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Reform Group Pushes Campaign Ad Vouchers

Campaign reform group, the Campaign Legal Center, is urging Congress to pass a bill that would levy a fee on broadcasters to help subsidize campaign ads via a voucher system.

The center was looking to capitalize on the recommendations of the Carter/Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, which came out with its report two weeks ago.

That commission recommended the bill, and additionally suggested broadcasters carry five minutes a night of candidate discourse in the month preceding the elections, the so-called 5/30 standard.

The voucher program was proposed in the Our Democracy, Our Airwaves Act intoduced in the last Congress by veteran campaign reformers John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).

The act would provide matching funds for airtime, up to the first $250 in contributions to House and Senate candidates. The vouchers would be financed by an income-based fee on broadcasters.

At least one group, the non-profit Campaign Finance Institute, wasn't convinced the bill would have much impact. It concluded the program would "probably would not produce a radical change in congressional election outcomes, but would help, at least modestly, to improve democratic debate and accountability."

“The [bill] seeks to reduce candidates’ reliance on expensive commercial advertising, and to ensure that voters – the vast majority of whom rely on television as their primary source of campaign information – have access to the information they need to make informed voting decisions," said Meredith McGehee, director of the Legal Center’s media policy program, in the letter.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.