WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn, who failed to persuade national party officials to return taxpayer funding for their upcoming conventions, introduced legislation with a Democratic colleague on Monday that would end public financing of the weeklong gatherings.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said the nominating conventions have become partisan celebrations and don't deserve taxpayer dollars during tough fiscal times.
Coburn sent a letter to Republican and Democratic party leaders last month asking that they give back the $18 million each had received from the voluntary checkoff on income tax returns. Neither of the top leaders responded to Coburn in writing, but both parties issued public statements defending the funding.
Republican spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski reiterated that stance on Monday, saying the conventions serve an important role in the nominating process.
“If Sen. Coburn has ideas on how to overhaul campaign finance laws that will provide political parties with viable alternative funding sources or on the funding for future conventions, he should address them through the legislative process,” she said.
Coburn's idea is to prohibit money from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to be used for conventions after this year.
“Voluntarily returning convention funds would be a great act of leadership and statesmanship for both parties,” Coburn said.
“Nevertheless, it's time for Congress to act and end the practice of subsidizing annual convention parties with taxpayer dollars. With a languishing recovery and unsustainable debt, there is no justification for spending public funds on booze, balloons and confetti.”