Rep. Castor: It’s Time to Bury Zombie Campaigns for Good
Castor, Bilirakis, Raskin Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Clean Up Corruption in Washington
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), 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.
“Members of Congress are elected to serve the public interest, not their personal interests, and our neighbors are calling on Congress to increase transparency and clean up corruption in Washington. I’ve reintroduced legislation to end Zombie Campaigns to ensure that we put people over politics, big corporations and special interests with outsized influence,” 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. “We have to close the loophole and restore the public trust.”
“As Members of Congress, we are not elected to serve our own personal interests but to represent the people of our districts in pursuit of the public good,” said Rep. Raskin. “The campaign funds we raise are meant for campaign expenditures. That is why I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing legislation to end zombie campaigns and ensure that campaign funds are not used beyond their proper intended purposes. Former lawmakers and candidates should not use leftover campaign funds for private purposes, and this bipartisan bill will ensure that we end the moral hazards involved in leftover campaign funds being available for improper uses.”
"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 Aaron Scherb, senior director of legislative affairs 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 enable leftover campaign funds to benefit special interest lobbying clients.”
“Leftover campaign cash should not be used as slush funds, allowing former politicians to use donor money to live lavishly or improve their post-congressional lobbying careers. The HEC NO Act, sponsored again this year by Reps. Castor, Bilirakis and Raskin, takes aim at zombie campaigns and works to prevent this corrupt practice and should be passed into law.” said Saurav Ghosh, director for federal campaign finance reform at Campaign Legal Center.
“Campaign donors give money for the express purpose of helping promote the candidacy of a specific candidate. They are not making the donation to fuel a post-campaign lobbying career of the candidate or to support the campaigns of other candidates. Yet that is exactly what many candidates do with left-over campaign funds. Rep. Castor’s ‘zombie campaign’ legislation would prevent candidates from using campaign funds for other purposes, and is heartily endorsed by Public Citizen,” said Craig Holman, Public Citizen.
“This commonsense bill addresses a blatant loophole in our campaign finance system that allows former members and candidates to indefinitely hold onto their leftover campaign cash, funds often used to fuel their lobbying careers for specialist interests. Members from both parties should address this glaring ethics issue by passing this legislation this year,” said Elise Wirkus, Legislative Director at Issue One.
For the past four 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. A version of HEC NO was included in the landmark bill, H.R. 1 – the For the People Act, that passed the Democratic House last Congress.