The Pew Charitable Trusts Announces Renewed Support for Groups Tracking Money in Political Campaigns and Monitoring Campaign Finance Laws

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The Pew Charitable Trusts announced today a series of grant renewals to leading national nonpartisan organizations working to track and monitor implementation of the new federal campaign finance system. Continuing a decade-long commitment to increasing public trust and confidence in U.S. elections, the Trusts' grants reflect the importance of solidifying progress made over the last five years to reduce the impact of unregulated soft money in federal campaigns and increase public participation. 

“Although significant challenges remain, the nation's electoral system has made progress since the late 90's, when the public believed soft money overwhelmed the voices and dollars of average Americans,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, President and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts.  “We are pleased our support could help inform a national dialogue about campaign finance and assist in building a foundation for positive change. Today's grants are designed to continue that progress and will support organizations to examine how federal campaigns are adjusting to the new rules and work to ensure the accountability and transparency continues.”

The grants are:

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) 

$2.2 million over two years for general operating support. CLC represents the public in administrative and legal proceedings where the nation's campaign finance and related media laws are enforced.  Its president is Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, who served in the Reagan Administration's Department of Justice and as assistant general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission.

Center for Responsive Politics (CRP)

$900,000 over two years for general operating support. The CRP is the nation's leading nonprofit, nonpartisan resource for tracking money in federal elections.  Founded in 1983 by two former U.S. senators, one Democratic and one Republican, the CRP's mission is to create a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government.  It is directed by Larry Noble, former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission and president of the Council on Government Ethics Laws.

Committee for Economic Development (CED)

$500,000 over one year to help business leaders educate their colleagues about the need for effective implementation of campaign finance reform. CED is an independent, nonpartisan organization of 250 business and education leaders. For more than 60 years, CED has brought the experience and insights of business leaders to bear on major issues facing the nation.  It is directed by Charles Kolb, who served in both Reagan administrations and that of George H.W. Bush.

Democracy 21 Education Fund (D21EF)

$700,000 over two years to monitor and ensure that campaign finance laws at the federal level are effectively implemented and for public education. D21EF's mission is to ensure the integrity and fairness of government decisions and democratic elections.  It was founded by Fred Wertheimer, president of Common Cause from 1981 to 1995 and one of the nation's most tireless nonpartisan watchdogs for effective and ethical government.

When the Trusts began its investment in this area in 1996, Americans were concerned about the health and legitimacy of the U.S. democratic process. A 1997 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 77 percent of respondents thought campaign finance reform was needed. Elected officials personally solicited millions of dollars in soft money contributions from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals – prompting the question of whether these contributions gave rise to the appearance of corruption in the legislative process.  Moreover, millions of dollars worth of campaign advertisements of unknown origin, placed with undisclosed funding, streamed onto U.S. television and radio. 

To help respond to the situation, the Trusts, along with many other leading organizations and individuals, began supporting groups working to objectively examine and document the role of soft money in politics. Our support has been directed to organizations working to: develop a body of research and data to fully understand the nature of the problem; communicate those findings to the public and policymakers; identify incremental practical policy solutions; and monitor campaign finance laws and policies.

“Campaigns and elections are the primary means through which governments derive their authority and are an entry point for citizens to participate in public life,” said Rimel.  “We are pleased to support these and other organizations, working at the state and federal level, to solidify gains made over the last decade and to identify new approaches that could expand participation in the democratic process.”