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Statement of Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Press Conference of Religious Leaders for Campaign Finance Reform

Washington, DC Senate Swamp
March 21, 2001

On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, their 900 congregations and 1700 rabbis, and the 1.5 million Reform Jews throughout the United States and Canada, I am proud to be here today to add our voice those calling, urgently, for serious campaign finance reform.

We stand at a unique point in the history of the campaign finance reform movement. Yesterday's New York Times was right when it noted that, "few moments in recent history have been as critical to the health of the American political system as the one that arrives today in Washington."

Never before have the arch-opponents of reform agreed to open, unfettered debate. Never before have we seen a group of powerful legislators so committed to ending the status quo. Never before have we seen as loud and demanding a public appeal to lawmakers to place the public interest above their own. We can not let this moment get away from us.

We are here today because we know that campaign finance reform is not an esoteric technical issue of election regulations, but one that goes to the essence of the ethical and moral life of our nation. From the pews and pulpits of our churches and synagogues across the nation we hear people asking:

  • How can we expect just results from an unjust system, one in which monied interests hold every advantage, and those who most need the helping hand of government-the poor, our children-cannot make their voices heard above the din?

  • How can we-whose religious calling includes the imperative to speak for the widow and the orphan, for the poor and the children-accept an electoral process which structurally and systematically favors the richest among us?

  • How can we acquiesce in a system which forces those who seek public office, or who wish to continue in public service, to spend so much of their precious time and energy not raising the nation's moral conscience but raising campaign funds.

    The McCain-Feingold-Cochran Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2001 would be an important and meaningful step toward a fairer, more just, system of financing campaigns. It would ban soft money-the unregulated contributions from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals to political parties-and effectively deal with the unregulated campaign ads that masquerade as "issue ads."

    We ask the 107th Congress to put aside partisanship and act to restore public trust in the government. We ask Senate Democrats and Republicans to stand firm and reject any "poison-pill" amendments and flawed alternative legislation offered as a subterfuge by those who ultimately oppose reform. We ask President Bush to heed his promise to be a "uniter not a divider" by rejecting a system in which one quarter of one percent of the population supplies 80 percent of campaign contributions.

    An opportunity like this one does not come often. As members of the religious community and participants in the great experiment of American democracy, we pledge our vigorous support in ensuring that it is not squandered.

    ###

    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.




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