The Fair Elections Now Act is moving through the House of Representatives, a bill which would try to lower the cost of political campaigns, and even more, reduce the amount of time legislators devote to fund-raising. But it also chips away at LUR.
The sponsors are Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Arlen Specter (R-, oops make that D-PA) in the Senate and John Larson (D-CT) and Walter Jones, Jr., (R-NC). A number of other legislators have signed on as co-sponsors, mostly Democrats.
The basis of the bill is to limit participating politicians to accepting only small campaign donations – if they agree to do this, they will get $4 in matching funds for every $1 they collect – an amount that proponents hope would allow the politician to focus on the legislation instead of fund-raising.
Now here’s the fun part. Watchdog Fair Elections Now Coalition says, “Fair Elections helps offset fundraising for, and the excessive cost of, media.” Here’s how: It would also bestow on a participating politician a 20% discount off lowest unit rate (LUR). It would also provide House candidates who survive their primary with a $100K media voucher, and Senate candidates would get one $100K voucher for each congressional district in their state. For example, in Maine that would be good for $200K; in Ohio, $1.8M.
The vouchers would be fully funded to the stations selling time, from what we can tell. But that does not appear to be the case with the LUR discount. The stations are to provide a rate card and give participating politicians the reduction. And the FCC is tasked with coming up with a form for reporting campaign advertising expenditures.
RBR/TVBR observation: Broadcasters have continually beaten back attempts by politicians to get their talons on free air time, but they always spring up again like weeds. At least this bill only seeks a 20% discount rather than a full ride on a comp ticket. But it is yet another financial assault on broadcasters, and the drafters of this bill can be assured of stiff resistance.