PHILADELPHIA, February 2, 2012 – Focusing on ways to make campaign financing more fair and equitable, a wide range of experts today provided testimony at a public hearing before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

The hearing was held in Philadelphia at the request of state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila.), who has co-sponsored legislation (Senate Bill 1260) that would limit the influence of special interests and wealthy donors in campaigns.

Senator Lisa M. Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh/Monroe), who chairs the committee, said that campaign finance reform laws “must be strengthened to preserve the integrity of elections and give all candidates a ‘fighter’s chance’ in campaigns.

“I had very little financial support in my first run for office; but was able to overcome the odds by working hard, traveling to events throughout my Senate district and going door to door connecting with voters. We cannot allow huge campaign donors to drown out the chances of underdog candidates.”

Senator Farnese cautioned about the political influence that large donations carry and again renewed his call for limits on donations.

“January was the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the floodgates and allowed unlimited corporate spending and election influence across the nation,” said State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila.).  “In the Commonwealth, we as elected officials must ensure that we do not allow the draw of significant dollars to diminish the public’s trust in government.”

Senate Bill 1260, sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), would impose campaign contribution limits on all political party committees, individuals, political action committees (PAC) and candidate’s political committees.  Farnese testified in favor of the bill at a previous hearing in Pittsburgh.

Participating in today’s hearing, Costa added, “The longer we go without reforming this broken system of campaign finance, the longer special interests and wealthy stakeholders will have strong influence over some of the most critical decisions made in Harrisburg.”

“The dominance of big contributions from special interests, and their consequences for democratic society, is the most serious shortcoming of the present, largely unregulated system,” David Ross of Common Cause/PA said. “While many solid efforts at campaign finance reform have been launched in the General Assembly over the past 30-plus years, Senate Bill 1260 is among the very best and most comprehensive to have been placed before our lawmakers.”

The measure would set $100,000 contribution caps per election on all state political party committees for candidates to the General Assembly, Court of Common Pleas, and county or local offices; $250,000 for statewide candidates; and $1 million for candidates running for governor. The bill would also set $500 aggregate limits on contributions per individual to any candidate for the General Assembly, Court of Common Pleas, county or local office; $2,500 per individual to any statewide candidate; and $5,000 per PAC or candidate’s committee to any candidate for all offices.  The aggregate limits per calendar year would be $10,000 per individual, candidate’s committee or a PAC to a single political party committee; $25,000 per individual to all candidates and committees; and $100,000 per PAC to candidates and committees.

“By placing limits on campaign contributions and expenditures, tightening and expanding disclosure and requiring political accountability by corporations, Senate Bill 1260 would significantly mitigate the potentially corrosive effects of the Citizens United decision,” Lora Lavin, representing the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, said. “Senate Bill 1260 merits bipartisan support and we urge action by the legislature and the governor.”

Other participants in this morning’s hearing included Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz, and Ellen Mattleman Kaplan and Michael Schwartz representing the Committee of Seventy.

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