WASHINGTON — The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for a bill authored by Rep. Tom Cole to terminate public financing of national political conventions.
The bill passed 310 to 95 just weeks after the Republican and Democratic parties held their presidential nominating conventions; Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, is sponsoring companion legislation in the Senate.
Cole, R-Moore, who has been working on the issue since 2009, said on the House floor Wednesday that eliminating the funding for the conventions, held every four years, would be a small step toward saving taxpayer money for more pressing needs.
The Republican and Democratic parties received about $18 million each for their conventions this year, Cole said.
“For what?” he said. “Does anybody really believe that's the best use of public money?”
The public funds comprised about 23 percent of the total costs of the conventions, Cole said, adding that parties were more than capable of raising sufficient private funds.
The House and Senate have already voted in the past year to end public financing of political conventions.
However, the House approval came on a bill that would also end public financing of presidential campaigns. And the Senate approval came on an amendment by Coburn to the farm bill. Cole and Coburn introduced separate bills aimed simply at terminating the convention funding in hopes that they could get the legislation to the president's desk this year.
The conventions receive funding from the same source as presidential candidates, a voluntary checkoff on federal income tax returns.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, complained that the House had been ignoring important issues and focusing instead on political gestures “and this is more of the same.”
Rep. Dan Lungren, a California Republican, said the conventions had become “weeklong televised movie sets and almost entirely symbolic.”
Coburn called earlier this year for the parties to return the public money they received, but leaders from both parties defended the conventions as a vital part of presidential elections.