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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.