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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 1952
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURES,
Washington, D. C. The committee met at 10 a. m., Hon. Hale Boggs (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. We have as our first witness this morning the Honorable Arthur E. Summerfield, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and recently designated by the President-elect as his nominee for the office of Postmaster General of the United States. Mr. Summerfield is accompanied by Mr. Fred C. Scribner, Jr., counsel.
I would like to say for the benefit of you gentlemen that these hearings are being held for the purpose of attempting to amend, clarify, and bring up to date the existing Federal election laws in our country. We are attempting to get as much information as possible from Members of Congress, from officials of the two great national political parties, from political scientists, and others who are interested in the problem and who are willing to give us the benefit of their knowledge.
On yesterday we had Congressman Clarence Brown, who is the Republican national committeeman from the State of Ohio and who has had a great deal of experience in the conduct of campaigns, and Mr. Smith, national chairman of the Volunteers for Stevenson. Mr. Mitchell, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will be here tomorrow, and there is quite a list of other witnesses in the television, radio, and related industries.
With that introduction, we would be glad to have you make a brief statement, and then will ask you a few questions.
STATEMENT OF HON. ARTHUR E. SUMMERFIELD, CHAIRMAN,
REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE, ACCOMPANIED BY FRED C. SCRIBNER, JR., COUNSEL
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Thank you, Chairman Boggs. May I read a very brief statement that I prepared last evening?
The CHAIRMAN. Please proceed; and I would request members of the committee not to interrupt the chairman of the Republican National Committee until he has completed his formal statement.
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Gentlemen of the Special Committee of the House of Representatives To Investigate Expenditures in the Campaign of 1952, it is a privilege to appear before this committee today. You are to be congratulated on an early start on this important task. Sufficient time has not elapsed, however, since the close of the 1952 campaign to permit me to analyze many of the problems which have
manifested themselves during the course of the campaign. Moreover, time has not permitted an opportunity to meet with the other members of our National or State committees for a discussion of some of the problems resulting from the present election laws.
It will be apparent to Members of the Congress and the people generally, because of vastly changed conditions, economically and politically, in this country since the time when some of the laws governing the conduct of elections to Federal office were first placed on the statutes—some as long as 60 years ago-that a complete restudy by proper congressional committees is indicated as desirable and necessary.
Obviously, the basic objectives of election laws should be to keep our elections clean and free in the best American tradition. I am confident that the leadership and membership of both major political parties concur in these objectives.
When you invited me to appear before your committee you were kind enough to send me a memorandum entitled, “Basic Considerations in Connection with Proposed Changes in Existing Laws Governing Federal Elections.” I have not had an opportunity to study carefully the questions which are posed in that memorandum, but even an informal reading indicates to me that you have outlined in detail some of the many problems which must be considered in connection with any proposed revisions of the election laws. You have raised such basic questions as the effectiveness of publicity or limitations in controlling campaign expenditures. You also have raised the question as to whether educational committees whose primary aim is to influence Federal elections should be included in the definition of political committees. There is also the problem of limitation on individual contributions and the question of the present statutory limit as to the amount a political committee can receive and spend. You have stressed one of the real problems that results from the advent of television, the tremendously increased costs of presenting candidates to the public through this medium.
These are questions which require study and analysis in the light of the experience of the 1952 campaign. The final report to the Congress of campaign expenditures by the Republican National Committee will be filed, pursuant to the Federal law, on or about January 1, 1953. That report is now being prepared. It is not available for study at this time. Also other reports will presumably be filed on January 1, 1953, by other committees which participated in the 1952 elections. In addition, local and State committees will be filing reports in many of the States of the United States which require local committees to make such reports. I understand that several thousand questionnaires have been sent out by a Senate committee to local committees which participated in the 1952 election. Only when all of the data is available from the reports of these many committees can careful and objective appraisal be made from the experience of the 1952 election.
When this data is available, it should be analyzed by the properly designated congressional committee, or committees. Every facility of the Republican National Committee will be made available to such committee or committees to assist them in this important task of considering changes in the statutes governing political campaigns affecting political offices.
My experience as national chairman of a great political party has given me a broader understanding of the far-reaching operations of a national election. I have been extremely impressed during the past election with the millions of people who actively participated from the precincts up to the national level. It is imperative that all of the enthusiastic and patriotic citizens who participated in elections be thoroughly familiar with the laws governing the conduct of elections, and in seems to me that this fact alone poses added problems to this committee, and to the Congress.
The Republican Party will be happy to lend its wholehearted support and cooperation to a careful and thorough congressional study of the entire question of campaign expenditures.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much. Mr. Keating, do you care to examine the witness
Mr. KEATING. There is one specific matter that I have been thinking about a good deal and on which we had some discussion here; that is the length of the campaign. The suggestion has been made that some legislation might be desirable, or that some action be taken by Congress, to shorten the time of campaigning. I wonder whether, in the light of your experience, you have any views on that subject, Mr. Summerfield ?
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. I have very definite views on that, Congressman Keating. The conduct of a national campaign today is a tremendous. undertaking: I point out to you gentlemen that to set up an organization in a period of about 60 days, which is about all the time you have following the national convention, under the present law, that will first develop a program for the campaign, employ or enlist by the voluntary method personnel to activate that campaign, prepare literature, and do the innumerable other things that have to be done, in addition to the great mass of detail of planning for presidential train and airplane tours, television and radio programs, is a responsibility that I certainly would not recommend that you place upon anyone's shoulders at the present time, in a lesser time than it was my responsibility to do it during the past campaign. I ask you to picture it for yourself. You are elected chairman of the Republican or the Democratic National Committee. There is a small number of personnel. You have to get new personnel. You have to go out and find them and when you start to attempt to do that in the limited time that we have under the present statutes, believe me, you have a major undertaking on your hands. So that I would hesitate, desirable as it might seem, to suggest that we have a shorter period of time within which to do that. I would hesitate a long time before I recommended that we shorten that period.
We have had a tremendous increase in population in this country. We have a greater interest in things political today in this country, for which we may be thankful-greater than we have had heretofore. Your story must be told so that the people are made conscious of and completely understand the issues involved, to the very maximum degree.
Mr. KARSTEN. Do you think we should lengthen the period? Do you think it is long enough?
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Frankly, Congressman Karsten, I do not think you would gain much by lengthening it. The job just has to be done.
After all, we were successful in doing it during this last campaign in that length of time.
Mr. KARSTEN. You feel that 60 days would be in insufficient length of time?
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Sixty days just for the preliminaries; but from July to November is a much longer period of time than that.
The CHAIRMAN. I think what the writers and the press have been referring to is the period of the public campaigning and, traditionally, it seems that that begins about Labor Day and goes through until the first Tuesday in November. Actually that is a period of only 2 months to cover the United States of America but apparently, with television and radio almost every night, there has been some feeling that possibly this is too much.
I can well appreciate the organizational problems to which you have referred and I do not see how that period could be shortened in any. way. As a matter of fact, it probably would be helpful to the chairman, or the manager of the campaign, if he had more time.
How do you feel about the public phase of the campaign, Mr. Chairman;
you think 60 days of constant campaigning, with 7, 8, 9, or 10 speeches a day, winding up with a Nation-wide radio and television program, is perhaps too much?
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Frankly, as chairman of the committee, I did not receive any complaints from the public as to the length of the campaign or the intensity of it. I call your attention to this fact; television, of course, is a tremendously effective medium of campaigning: However, there are vast areas of this country, this great country of ours, that are not touched or reached by television, and there are substantial areas that are not even reached by radio, so that it takes time to get back into the hinterlands. It is so easy for the folks in the cities who have the benefits of television and radio, and the personal appear. ances of the various candidates, to feel that a much shorter period of time would be desirable, but, believe me, if you are going to reach all the people—and that is the objective, to reach all the people, if possible it is not too long a period.
The CHAIRMAN. Of course, the length of the campaign in the matter of time has a great bearing on the cost of the campaign, and the final week is undoubtedly the most expensive week of the campaign; you take more time on television and more radio time, and you are getting out your last-minute literature.
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. I think that is true.
The CHAIRMAN. And, of course, you have your election-day expenses.
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. I am sure it is the objective of the campaign manager of each of the parties to conclude the campaign at the peak of enthusiasm and effort.
Mr. KEATING. It strikes me, Mr. Summerfield, that Congress ought to be quite slow in legislating on this subject. After all, there must be certain limits, so far as expenditures, and so forth, are concerned, in order to insure that campaigns are kept clean and free from any taint; but when it comes to limiting the time or extending the time, it strikes me that perhaps we would be infringing on the freedoms of our people too much-that is, to lay down definite limits would put candidates in a strait-jacket, so far as the length of time that they might campaign is concerned. It is sometimes said that Members of Congress start campaigning the day after the election 2 years hence, and we would always encounter the question, When is a candidate campaigning? Is he campaigning when he appears at the First Baptist church at a social, or somewhere else?
It strikes me that perhaps Congress ought to keep its fingers out of that particular area, so far as the limitation of time is concerned.
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Of course, I think it is always in order for Congress, through its committees, to be constantly alert to the need or the desire for a change in the election laws or procedures. But I cannot urge you too strongly to evaluate very, very carefully all the facets involved in a campaign before amending the statutes.
As I said in my prepared statement, Mr. Chairman, I am delighted to see your committee, so soon after the election, stepping up to the problem that we all know we face. But so far as the length of time of actual campaigning is concerned, which usually begins around Labor Day, the public pretty much indicates their willingness to accept an intense campaign over a given period of time. You have yourselves probably seen notices a good many times in the past that campaigns had started too early, because of the fact that they seem to run out of material too many days prior to election day itself; but that is a pretty complete and final explanation of the public tolerance for the campaign effort.
Mr. McCULLOCH. Of course, you know that there are fixed limits on expenditures by campaign committees.
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Yes.
Mr. McCULLOCH. Currently there are two schools of thought on whether or not there should be a rigid, fixed limit. On the one hand some think there should be no limit; that compulsory full disclosure and full publicity is enough. On the other hand some feel there should be rigid limits strictly enforced. Do you have any opinion on the question of limitation on compaign expenditures by committees?
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. I would not care at this time to indicate a definite figure as to a limitation. But that some limit is desirable I think is quite obvious to all of us, because at least then you have a point beyond which you do not go. So you cut the cloth to fit the pattern. Some limitation is desirable in my opinion.
Mr. McCULLOCH. Do you think that the limitation as now fixed, in view of the increase in population, which you have already mentioned, and these new media for reaching the people, should be seriously examined with a view possibly of raising them?
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. I certainly think that a very careful study of the expenditures of the 1952 campaign should be made not only as to amounts but as to sources, in order to approach this whole problem realistically. We will be very happy—that is, our committee-speaking for myself and, I am sure, the chairman who will succeed me, to cooperate with your committee to the maximum extent.
Mr. KARSTEN. I have just one question, Mr. Summerfield. Do you have any definite recommendation on a limitation based on your recent experience that is, a limtiation on expenditures?
Mr. SUMMERFIELD. Not at this moment, Congressman Karsten. But when the final figures are in and the countings are made, it should give us a pretty good yardstick to use in any recommendations that are made to you or any other committee.