Gregg Harper Should Work to Improve--Not Eliminate--Presidential Public Financing

Harper's legislation would put elections further into hands of 1%

Washington, D.C.—Campaign finance watchdog Public Campaign Action Fund blasted Congressman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) for leading the effort to eliminate the presidential public financing system in the U.S. House.

“Gregg Harper has only been in Congress a couple of years but it’s clear he’s a seasoned career politician—-putting special interests ahead of everyday people,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “Instead of trying to give our elections completely over to the 1%, he should be trying to improve the system to benefit the 99%.”

Harper is the lead sponsor of HR 3463, legislation that would eliminate the presidential public financing system that was passed after the Watergate scandal. The bill could be up for a vote this Thursday.

Harper should focus on ways to improve the system, not eliminate it entirely. A small-dollar matching system that encourages candidates to raise money from everyday people instead of wealthy interests, bolstered by online fundraising that didn’t exist in the original system was passed in the 1970s, would go a long way toward fixing the system.

In 2009, at a Committee on House Administration hearing on the Fair Elections Now Act, a bill that would bring a small-dollar matching system to Congress, Harper said, “you know, if it wasn't for special-interest groups coming to see us, we wouldn't have anything to do.”

Here are the “special-interest groups” that Harper is likely familiar with, based on Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of his fundraising data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

  • Harper and his GreggPAC leadership committee have received at least $301,250 in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector over his career.
  • Other top interests include oil and gas donors ($191,550 in contributions) and lawyers ($165,600).
  • Top givers to Harper’s campaign committee include AT&T ($28,750), the American Bankers Association ($16,000), and Raytheon ($14,700).
  • So far in 2011, oil and gas interests are the biggest giving donors to Harper, with $27,000 in donations. Real estate interests ($16,500 in donations) are second and lobbyists ($14,300) are third.

“The people of Mississippi want politicians that represent them, not Washington special interests,” said Donnelly. “With so much money flooding into our elections, the last thing Harper should be doing is pushing legislation to make it even easier to buy our politicians.”

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Public Campaign Action Fund works to hold elected officials accountable for the favors they do for special interest donors and fights to pass comprehensive change in the way elections are financed. Learn more at www.campaignmoney.org.