Jimmy Carter photo

Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1979 Statement on Signing H.R. 5010 Into Law.

January 08, 1980

I have today signed H.R. 5010, the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1979. This measure significantly improves the Federal Election Campaign Act by eliminating burdensome regulation of candidates and political committees and by increasing the opportunity for grassroots political participation.

I supported proposals contained in this legislation in the message I sent to Congress on March 22, 1977, and our electoral process will benefit greatly from the important reforms this bill contains. Congressmen Frank Thompson, Jr., and Bill Frenzel and Senators Claiborne Pell and Mark O. Hatfield are to be congratulated on their outstanding leadership in helping pass it.

Despite the major improvements this measure will bring to the law which governs Federal elections, there are some serious problems with this bill. H.R. 5010 would reduce patronage abuse protection of Federal employees with respect to State and local campaigns, although it would continue to provide full protection for Federal campaigns.

Even more disturbing is the severe infringement of Federal employees' first amendment rights that is caused by section 201 (a) (4) of H.R. 5010. Under present law a person in Government service is permitted to make voluntary campaign contributions to the authorized campaign committee of any candidate for elective office in the Federal system. This is a protected freedom that all citizens enjoy, and it is of vital importance.

Section 201 (a) (4) would restrict that right significantly by undermining the ability of persons in Federal service to make even totally voluntary contributions to the campaigns of their employing authority. This is an unacceptable and unwise intrusion upon their rights under the first amendment, and the Attorney General has advised me that it raises grave constitutional concerns.

To the extent that section 201(a) (4) prohibits the solicitation of Government employees by or on behalf of other Federal officials, including their "employing authority," this is already prohibited by existing law, and section 201 (a) (4) is unnecessary. It should therefore be promptly repealed or amended so as to remove its chilling effect on the rights of citizens to make voluntary contributions to the candidates of their choice.

I am pleased that Congressmen Thompson and Frenzel and Senators Pell and Hatfield have pledged to work toward this end in letters they sent me today. I urge Congress to act with dispatch so that the first amendment rights of Federal employees are not unduly jeopardized.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 5010 is Public Law 96-187, approved January 8.

Jimmy Carter, Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1979 Statement on Signing H.R. 5010 Into Law. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250503

Simple Search of Our Archives