The Flyer News (U. Dayton)
(U-WIRE) DAYTON, Ohio – What is different about the federal
elections of 2004?
Besides the disturbing prediction that this will be the
“nastiest” campaign in presidential history, the McCain-Feingold
Campaign Finance Reform Act will finally be tested in the
Passed with much fanfare before the 2002 mid-term elections, the
proponents of McCain-Feingold had as their principal goal the
elimination of the influence of evil “special interests” in
Among the more interesting provisions were the banning of the
use of soft money in federal elections (money the state political
parties can collect in sometimes unlimited contribution amounts)
and the banning of issue “attack” ads 60 days or closer to an
Will this stop special interests from influencing elections?
Recently, I was invited by the Harvard Law GOP during its annual
D.C. retreat to attend a talk given by Ben Ginsberg and Ann
These two people are the top election law counsel to the
Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign and the National Republican Committee,
What are the real effects of McCain-Feingold, according to
Regarding issue ads, it first must be said that the two main
political parties and congressional/senatorial candidates usually
don’t have enough money to run many television ads more than 60
days before an election. Special interest groups, however, being
banned from running ads when there is two months to an election,
can now concentrate all of their ads on the period before this.
This means that the issues can now be defined by special
interests in the formative, early stages of an election, and the
political parties (being diminished under McCain-Feingold) will be
virtually financially powerless to stop them.
Regarding soft money, many special interests are now starting to
fill the financial void that many candidates are facing (because of
their parties’ diminished ability to spend money). Groups like
EMILY’s List (that donate money to pro-choice women candidates) are
selecting a few specific congressional races (10 to 15) and getting
its vast membership to send those congressmen or congresswomen
The result? Individual congressmen will each become beholden to
one or two specific special interests for their political life.
Thus, any coherent party platform on either side will be incredibly
more difficult to achieve, as the party money has been replaced by
special interest money and compromise simply isn’t as politically
This is not a partisan position. Both speakers freely admitted
that right now, the new laws are benefiting Republicans more than
Democrats. But both lamented the loss of democracy to an even
greater special interest presence in the long run.
What McCain-Feingold ultimately teaches us is that running
roughshod over the First Amendment is never a good thing.
At best you only diminish the freedoms our country is based on,
and at worst, you achieve the exact opposite of what you hoped to
The post McCain-Feingold world will be one where handicapped
political parties struggle to contain special interests stronger
than they ever were before.
The next time we contemplate diminishing the First Amendment in
the name of outrage at “Washington fat cats,” we should remember