Rep. Castor Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Finally Put Zombie Campaigns in the Grave
HEC No supported by national watchdog and government transparency organizations
Today, U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor (FL14), Gus Bilirakis (FL12) and Jamie Raskin (MD08) reintroduced the bipartisan Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain Act (HEC NO), bipartisan legislation requiring former lawmakers and others no longer seeking office to close their campaign accounts within two years, instead of living on as zombie campaigns. A version of HEC NO was included in the landmark bill, H.R. 1 – the For the People Act, that passed the House earlier this year.
“Members of Congress are elected to serve the public interest, not their personal interests, and House Democrats passed the For the People Act to clean up corruption in Washington and restore integrity to our government. I’ve reintroduced legislation to end Zombie Campaigns to move us forward – under President Biden, a Democratic House and Senate,” said Rep. Castor. “Ex-lawmakers and candidates should not be able to personally benefit from leftover campaign funds, and if we pass my bipartisan bill, we can put Zombie Campaigns in the grave once and for all.”
“Elected officials have a responsibility to uphold the public trust. We’ve seen egregious examples of former members keeping their campaign accounts open in perpetuity and personally benefitting from the proceeds. While they may not have explicitly broken the law, they have certainly violated the spirit of the law, which is wrong,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL12). “We have to close the loophole and restore the public trust.”
"It's wrong for former members of Congress to finance extravagant lifestyles with leftover campaign funds. It only serves to further erode the public’s faith in their elected officials. We applaud Rep. Castor for her bipartisan legislation to tackle this issue and commitment to fighting corruption and restoring trust in our system," said Tiffany Muller, President, End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund.
“When members of Congress who retire or lose re-election maintain unspent ‘war chests,’ these funds can contribute to a corrupt ‘pay-to-play’ system of politics,” said Paul S. Ryan, Vice President for Policy and Litigation at the non-partisan watchdog Common Cause. “In introducing the Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain Act, we appreciate Representative Castor’s efforts to ensure our campaign finance laws work to amplify the voices of everyday Americans and not allow former members of Congress to cash in on their political relationships and leftover campaign funds to benefit special interest lobbying clients.”
"The Honest Elections and Campaigns Act would close an often abused, glaring loophole in our campaign finance system. Ex-candidates should not be allowed to use campaign dollars as their own personal slush fund years or even decades after they have ended their political careers,” said Meredith McGehee, Executive Director at Issue One. "This commonsense proposal to finally end abusive "Zombie Campaigns" would strengthen ethical standards in our government and should be passed by Congress and signed into law."
"The HEC NO Act stops politicians-turned-lobbyists from using leftover campaign funds to advance their post-congressional lobbying careers and to promote the interests of foreign lobbying clients. This bill sponsored by Rep. Castor takes aim at zombie campaigns and prevents former politicians from using their old campaign accounts as personal slush funds,” said Brendan Fischer, federal reform program director at Campaign Legal Center.
“Donors give money for the express purpose of helping promote the candidacy of a specific candidate. Yet, many candidates, even after losing the campaign, will use that same money for other purposes, such as fueling a lobbying career or facilitating the campaigns of others, like a zombie rising out of the ashes. Rep. Castor’s much-needed legislation would ensure that donors get what they give for, and is heartily endorsed by Public Citizen,” said Craig Holman, Ph.D. of Public Citizen.
Supporters of HEC No include Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, End Citizens United, Issue One, Let America Vote Action Fund, and Public Citizen.
For the past three sessions of Congress, U.S. Rep. Castor has introduced similar legislation after explosive reports by the Tampa Bay Times and WTSP Channel 10 detailing how several former members of Congress continued their campaign accounts years after their campaigns ended, paying off personal expenses and employing family members.