Congress

Rodney Davis seeks to ban public financing in campaigns

Illinois Republican’s bill is unlikely to move in Democrat-controlled House

Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis says public financing of campaigns will fill the swamp. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Rodney Davis said Tuesday he was introducing a bill to ban public financing of congressional campaigns, hitting at a signature piece of House Democrats’ political money overhaul.

“Public financing of campaigns will fill the swamp, and any member who voted for it was voting to fill their own pockets and the pockets of political operatives nationwide,” the Illinois Republican said on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, according to remarks sent out by his office.

Davis’ bill, which is unlikely to move in the Democrat-led House, states that “no federal funds” may be used in support of a Senate or House campaign. It would not affect the presidential public financing system, which no major candidates have used since 2008.

House Democrats’ mega overhaul bill, which the chamber approved in March, seeks to remake the nation’s voting, campaign finance and ethics laws. It would establish an optional 6-to-1 public matching system for political donations under $200 with the money coming from fines imposed on corporations.

“Could you imagine a scenario where a pharmaceutical company is fined for corporate malfeasance associated with the opioid epidemic, and the resulting funds go not to those actually affected by this horrible epidemic, but instead they’re given to politicians,” Davis said.

House Democrats said the optional public financing of elections, as well as proposals to launch pilot voucher programs to give people small sums to donate to candidates, would serve as a counterbalance to the influence of big political donors.

“Millions of Americans across the country have been looking at Washington and feeling like they’ve been left out and left behind. They see the influence that big money and special interests have up here in Washington, and they feel like their voice doesn’t matter,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, the Maryland Democrat who was the chief sponsor of the HR 1 measure, shortly after the House passed the bill. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he would not bring up HR 1 for a vote in his chamber.

Davis is the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over many campaign finance matters.

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