Champions of publicly-financed federal elections are getting help from an unlikely source: The same big-business executive and institutions that are often chief providers of campaign cash.
A coalition of good-government groups is coming out with a new print ad tomorrow in favor of Rep. John Larson's, (D-Conn.), Fair Elections Now Act. The ad, a copy of which was provided to the Huffington Post, pushes the traditional arguments for publicly funded federal elections. But here's the twist: Appending their names are 34 business executives from organizations that one normally thinks of as trying to buy congressional influence.
"We are on the receiving end of Senators' and Representatives' endless fund-raising calls," the ad reads. "And trust us: we hate getting those calls every bit as much as they hate making them."
The list of signatories includes figures who have previously been major donors (primarily to Democrats) in the past. Gordon Segal, the chairman of the furniture giant, Crate and Barrel, has donated $99,425 to candidates and committees in his lifetime, including the maximum in 2008 to President Barack Obama. Alan Hassenfeld, the chairman of the toy company Hasbro, donated $52,250 to candidates and committees in 2008, including the maximum to Obama as well as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. And Alan Patricoff, a managing partner at the venture capital firm Greycroft Partners, donated to a host of Democratic candidates in the 2004 election.
Other notable names on the ad include Christie Heffner, former chairman and chief executive of Playboy; Charles Couric, founder of Brita Products; and Walt Freese, CEO of Ben & Jerry's.
In these tough economic times, campaign donations have likely become a bit harder for these folks to fork over. But the driving force behind the ad, organizers say, is a philosophical belief in the benefits of federally-financed elections.
"Elected officials spend so much time dialing for dollars it's as if they're moonlighting a second job," the ad reads. "With the economy, health care, energy, and so many other issues at stake, who has time for that?"
The ad is slated for a full-page run in Thursday's edition of Roll Call. It is co-sponsored by the group's Common Cause and Public Campaign Action Fund.