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VOL. 125 | NO. 15 | Monday, January 25, 2010

CEOs to Hill: Quit Calling Us for Campaign Cash

SHARON THEIMER | Associated Press Writer

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Dozens of current and former corporate executives have a message for Congress: Quit hitting us up for campaign cash.

Roughly 40 executives from companies including Playboy Enterprises, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's, the Seagram's liquor company, toymaker Hasbro, Delta Airlines and Men's Wearhouse sent a letter to congressional leaders Friday urging them to approve public financing for House and Senate campaigns. They say they are tired of getting fundraising calls from lawmakers – and fear it may only be worse after Thursday's Supreme Court ruling.

The court ruled that corporations and unions can spend unlimited money on ads urging people to vote for or against candidates. The decision was sought by interest groups including one that represents American businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They argued that restrictions on ads they could finance close to elections violated their free-speech rights, and the court agreed.

Congressional candidates who find themselves attacked by a flood of special-interest TV ads in the 2010 elections will likely reach out to their party's biggest donors for money to help them counter the blitz.

"Members of Congress already spend too much time raising money from large contributors," the business executives' letter says. "And often, many of us individually are on the receiving end of solicitation phone calls from members of Congress. With additional money flowing into the system due to the court's decision, the fundraising pressure on members of Congress will only increase."

Among the others signing the letter are current or former executives of Quaker Chemical Corp., Brita Products Co., San Diego National Bank, MetLife and Crate & Barrel.

They sent the letter through Fair Elections Now, a coalition of good-government groups who hope the Supreme Court ruling will lead Congress to pass public campaign financing legislation they have long been seeking. Others supporting public financing include former campaign strategists for President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

A Senate proposal would fund campaigns with a fee on businesses that get $10 million or more in government contracts. The House would finance it with revenue from auctioning off the television broadcast spectrum, which was opened when the country switched to digital broadcasting. Spectrums are the airwaves used by the government, television and radio broadcasters and cell phone companies, among others.

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On the Net:

Fair Elections Now: http://www.fairelectionsnow.org/

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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