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MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1952
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, at 10 a. m., pursuant to notice, in room 313, House Office Building, the Honorable Hale Boggs (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order. I should first like to make a very brief preliminary statement.
These hearings will probably last throughout this week. We are going to try to limit the hearings to morning sessions, as the committee staff has a considerable amount of work to do before the new session of Congress convenes in January.
The purpose of these hearings is to gather as much information as possible for the presentation to the new Congress of a new and comprehensive election law.
We have found in our investigations that the existing election laws, corrupt practices acts, and the other acts which affect national elections, whether they be congressional, senatorial, or at the national level, are, to say the least, considerably antiquated. There are many phases of elections which are not covered at all in the laws. For instance, the primary contests are not covered, and the conventions and the primaries leading up to the conventions are not covered.
In addition, the laws are such that there are many devices which have been set up, if not to evade the law, certainly to evade the spirit of the law.
It has been estimated that there are from 5,000 to 75,000 campaign committees operating in the United States of America, each one authorized to spend the existing limitations in the laws.
In addition to that, in more recent years, since the enactment of the existing statutes there have been new developments in communications. There is television, for instance, which appears to be a very costly medium, but one which is now being used most extensively. So, the committee is of the opinion that we should attempt to gather as much information as possible, in order to present a comprehensive bill to the new Congress.
I should like to point out at this time, in connection with our own specific work, that, despite the fact that there are probably more close contests for the House of Representatives than at any time recently, we have had relatively few complaints, which would indicate that most of the contestants feel that the elections were honestly conducted all
over the country. I do not have the exact figures, but a great many congressional contests have been decided by less than 500 votes, some by much less than that. I noted the other day where in a contest in Colorado there was a difference of 29 votes, and in many congressional districts the margin has been between 100 and 500 votes, but despite that the number of protests that the committee has received has been relatively small.
We have had many suggestions for consideration by the committee. One of them has been the extension of legislation to include the primaries, caucuses, and nominating conventions of the various parties. There has been a suggestion that rather than put a limitation on campaign expenditures that there be very rigid reqiurements for immediate and complete publication of all contributions.
We are, of course, confronted with the problem of the constant creation of various political committees, these committees being rather loosely defined in their operation, but, nevertheless, being empowered to spend a great deal of money.
Then, too, in more recent years, and I do not presume that it is a problem that is completely limited to our times, there has been the dissemination of scandalous and libelous literature and the use of composite photographs, devices over which there has been little or no control whatsoever.
There is also the problem of the expenditure of funds by so-called educational organizations, which are only educational at the time of the political campaign. There are many matters that the committee will consider and can consider.
I might say before calling our first witness that today I received a letter from the mayor of Atlanta, Ga., in which he says:
For your information, I have long been an advocate of some sort of arrangement whereby good radio and television time may be made available for local political campaigns. In the larger cities, candidates are often forced to go on small stations or take unreasonable hours because the big chains will not give up their shows, and practically all of the better stations, both radio and television, are monopolized by the national advertisers.
In other words, the matter which you are investigating is of interest, likewise, to local officials, who find themselves forced to raise increasingly large sum's to buy newspaper advertising at prices competitive with national advertisers, as well as the tremendous cost of radio and television, if indeed, the better stations are made available at all.
Then he goes ahead and encloses the resolution adopted by the American Municipal Association at their 1951 convention. This is signed, “William B. Hartsfield,” who is mayor of Atlanta, Ga.
In opening our hearings I would now like to introduce a distinguished Member of Congress, a man who was most instrumental in recodifying the election laws of the State of Ohio. Those laws, incidentally, have been used as models in a great many other States. I am referring to Congressman Clarence Brown of Ohio.
In addition to his many activities in Congress he is a newspaper publisher and a very distinguished citizen of the State.
Mr. Brown, I wonder if you would be good enough to open our hearings
Mr. KEATING. Before Mr. Brown is called, may I clarify the record in this respect, in order to set at rest some rumors
which arisen with regard to the purpose of these hearings. Our understanding was that these hearings do not have relation to any specific contest and that evidence will not be introduced or heard here with reference to any specific contest, but, rather, we will hear general evidence bearing upon the formulation of possible legislation to present to the next Congress.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the purpose of these hearings, but we do have several contests pending. We may have to have some hearings on those specific contests.
Mr. KEATING. That is right, but the purpose of these hearings is to hear evidence upon the formulation of possible legislation?
The CHAIRMAN. These hearings are for the purpose of getting information upon which to draft legislation for the next Congress.
Mr. KEATING. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF HON. CLARENCE J. BROWN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO Mr. Brown. Mr. Chairman, my name is Clarence J. Brown, a Member of Congress from the Seventh Ohio District.
I appreciate very much the invitation of the committee to appear on this day to give my views on needed changes in the various election laws.
I have no prepared statement, but in the very beginning I would like very much to compliment and congratulate your committee for going into this problem which I believe, and that I think most Americans believe, is a rather serious one.
May I say in the beginning I also feel it is time that the Congress, and the various State legislatures which write our election laws, and the political committees which operate under them, acquaint the general public about political expenditures. Naturally I do not believe the general public is kidded very much about them. The Federal law, of course, provides that a political committee can spend only $3,000,000, and places a limitation of $3,000,000 on expenditures of each committee in a national campaign, but I am sure that every Member of Congress, and I believe most thinking Americans, appreciate the fact that $3,000,000 is not the actual over-all limitation as to the amount of money which can be spent by any major political party in a presidential or national campaign.
The same thing is true under various State laws. Under those laws limitations are placed upon the amounts of money candidates can spend as candidates for various offices, including national offices. Our State laws conflict quite often with the Federal laws as to the amounts of expenditures which can be made by Members of the Senate or Members of the House, and those who seek election thereto.
For instance, I believe the limitation on the expenditure a candidate for the Senate can make is $25,000 under the Federal law. Some States fix a different limit; and other States place no limitation on spending by senatorial candidates.
If I recall correctly, the Federal law provides that for Members of Congress the limitation is $5,000, or 3 cents for each voter in the last general election.
In my State, as I think the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. McCulloch, who was distinguished speaker of the Ohio State Assembly for three terms, is willing to agree, the expenditure limit is $2,000 for the con
gressional candidate, or the lowest national office on the ticket. I think you will agree, all of you men who have been through many political campaigns, that it is impossible to run a real campaign in the average congressional district of today, which averages about 350,000 or 360,000 people, on $2,000. Neither can you run a Statewide campaign for the Senate in a State like Ohio, New York, or Pennsylvania, or even some of the smaller States, for $25,000, nor can you run a presidential campaign, for $3,000,000. And, so, as the chairman has well pointed out, there have been all sorts of loopholes found in the law. I know of no evasions of the law, but I believe I can recall some actions that have circumvented the law or have, at least, as the chairman stated a moment ago, violated the spirit and intention of the law.
I am not sure just what your committee or the Congress can do to correct the situation. For a long time it was considered the Congress had no authority to pass upon primary activities, except as it came to the seating of Members in either body of Congress. In other words, we could not pass legislation to control primary expenditures, and that it would be unconstitutional to do so. However, in recent years there have been a number of Federal court decisions, as I gather that you distinguished gentlemen know, that, at least suggest the Congress has jurisdiction over primaries.
In many States, in many congressional districts, the real contest is in the primaries. If there is no control over the expenditures in the primary there is certainly no necessity for control over the expenditures in the fall election for those particular candidates. Suggestions were made that perhaps it might be wise for this committee, and I am sure it will, to explore further into the possibility of drafting constitutional legislation that will place some control upon the primary expenditures of candidates for Federal offices at least.
For some time, the practice has been, and you and I know it, to set up numerous campaign committees. I was not as active, because of illness, in the last campaign as I have been in other national campaigns, but I did follow the recent campaign very closely by television and radio, and I noticed that a great many of the television programs for both political parties were sponsored by various organizations. There were Citizens for Eisenhower, there were Independents for Eisenhower, there were Democrats for Eisenhower, and there were, of course, Citizens for Stevenson, and there were labor organizations which sponsored programs on both radio and television for Governor Stevenson. I am not sure how many there were, but I think I can remember 20 or 30 different committees.
I noticed at one time a senatorial committee sponsored a telecast for one of the national candidates and, of course, the candidate for President does aid in the election of senatorial candidates, so I think, perhaps, under the law, that such an expenditure is not only legal, but can be justified from the standpoint of the assistance rendered to senatorial candidates.
If I might, I would like to add it seems to me that both parties expended more funds and more efforts in behalf of the presidential candidates, and less on the senatorial and congressional candidates this year, than usual. I have even heard some criticism to the effect that many congressional and senatorial candidates in the recent campaign believed their welfare was somewhat overlooked. There were, of course, in the different States particular expenditures by various committees, and some of the State committees sponsored national telecasts and broadcasts for the benefit of their national party. So, in my own opinion, and from my experience which goes back to 1912 in national campaigns, in my opinion the limitation which has been placed upon the expenditures by a national committee for a presidential campaign, of $3,000,000, just does not mean anything much, and we may just as well be honest and frank about it, as the Congress and say so to the American people.
I do not believe the answer to this problem is going to be found in placing a limit on the expenditures which can be made. Instead, perhaps, the limitations on national campaigns, and also upon congressional and senatorial campaigns should be set aside, and a requirement written into the law which will require a full disclosure. There may be something to the thought we can legislate controls over expenditures by requiring those who make them on behalf of candidates, to obtain the consent of the controlling party committee, whether it be on a National scale or on a State scale, if we can we get into that borderline area of what is constitutional and what is not, as to any citizen's right may be to go on the radio or television to express his views upon the candidacy of any person for public office.
However, that creates a problem for your committee. I want to impress upon you that I am at least one Member of Congress who appreciates very fully the difficulties which confront your committee in considering this whole question.
Certainly there has not always been a full disclosure of campaign expenditures. Of course, as I recall the law, there is no requirement to file anything with the Federal Government as to any political funds or expenditures, unless the committee operates in more than one State. In other words, a committee operating within one State can do as it pleases so far as a Federal report is concerned, but I think, perhaps, where money is expended within a State by a political party, or by any other kind of a committee, in behalf of a national candidate, that it would be constitutional to require a filing be made with the Federal Government as to those expenditures.
Campaign contributions are limited under the Federal law to $5,000. However, a man with a large amount of money can have each member of his family contribute to each party if he wishes. So actually, there is no limitation upon the amount of money any person, or family, can contribute to a national campaign. In other words, an individual.can contribute not only to the Republican, but to the Democratic National Committee, and some do contribute to both committees. In fact it is rather surprising and amazing as to how many Americans seemingly are bipartisan in their contributions, and it is especially true when they are not certain as to who will win the election. They also sometimes contribute to each senatorial candidate and each congressional candidate, as well as to the senatorial, congressional, and various State committees.
Of course I realize fully, as you do, that there has never been a candidate for the Senate, or the House, who has had any complete knowledge of, or connection with, any committee supporting him, or of any expenditures except those he reported over his own signature. So, as I said in the beginning, I think it is time we quit kidding the American people about political campaigns and expenditures. There