• U.S.

AMERICAN NOTES: Starving the Candidates

2 minute read

When the Supreme Court invalidated the Federal Election Commission, it also threw a lot of presidential candidates into a financial limbo—they were unable to collect after March 22 the matching funds promised by the austere new campaign laws. With their cash-boxes rapidly emptying and no federal money to bail them out, a number of candidates dropped out of active campaigning. With crucial primaries coming up, Ronald Reagan has formally applied for $557,000 from the FEC but has no way to get at it.

Facing a critical situation, Congress acted characteristically: it dawdled over the bill to reactivate the commission, declining even to shorten its 12-day Easter recess, while one candidate after another went broke. Congress finally bestirred itself last week to reconstitute the FEC, but its legislation may still have a way to go before becoming law. Gerald Ford has serious constitutional reservations about the bill—it allows either house of Congress to veto FEC regulations, and that may be an abridgment of executive authority. Ronald Reagan, among others, thinks the bill gives labor too much and business too little influence in campaign financing; as a result, he opposes it, even though he badly needs the funds it would release. At week’s end President Ford was still pondering whether to sign or veto the bill. The new delay, of course, did nothing to improve his opponent’s condition.

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