Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor today to criticize a recent proposal to enact taxpayer-funded congressional campaigns.
McConnell, a longtime proponent of the First Amendment in politics, derided the plan as a "bailout for politicians."
"At a time when most Americans are outraged that tax dollars have been used to pay million-dollar bonuses to executives at failed financial firms, it’s hard to convince anyone that taxpayer dollars should cover the cost of balloons, bunting, and campaign barbecues," McConnell said.
The proposal, sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin and Arlen Specter would take campaigns out of the hands of citizens and put government in charge. McConnell noted that actual support for public financing has fallen dramatically, as just 8 percent of Americans opted to support the presidential check-off system in 2007.
The bill is expected to be introduced as soon as today.
McConnell’s full statement is below:
Only in Washington: Bailouts for politicians
‘It’s hard to convince anyone that taxpayer dollars should cover the cost of balloons, bunting, and campaign barbecues’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding public financing of campaigns:
"At the moment, I think it’s safe to say that the most important issue for the American people is the state of the economy and the massive amount of taxing, spending, and borrowing that some in Washington are proposing as an antidote to the downturn.
"Yet now comes news of another proposal out of Washington that’s sure to make most Americans join together in unison and exclaim, ‘Only in Washington.’
"Earlier this week, the ‘Washington Post’ reported on the return of a uniquely bad idea. I’m referring to bailouts for politicians, or what some people politely refer to as public financing of campaigns.
"In recent years, this horrible idea has been championed by some who later abandoned this very system during their own campaigns. Well, it’s hard to defend a system that’s rejected even by its strongest advocates. It’s harder still to justify handouts for politicians at a time of soaring deficits, a shrinking economy, and massive job losses.
"At a time when most Americans are outraged that tax dollars have been used to pay million-dollar bonuses to executives at failed financial firms, it’s hard to convince anyone that taxpayer dollars should cover the cost of balloons, bunting, and campaign barbecues.
"But don’t take it from me.
"Every year, Americans register their opposition to the idea of taxpayer-funded campaigns in the largest nationwide poll ever devised. On April 15th, Americans are asked on their tax forms whether they support taxpayer-funded elections. The question is clear and straightforward: Do we want our money to go to soldiers and schools, or streamers and stump speeches? Well, more than 90 percent of us vote for the former – and the percentage only seems to gets higher every year. In 1980, the percentage of Americans who agreed to divert their tax money from the Treasury to pay for political campaigns reached its high water mark at 28.7 percent. Since then, it’s plummeted. In 2007, the last year for which figures are readily available, 8.3 percent of taxpayers thought taxpayer funded elections were a good idea.
"America faces many challenges at the moment, and the American taxpayer is justifiably worried about the prospect of what too much spending, too much taxing, and too much borrowing will mean for the future of our country and for our children. Congress should heed the advice of nearly all Americans: Don’t use our tax dollars to pay for your political campaigns. Taxpayer-funded campaigns are a bad idea at any time, according to 90 percent of Americans. They’re a really bad idea in the middle of a recession."