Gerald R. Ford photo

Statement on Signing the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1976.

May 11, 1976

AFTER extensive consultation and review, I have decided that the Federal Campaign Act Amendments of 1976 warrant my signature.

I am therefore signing those amendments into law this afternoon. I will also be submitting to the Senate for its advice and consent the nominations of six persons to serve as members of the reconstituted Commission.

Shortly after the Supreme Court ruled on January 30 that the Federal Election Commission was invalid as then constituted, I made it clear that I favored a simple reconstitution of the Commission because efforts to amend and reform the law could cause massive confusion in election campaigns that had already started.

The Congress, however, was unwilling to accept my straightforward proposal and instead became bogged down in a controversy that has now extended for more than 3 months.

In the process, efforts were made to add several provisions to the law which I thought were thoroughly objectionable. These suggested provisions would have further tipped the balance of political power to a single party and to a single element within that party. I could not accept those provisions under any circumstances and I so communicated my views to various Members of the Congress.

Since that time, to my gratification, those features of the bill have been modified so as to avoid in large measure the objections I had raised.

Weighing the merits of this legislation, I have found that the amendments as now drafted command widespread, bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress and by the chairpersons of both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

I still have serious reservations about certain aspects of the present amendments. For one thing, the bill as presently written will require that the Commission take additional time to consider the effects which the present amendments will have on its previously issued opinions and regulations.

A more fundamental concern is that these amendments jeopardize the independence of the Federal Election Commission by permitting either House of Congress to veto regulations which the Commission, as an executive agency, issues. This provision not only circumvents the original intent of campaign reform but, in my opinion, violates the Constitution. I have therefore directed the Attorney General to challenge the constitutionality of this provision at the earliest possible opportunity.

Recognizing these weaknesses in the bill, I have nevertheless concluded that it is in the best interest of the Nation that I sign this legislation. Considerable effort has been expended by members of both parties to make this bill as fair and balanced as possible. Moreover, further delay would undermine the fair and proper conduct of elections this year for seats in the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, and for the Presidency.

Effective regulation of campaign practices depends upon the existence of a Commission with valid rulemaking and enforcement powers. It is critical that we maintain the integrity of our election process for all Federal offices so that all candidates and their respective supporters and contributors are bound by enforceable laws and regulations which are designed to control questionable and unfair campaign practices.

I look to the Commission, as soon as it is reappointed, to do an effective job of administering the campaign laws equitably but forcefully, and in a manner that minimizes the confusion which is caused by the added complexity of the present amendments. In this regard, the Commission will be aided by a newly provided civil enforcement mechanism sufficiently flexible to facilitate voluntary compliance through conciliation agreements and, where necessary, penalize noncompliance through means of civil fines.

In addition, the new legislation refines the provisions intended to control the size of contributions from a single source by avoiding proliferation of political action committees which are under common control. Also, this law strengthens provisions for reporting money spent on campaigns by requiring disclosure of previously unreported costs of partisan communications which are intended to affect the outcome of Federal elections.

Following the 1976 elections, I will submit to the Congress legislation that will correct problems created by the present laws and make additional needed reforms in the election process.

Note: As enacted, the bill (S. 3065), approved May 11, 1976, is Public Law 94-283 (90 Stat. 475).

Gerald R. Ford, Statement on Signing the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1976. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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