House GOP challenges president on taxpayer-funded campaign financing

House GOP members have issued a challenge to President Obama to either join them in eliminating wasteful taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns or to opt into the system himself.
In a Wednesday letter to Obama, 84 House Republicans — including House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (Calif.) and Rep. Gregg Harper (Miss.), also a committee member — wrote that the president should either opt into the system that he “vigorously defends despite his own refusal to participate,” or join the GOP members in doing away with it.

“As you know, we recently voted for a bill to terminate taxpayer financing for presidential election campaigns and national party conventions,” the lawmakers wrote. “We took this vote for a number of reasons, including our firmly-held belief that taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize a presidential campaign financing system that 93 percent of them reject and that no candidate, including yourself, uses.”
On Dec. 1, the House approved a bill ending the public financing of presidential campaigns as well as eliminating the Election Assistance Commission, set up to ensure states meet certain standards at the voting booth. The resolution was passed in a mostly partisan 235-190 vote.
Reaction from the administration was swift following the House vote. On Dec. 1, the Office of Management and Budget released a statement on administration policy, strongly opposing the House’s passage of the bill.
“H.R. 3463 would terminate the Nation’s Presidential election public financing system, expanding the power of corporations and special interests in the Nation’s elections,” the White House stated.

“The bill would force many candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues, and would place a premium on access to large donor or special interest support, narrowing the field of otherwise worthy candidates.”

On Wednesday, the House GOP countered the administration’s claims.

“You and other critics of our vote claim that eliminating taxpayer financing for campaigns would expand the influence of special interests and force candidates to put fundraising before voters,” they wrote.

“However, as the first nominee to opt out of the program altogether and raise a record $750 million, we know that you would never claim that your campaign was unduly influenced by special interests or that you were unable to engage with voters.” 

House lawmakers noted that not a single candidate has to date opted to participate in the system for the 2012 election. Yet Obama continues to tout the program and insist that it must not be eliminated.

“Mr. President, if you mean what you say about the importance of the taxpayer financing system for campaigns, there is only one way to prove it: participate in that system yourself,” they challengd. “Actions speak much louder than words. And here, your actions flatly contradict your words.

“If you want to be taken seriously as an advocate for taxpayer financing of political campaigns, the only way to do it is to accept that financing, and the accompanying spending limits, yourself. If instead you believe that not only you but all candidates should raise and spend as much money as contributors will provide, then say so and stop forcing taxpayers to subsidize this failing program.”

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter Wednesday.

After passage in the House, the resolution was sent to the Senate on Dec. 5, where it was referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration. No vote has yet been scheduled.