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Durbin Calls for Public Financing of Campaigns

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin touted an act that would create a public campaign financing system at a progressive conference Monday afternoon. Durbin also said he will try to push the act through Congress, though he didn’t lay out any sort of timetable.

“It is an embarrassment that we spend so much of our time begging for money,” the Illinois Democrat said. “It creates a dependency on this business that we’ve got to put an end to.”

The comments came during a panel discussion titled “Challenging Money Politics” at the America’s Future Now! conference at Washington, D.C.’s Omni Shoreham Hotel.

Durbin, a 14-year Senate veteran, has long been a champion of public financing and has introduced the Fair Elections Now Act with little success in several session of Congress.

But he said that polling has shown that the issue has gained steam among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. And he added that the oil spill along the Gulf Coast is a prime example of why more government regulation should exist — not just regulation to keep money out of politics, but also energy legislation.

“If we aren’t watching them every step of the way holding them accountable and making them pay, believe me they aren’t going to do it out of the kindness of their heart,” he said. “I’ve had enough BP on my back, and I want to get them out of the Gulf and the mess they’ve created.”

Durbin also said he is hesitant to support New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall’s attempt to limit the filibuster in the 112th Congress. Durbin said that without the filibuster, President George W. Bush would likely have succeeded in privatizing Social Security.

“We have to find a reasonable way to continue the protection of minority rights in the United States government but beyond the abuses that are seen today,” he said.

Durbin was joined on the panel by Rep. Donna Edwards, who went further than the Senator in her criticism of money in politics. The Maryland Democrat called for a constitutional amendment to counter the Supreme Court decision in FEC v. Citizens United, which reversed a statute that limited how much money corporations can spend to influence elections.

“You can see that here’s a pathway by which some would like to undo everything that there is in our campaign finance regulation,” she said. “It leaves it up to us good people … to fix what the Supreme Court has so thoroughly messed up.

“This is so wrong it just smells, it smells, it smells and the American public knows this,” she added. “The corporations should not be allowed to play such a role in our politics that they dominate who we get choose as elected officials and they change the kind of policy that we work on.”

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