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No public funds for campaigns

Former senator Ted Stevens, one of the most powerful congressmen of his generation, was killed Aug. 9 in an airplane crash in a remote part of southwest Alaska.

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By Ted Stevens
Friday, June 12, 1987; 12:00 AM

It amazes me that those who say something is wrong with Senate campaign funding always ask the U.S. taxpayers to provide the solution. Some senators and The Post {editorial, June 10} have concluded that the answer is to take money from taxpayers to finance candidates for the Senate. That's not election law reform. S.2, the bill now before the Senate, would require a shift of federal money into the campaign coffers of candidates whom the taxpayer neither knows nor supports.

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Some say the American public is concerned about the current state of campaign finances and will pay any price for a change. Yet the proponents of the taxpayer financing of senatorial campaigns have failed to explain to the taxpayers that such a concept would cost approximately $100 million every two years -- and that's just the cost for Senate candidates. When this system is extended to the House, as surely it must be, that cost increases to about $350 million every two years. (Incidentally, all the talk about excessive PAC contributions to federal campaigns refers to House, not Senate, elections.)

Worthy programs are rejected by Congress every day for lack of resources. How can we direct the U.S. Treasury to redirect hundreds of millions of tax dollars into an entitlement program for congressional candidates? The only answer to this troubling question is a tax increase.

The Senate has engaged in a spirited debate on the merits of ''public financing'' with Senate Bill 2 as the vehicle. In an attempt to focus the debate and to demonstrate that there are reasoned alternatives to the approach offered by those who support S.2, Sens. McConnell and Packwood have introduced one approach, which has attracted 13 sponsors.

Similarly, I have introduced a proposal that has been cosponsored by 24 senators. These two bills would drastically reduce the influence of political action committees and require full public disclosure of all campaign contributions and expenditures, including all ''soft money'' contributions, which now go completely unreported.

All of those who have cosponsored these two alternatives are agreed that there are problems with the current system of campaign finance. However, we don't agree that the solution is to shift the burden onto the back of the average taxpayer.

I urge you to explore the alternative I and others have introduced. There may be other solutions, but federal financing of congressional campaigns is not one of them.

The writer is a Republican senator from Alaska.


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© 1987 The Washington Post Company

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