Reform Jewish Movement Welcomes Passage of Campaign Finance Reform to Ban Soft Money, Limit Issue Ads
Pelavin: "Soft money and issue ads breed mistrust, cynicism and apathy - sentiments that are as incompatible with a healthy democracy as they are with religious principles."
Contact: Alexis Rice or Michael Weiner 202-387-2800
WASHINGTON, February 14, 2002 - The Reform Jewish Movement today applauded the House of Representatives for adopting the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill (H.R. 2356), calling it, "a historic step today toward healing a systemic sickness in our democracy." Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, noted that, "While Shays-Meehan is not a panacea, it will go a long way toward abating the pernicious influence of money in our electoral system."
Mr. Pelavin's complete statement follows:
By passing the Shays-Meehan bill (H.R. 2356) and rejecting measures aimed at undermining meaningful campaign finance reform, the House of Representatives took a historic step today toward healing a systemic sickness in our democracy. For too long, powerful interests have wielded vastly disproportionate influence on our political process, using unregulated "soft money" contributions to leverage pressure on a range of issues. While Shays-Meehan is not a panacea, it will go a long way toward abating the pernicious influence of money in our electoral system. The Senate has already approved a version of meaningful campaign finance reform and we welcome Majority Leader Tom Daschle's commitment to bring Shays-Meehan directly to the Senate floor for prompt consideration. We now call on the Senate to approve the bill and to reject any attempts to filibuster it. We urge President Bush to follow the example set by our legislators and sign this vital legislation into law.
It is important to make clear that campaign finance reform is not merely an esoteric technical issue of election regulation, but a subject that is deeply intertwined in the ethical and moral fabric of our nation. This week, we read from the weekly Torah portion Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24), which sets out the regulations of a fair society in no uncertain terms. "Do not take gifts," the Torah enjoins the community's leaders, "for gifts blind the clear-sighted and upset the pleas of the just." Likewise, Jewish tradition commands us to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan, and the stranger. It is these very people - the voiceless and the powerless - who are marginalized by a campaign finance system in which one quarter of one percent of the population supplies 80 percent of the campaign contributions.
Shays-Meehan bans the unlimited soft money contributions that have become the currency of choice for special interest lobbyists. The legislation also clamps down on so-called "issue advertisements," which look and sound like campaign commercials but skirt around existing election regulations by avoiding words like "support," "oppose" and "vote for." Soft money and issue ads breed mistrust, cynicism and apathy -- sentiments that are as incompatible with a healthy democracy as they are with religious principles.
Defenders of the status quo tried hard to break the back of real reform. They offered substitute proposals and "poison-pill" amendments with only one purpose in mind: defeating the substantive changes that Shays-Meehan provides. But a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives saw through the thinly-veiled efforts to scuttle reform and joined together to pass the Shays-Meehan bill.
We know that the American people want real campaign finance reform. Both houses of Congress have heard that cry. We hope that President Bush will hear it as well.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .