This article originally provided by The Washington Post

January 19, 2006

Some House Democrats seek election public funds

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Public financing of elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, not lobbying reform, is the best way to end ethic scandals, a top Democrat said on Friday.

"You can talk all you want about nibbling at the margins about ethics and House rules and all the rest, but unless we deal with the nexus between politics and money, damned little is actually going to change over time," Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin said in a telephone interview.

Obey said he and fellow Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts would offer legislation this month requiring that general elections for the 435 House seats be financed purely with public funds.

Obey, senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, conceded he did not expect "any massive instant support for it" in the Republican-controlled Congress.

A senior House Republican aide dismissed Obey's approach saying, "This is exactly the wrong place to go." The aide noted that Republicans were pushing for "more transparency" in lobbying activities, such as their campaign contributions, and added, "What's wrong with people just choosing candidates to give money to?"

Earlier this week, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate offered a series of reforms in response to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Abramoff, who this month pleaded guilty to fraud in a wide-ranging bribery investigation, is cooperating with prosecutors and several lawmakers could be implicated.

Obey noted recent reports that Americans did not want to pay for public financing of campaigns and did not want lobbyists contributing. "What that leaves is campaigns financed through immaculate conception and I don't think that's a reliable financing basis for campaigns," Obey said.


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