18 16 FEC, 4/9/89, p. 2 17 FEC, 4/9/89, p. 3 182 USC 431(4) defmes political committees. 2 USC 441b (b) defines many of the rights a n d obligations relating to separate segregated funds 5 The federal National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act and various state laws give labor unions the right to require employers to with hold union dues from a workers paycheck and turn over t his money to the union. Organized labor collects some 5 billion annually in dues and fees from workers, or approximately 330 from the average ~0rker.l As little as 10 percent to 20 percent of these dues go toward collective bar gaining, contract administr a tion, and related union work. Varying amounts of the remaining finds are spent on such political activities as phone banks, get out-the vote camyaigns, printing of campaign literature, voter registration and direct mail federal office, and perhaps an equa l amount to state and local candidates plus as much as $350 million in such in-kind contributions as tee printing and voter registration?l Laws allowing unions to use workers dues for political purposes are one of the most potentially corrupting aspects of American politics.The laws guaran tee a steady flow of money to organized labor. Labor, in return, supplies an army of campaign volunteers, money, and other, largely unreported in kind benefits mostly for Democrat candidates,z all at the expense of the wo r ker whose money is collected by the union to pay for something with which he or she does. not necessarily agree The Beck Decision As a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Beck v. Co~unkatibns Wokm ofAmerica, and other decisions, the situation is changin g In Beck, the Court ruled that unions can use mandatory dues and fees only for purposes directly related to collective bargaining and contract administra Labor unions in 1988 gave $35.5 million in cash to candidates running for 19Harry Becks Earthquake, P o licy Review, Summer 1989 2OLehneH v. Fems Fuculty Associution, 643 E Supp 1306 (1986 the court determined that the National Education Association teachers union and its affiliates spent only about 10 percent of dues and fees on collective bargaining, cont r act administration and related work. In Communicution Wo&n ofherico v. Beck 108 S.Crt 2641,2645 (1988 the Supreme Court notes that only 21 percent of CWA funds were expended on collective bargaining matters. See also, Beck v. Comnturticution Wotken ojAmer ico, 468 FSupp. 93 (Md1979).

ZlInterview with Karl Gallant of the National Institute for Labor Rela tioqs Research 23IntemutionulAssociution OfMuchinisls v. StMet, 367 U.S. 740 (1961) which held that the Railroad Labor Act does not permit a union, over the objection of nonmembers, to expend compelled agency fees on political causes; Nufionul Labor Relut i ons Board v. Geneml Motors, 373 US 734,742 (1963) which upheld the notion that unions and employers could agree that all employees must become union members as a condition of employment but stated that the required membership had been whittled down to its fmancial core. Beck, 108 S.Crt 2645, decided that the financial core only includes activities germane to collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment ZFEC, 4/9/89, p. 3 6 tion.The union involved in the case, the Communications W o rkers of America, spent far more on political activities 79 cents of every dollar col lected from workers -than on collective bargaining and contract administra tion Beck, however, does not outlaw union politicking. The decision merely gives workers the r i ght to keep their money if they object to the political use of their dues. Even if a worker does object, however, union leaders can chal lenge the amount of mandatory dues that the worker requests be refunded which would force the objecting worker to seek relief in court.Thus Beck leaves two problems unresolved. First, workers still may be paying to support causes with which they do not agree, and second, if they try to do something about it, they are forced to litigate against wealthy labor unions.

Rollov er of Campaign Money for Incumbents Under the current rules of Congress, a House members campaign commit tee may keep or roll over money donated but not spent on the last elec tion.The candidate may spend this money in his or her next election, let it sit in a bank account, or use it for a variety of items.24 Many reformers oppose this rollover of campaign funds because it is added to the already potent in cumbent advantages of easy PAC money, the franking privilege, and large staffs.These are the key elem ents in an incumbent protection scheme that deprives the system of competition.

Restrictions on Political Parties tant conduit for citizen involvement in the electoral system.The parties nominate presidential candidates, organize petition drives to put fed eral state, and local candidates on the ballot, establish local, state, and national The two major political parties are the largest and perhaps the most impor See generally, Loophole Lets Members Cash in on Way Out, Congressional QumerJy, January 21,1989 p. 103 7 party committees, and recruit and motivate volunteers. Yet, despite the politi cal parties importance, campaign finance laws restrict their ability to field and run candidates in competitive races. Campaign finance laws in part, ac cord political party committees precisely the same status as PACs, limiting the direct contributions of each to 5,000 per election per candidate.

The law, however, permits political parties to make certain added coor dinated expenditures and to consult and coordinate wi th House and Senate candidates on such activities as advertising and polling?5 Allowable total direct contributions plus coordinated expenditures by political parties in 1988 ranged from 53,050 in most House races to between $73,600 and $966,188 in Senate races.

While these amounts may seem large in absolute terms, they are relatively small in comparison with the total amounts spent in modern ampaigns. On average, a winning House candidate in 1988 spent $358,9

92. In the twenty most close1 contested House races, average spending by the winners was 717,07 1.

Thus, even if political parties contribute to a House candidate the full amount allowed by law, the parties could only raise and spend about one seventh of the average amount needed to win a House camp aign.This almost guarantees the parties will play a subsidiary role in those races.

Individual Contributor Limits Limits on individual contributions to federal campaigns were first estab lished in 1974 by amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act.Th at law limited individual contributions to House and Senate races to $1,000 per election. This limit on individual contributions raises two issues, one constitu tional and the other, policy L 29 22 252 USC 441a (d)(3 261n House races, a national party and its congressional committee are considered separate committees, they and the state parties can each contribute $5,000 per election to a House candidate (primary and general are each considered one election 2 USC 441a (a)(5 11 CFR Ch.1 section 110.3(b For S enate races, a national party and its senatorial committee are considered one.They can contribute a total of $17,!m for the general election year. 2 USC 141a (b).Ths provision has no effect on the state party which can still contribute $5,OOO per election . Additionally, the national and state parties.can each make coordinated expenditures on behalf of their congressional candidates. In House races, in multi-district states, state parties can spend Sl0,OOO tim& the cost of living adjustment. In single distr i ct House races and in Senate races, they can spend the greater of ZO,OOO times the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) or %.02 times the state voting age population times the COLA. 2 USC 441a (d). In 1988, coordinated expenditure limits were $23,050 for a mu lti-district House nominee 46,100 for a single district House nominee, and between $46,100 and $938,688.20 for Senate nominees. Federal Election Commission Record, 3/88, pp. 2-

5. Although the latter number may seem high, the winning Senate candidate in California spent $12,969,294 in 19

88. FEC, February. 24,1989, p. 40 27Common Cause press release, No Contest, March 28,1989 28Compilation of statistics in FEC, Federal Election 88 and FEC, 2LMI89 8 The Supreme Court, in Buckley v. Valeo, ruled in 1976 that under the First Amendments guarantee of free speech, individual campaign contributor limits cannot be so low as to prevent andidates from amassing the resour ces necessary for effective advocacy.

Hard Time for Challengers. Events since the Buckley decisi on raise the question of whether the $1,000 limit could still withstand constitutional scrutiny. Whereas incumbents can raise large amounts of money, challengers have an increasingly hard time doing so. The reason: the impact of the in dividual contributo r has been overwhelmed by PA&, and PACs give six times as much money to incumbents as to challengers.Thus, the $1,000 limit on individual contributions may prevent challengers from, in the words of BucWey, amassing the resources necessary for effective adv ocacy.

As a matter of policy, current limits on individual giving place individuals at a disadvantage to PACs. Individual contributions to congressional campaigns are limited to $1,000, whereas PACs can give as much as $5,0

00. Individuals moreover, are permitted to give as much as $5,000 to a PAC, which creates an incentive for individuals to give through PACs.

Not only does this reduce individual giving to candidates, it also weakens the nexus between congressmen and their dist ricts. Whereas most individual giving tends to go to local representatives, PACs are far less likely to rely on geographic criteria, and contribute instead on the basis of a candidates stand on relatively narrow issues 25 THE LIBERAL REFORM AGENDA The lib e ral version of reform would restrict the individuals role while in creasing that of government, by limiting private funding and replacing it with public financing. Such liberal proposals would limit the rights of candidates and independent groups to commu n icate with the voters, and conversely hamper the individuals right to support a candidate by limiting direct and in kind contributions former Democratic WhipTony Coelho of California.The central points of his bill and other liberal initiatives before Cong ress include?

Public Financing and Spending Limits finance campaigns with public money and may condition acceptance of the mone on an agreement by the candidate to abide by specified spending limits. Liberals support this combination of public financing an d spending The primary liberal reform package was introduced in the House by Under the Supreme Courts 1976 BuckZey v. Vale0 decision, Congress may 51 29Buckley vs. Vuleo, 424 US 1,19 (1976 30See H.R. 14 and S. 137 31 Buckley, p. 57, fn. 65 9 limits to fig ht what they call the influence of private money, which they con- sidered tainted because the donors may want something in return.

Opponents of public financing, by contrast, believe that Congress has more responsible uses for tax money. They also oppose t he encumbrances rules and regulations that come with the public financing scheme, seeing them as an erosion of the candidates right to communicate effectively with the voters Limiting Access to Voters. Opponents of public financing also argue that the all e ged need to set spending limits implies a need to limit the amount of communication that candidates should have with voters.This would benefit incumbents, who have higher name recognition and regular access to the media.To level the playing field, a chall e nger understandably may need to spend considerably more than an incumbent. Campaign spending ceilings would limit a challengers ability to do this curate portrait of themselves or their positions.To combat this may require spending large amounts of money on advertising. Campaign spending limits would curtail this.

Finally, designing a fair method of funding House races would be very dif ficult. Even though each congressional district has about the same number of people, the conditions differ tremendously. Example: A candidate in Brook lyn, New York, must pay far higher media costs to reach the 500,000 people in his district than does a House candidate in Wyoming where media costs are much lower Bundling Another proposed reform would eliminate bundling. Thi s refers to the practice in which individuals send to an intermediary contributions ear marked for a candidate.The contributions are bundled together by the in termediary and sent in one large sum to the candidate. Such contributions do not count against t he expenditure limits of the intermediary.

Critics charge that bundling evades the intent of campaign finance laws that limit contributions from corporations, trade associations, and unions. Bun dling, moreover, enhances the role of the intermediary, theor etically confer ring on him the status of a major contributor.

Amendments right to free association.The reason If it is lawful for each con tributor to write a check at home and mail it to a candidate, freedom of as sociation permits individuals to do the same thing together in a room and pass their checks on through one person Independent Expenditures to influence voters opinions of a candidate. Typically, these expenditures have gone toward advertisements directed against incumbents Additionally, some c a ndidates believe that the media fail to provide an ac Proposals to eliminate bundling, however, conflict with the First Independent expenditures are funds spent by an indi~dual or organization 10 In Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court ruled that restricti n g independent campai~ expenditures was an unconstitutional encroachment on free speech. As long as those who spend the money do so without coordinating with or consulting with the campaign of a federal candidate, such expendi tures could not be outlawed b y Congress.

Because independent expenditures often have paid for hard-hitting adver tisements directed against incumbents, many in Congress sought to ban them.

Stifled in that attempt by the Supreme Court, they have now proposed that free air time be give n to the target of an independent expenditure broadcast This reform, however, also could violate the Constitution. It would create a hierarchy of political speech with one form deemed so objectionable that the government must intervene to facilitate a res ponse. Except for certain narrow circumstances, government should not be in the business of deciding what speech is good or bad or needs to be rebutted.

Soft Money Another target of liberal proposals is so-called soft money. These are funds raised outside federal campaign finance restrictions but spent to in fluence federal ~ampaigns.3~ The money usually is raised by a nominally inde pendent finance committee that actually is controlled by the federal can didate who eventually benefits. Often soft money is raised in large contribu tions. In the 1988 presidential race, for example 100,000 contributions were routinely made to the finance committees established b Bush and Dukakis fund raisers and then donated to state and local parties. The national par ties a lso raise soft money through their non-federal accounts.

State and local parties use soft money for such party-building efforts as get out-the-vote drives. A controversy arises, however, when such efforts for local candidates also help federal candidates. Under federal election law, the parties must account for the portion of soft money allocated to federal cam paigns and meet all federal election rules regarding that money. Yet, state laws govern most of the soft money efforts. And many state laws permit con tributions from sources banned by federal law, such as corporate and union treasuries. Many states, moreover, have no contributor limits and no dis closure requirements.

Senators David Boren, the Oklahoma Democrat, and Robert Byrd, the West VirginiaDem ocrat, have cosponsored a bill (S.137) that would impose new federal regulation of soft money.The Boren-Byrd bill would mandate that any money solicited, received, or spent in connection with a federal elec tion be subject to federal limits. The bill spec i fically targets get-out-the-vote 34 321bid pp. 48-49 33See Herbert Alexander, Stmtegiesfor Election Refonn, in a study by the Project for Comprehensive Campaign Reform, 1989, pp. 44-57 341bid, p. 45 11 and voter registration activities. Any effort by a st ate or local party that in any way affects a federal election would be regulated by the federal government.

Thus, even if nine local candidates and only one federal candidate benefit from a get-out-the-vote campaign, the entire effort will be federally reg u lated, and most important, subject to the funding and spending limits of federal campaigns A CONSERVATIVE REFORM AGENDA The goal of appropriate election law reform should be to encourage citizen participation, create a level playing field for citizens a s well as candidates and minimize government interference in the electoral process In particular, election law should recognize that in political campaigns, ef fective free speech is dependent upon a candidates financial resources. Laws that limit the abil i ty of candidates to raise and spend money, therefore in evitably weaken the candidates right to free speech, and weaken democracy by harming a challengers ability to run a serious race Correcting Distortions. Laws that give some groups -such as labor and corporate PAC3 advantages over other groups distort a system based on equal participation. And laws that give incumbents large advantages over challengers are equally unfair and further damage a democratic electoral sys tem.

Current U.S. election laws will have to be changed if incumbent privileges are to be ended, if corporate and union PACs are to be put on an equal foot ing with other citizens groups if strict contribution limits that inhibit in dividual participation are to be lifted, and if fairness i s to govern the drawing of new lines for congressional districts.

Nine specific initiatives are central to such reform 1 1) Protect workers rights by codifying the Beck decision The Federal Election Campaign Act prohibits unions f rom participating in federal elections, with only three exceptions 1) providing overhead and ad ministrative costs for PACs, 2) engaging in unlimited direct advocacy to mem bers, and 3) conducting partisan voter registration drives.The law should be amend e d to prohibit even those activities unless the unions comply with the Beck decision by proving-what percentage of union dues-and fees goes to pur poses not connected with contract negotiation or collective bargaining; by in forming employees of their righ t to retain such non-contract related dues and by making it easy for employees to exercise that right.

Even before Congress codifies Beck, George Bush should instruct the Na tional Labor Relations Board to ensure that all current and prospective union memb ers are informed of their rights under Beck 12 2) Allow House challengers to raise up to $400,000 in contributions of any size, with full disclosure The most important campaign finance reform would force incumbents to defend their records and discuss issu e s. Yet, this will occur only if challengers raise adequate funds. Without large amounts of money, a candidate cannot seriously challenge an incumbent. Without serious challenges, incumbents have no need to defend their records, no discussion of the issues takes place and incumbents easily win re-election.

Current contribution limits of $1,000 for individuals and $5,000 for PACs should not apply to the first $400,000 raised by House challengers. A similar exemption should apply to Senate candidates, with th e applicable limit to be determined by a formula based on voting-age-population. This would allow challengers to spend less time raising money and more time making their views known to voters.This reform also would help level the playing field be tween ch a llengers and incumbents, reducing the impact of such incumbent advantages as large office staffs, the franking privilege, and access to the media and PAC money. This would end if a challenger could raise $400,000 even in one contribution, or four contribu t ions of $100,000 each (a formula for Senate challengers based onvoting Age Population should also be adopted).These sums should be reported to the Federal Election Commis sion in the same way as other contributions 3) Limit the franking privilege and curt ail other taxpayer supported in cumbent advantages.

Legislators have a legitimate interest in keeping their constituents in formed.This would be served, however, through one free district-wide bulk mailing each year at least 90 days before an election and franking rights to answer all unsolicited letters. Congressional staffs, meanwhile, should be reduced by one-half, with concomitant reductions in office expense accounts.

These reforms will reduce the incumbents advantages and demonstrate that Congress is serious about budget cutting 4) Restore fairness to political fund raising by placing corporate and union-supported PACs under the same rules as ideological PACs.

Under the 1989 Bush campaign reform proposal, union and corporate PACs, like ideological gr assroots PACs, would have to pay for overhead and administrative-costs with money raised from contributors. If this provision be comes law, there is no reason to restrict PACs further by lowering their con tribution limits. PACs serve well as a device to involve many small con tributors in the political system 5) Strengthen the political parties by raising contribution and spending limits.

At a minimum, political parties should be able to sponsor and fully fund challenger races. This could be accomplished by allowing parties to con tribute to a challengers campaign an amount that equals the value of incum bent perquisites. Ideally, all contribution and expenditures limits on parties 13 should be removed, thus allowing parties to resume a centralrole in cam paigns 6 Restore integrity to congressional redistricting by establishing uniform, objective standards Attempts by both parties to disenfranchise voters because of their political philosophy continue. Uniform redistricting standards should be established therefore, mandating that lines be compact and adhere to geographical, coun ty, and municipal boundaries.

One way to remove politics from redistricting is to mandate that district lines be drawn according to a mathematical formula that joins adjacent cen s us tracks. Alan Helsop, Director of the Rose Institute of Government at Claremont McKenna College, and Lewis Gann, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, have proposed such a formula. It would join a states northern-most adjacent census track, and so o n down the state until a re quired population total is met.This proposal may appear as a 1990 ballot in itiative in California 7 Zero-out campaign treasuries at the end of an election year When, after an election, incumbents keep large bank accounts in pr e para tion for their re-election, that puts challengers at a tremendous disadvantage and discourages all but the wealthiest and bravest.To encourage more elec toral competition, the practice of rolling over excess campaign funds should be discontinued 8) P r omote freedom of speech and the concept of in-state and in-district support by raising contribution limits for all individuals, with higher limits for residents of the state or district in which an election occurs The maximum contribution limit has not be e n changed in 15 years.The ar bitrary limit failed to decrease the role of money in elections, but did decrease the amount of support a citizen can give to a candidate whose ideas he supports. Individual contribution levels, therefore, should be increased t o 5,000 for out-of-state and out-of-district individuals. The campaign finance laws, moreover, have skewed donating patterns so that many congressmen receive much of their money from outside their districts. A higher limit for in dividuals within the dist r ict would benefit the voters rather than PACs and special interests 9 Restore the income tax credit of $250 for contributions made by in dividuals in-state or in-district Candidates raise large sums of special interest money from outside their districts a situation that could lead to congressmen putting the concerns of PACs and special interests ahead of their own constituents.

A 50 percent federal tax credit for political contributions was allowed be tween 1972 and 1986 In that time, the maximum credit on a single return went from $12.50 in 1972 to 50 in 1986.TheTax Reform Act of 1986 repealed the provision. It should be restored, and raised to 250 for in 14 dividual contributors residing in a candidates district. This reform will stimu late citizen parti c ipation, and help to counterbalance the special interest money raised by incumbents outside their districts CONCLUSION Current U.S. election law needs to be changed. The rules favor incumbents and such contributors as union and corporate PACs, while discr iminating against challengers and individual citizens who wish to participate. Many of these shortcomings are the result of reforms passed in 19

74. Now reformers again are proposing changes that would increase government control, further squeeze out the c itizen, and fail to address the problems high lighted in the Supreme Courts Beck decision Fairness and Competition. A plan has been offered to Congress by George Bush. Although not without flaws, his proposal would correct many problems.

It would reduce, such incumbent advantages as the franking privilege eliminate the unions, ability to use dues and fees taken from unwilling workers, help to restore the political parties strength, and curtail ger rymandering To improve his plan, however, Bush should prop ose allowing challengers to accept individual contributions of any amount until they reach $400,000.This and his other proposals, would do much to inject fairness and competition into congressional elections.

Prepared for The Heritage Foundation by Andrew J. Cowin Director of Research, The Washington Policy Group, Inc 15

About the Author