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Rep. Pete Sessions
320 First Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

April 28, 2010

Dear Rep. Sessions:

We write regarding media reports that the NRCC recently distributed a spreadsheet
listing campaign contributions from financial institutions to Democrats. The reports
quoted NRCC spokesman Ken Spain attempting to link the contributions to Republican
claims that the financial regulatory reform bill currently under debate would enact a
“permanent bailout.”

We disagree sharply with Mr. Spain’s claim regarding a “permanent bailout” for the
major banks. But we welcome his implicit acknowledgment that campaign
contributions from powerful institutions undermine the integrity of our policymaking
process. At a minimum, they create the perception of corruption in the legislative
process, which the NRCC seeks to focus on Democrats.

We write to urge you to assume a leadership role in solving this problem.

You must be aware that Republicans also have accepted significant sums of money
from the entities to which Mr. Spain refers. The NRCC has accepted nearly $9 million
over the past three election cycles from the securities and investment, commercial
banking, and miscellaneous finance industries. In fact, in the most recent quarterly
reporting period, Republicans accepted more from Goldman Sachs ($167,500) than
Democrats ($123,000). The NRCC itself accepted $15,000 from Goldman Sachs.

In addition, the NRCC is openly selling access to elected officials through at least 10
programs. For example, your Congressional Forum allows “Washington-based
representatives from trade associations, corporations, and business organizations” who
contribute $15,000 annually “to meet with key Republican Party Leaders and Members
to discuss the issues that are vitally important to their industry.”

To show the courage of your convictions in impugning the Democrats for accepting
Wall Street money, we believe your committee should return or donate to charity any
such contributions that you have received. Also, you should terminate any programs
that could be construed as selling access to elected officials.

But these steps would not solve the underlying problem of a system in which
candidates need either to be extraordinarily wealthy or to depend on favors from the
wealthiest Americans in order to win election to office.

The most thorough response close at hand is the Fair Elections Now Act, H.R. 1826. The
bill would provide qualifying candidates for office sufficient resources to concentrate on
presenting their message to the voters without having to chase after money from
corporate special interests. While the bill has attracted more than 145 Democratic
sponsors from diverse caucuses, only three Republicans have signed on.

You also should support solutions to the problem presented by the Supreme Court’s
recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that
corporations can spend unlimited amounts directly to elect or defeat candidates. The
decision invites a flood of new corporate money in elections, granting large
corporations and their lobbyists even more power to reward politicians who do their
bidding and punish anyone who crosses them. Proposals currently under consideration
that merit your support include the following:

  • to ensure that American citizens, not global corporations, have the loudest
    voices in American politics, amend the constitution to overturn Citizens
  • to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not spent on political advertisements,
    prohibit government contractors and TARP recipients from spending
    money on elections;
  • to ensure that the American public knows the source of corporate political
    spending, improve corporate spending disclosures, including disclosure of
    transfers to outside political groups and requirements for corporate leaders
    “stand by their political ads” just like candidates; and
  • to ensure that the owners of corporations—their shareholders—control how
    their money is spent on their behalf, provide shareholders a binding vote on
    corporate political spending.

If you believe that campaign contributions result in billions of dollars in giveaways to
special interests—including a “permanent bailout” fund worth billions of dollars for
Wall Street—then we invite you to join the movement to end the corrupting influence of
special interest money in politics: Support the Fair Elections Now Act and the work of
your colleagues to mitigate the damage of Citizens United.

David Arkush
Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division 

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