Getting what they asked for: McCain – Feingold campaign finance reform
This week the U.S. Senate will suspend all other business for 10 days of debate on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Which if passed as is will essentially ban all soft money contributions to parties, and limit how corporations and unions contribute to party coffers.
What is soft money? Soft money is money donated or contributed to a general party, which then gets divided up as the party sees fit. As opposed to money given to particular candidates, campaigns, or for expressly advocating the election or defeat of specific candidates, which would be hard money. The bill is particularly hard on issue ads, 30 days prior to a primary, and 60 days before an election. Senator John McCain has garnered much notoriety, or fame from this issue, depending on which side of the aisle you happen to be on. Ironically until recently the Republican Senator from Arizona’s staunchest supporters in the political arena have primarily been Democrats. Something which never seemed to bother him. But as of late there have been grumblings of dissent among the Senate Democrats. Quite frankly this bill will hurt the Democrats far worse than it will hurt the Republicans, and they know it. For approximately 5 years the Democrats have been screaming for campaign finance reform, knowing it garners pos itive public opinion, yet always relying on the Republicans to block its passage. In reality the Democrats don’t want this bill any more than the Republicans do. Truthfully this bill is a politicians worst nightmare. No politician, Republican or Democrat truly wants this bill passed.
However the Republicans have finally come to realize that McCain-Feingolds’ passage is not the end of the world. At least not to their party. The Democrats on the other hand are beginning to realize it could be for them. Consider the fact that as of last year Democrats and Republicans were just about even in terms of soft money collected. $243 million for the Democratic party, $244 million for the Republican party. No clear cut loser there. However with soft money gone the parties will be left to rely on hard money. Where Republicans hold a clear cut advantage. $447 million raised by the Republican party last year as opposed to $270 million raised by the Democrats. These are significant numbers. The sheer gravity of the situation is not lost on the Democrats either. Democratic Senators vocal in their support of McCains campaign finance reform are now back-pedaling. New Jerseys’ Robert Torricelli, and Louisianas’ John Breaux and Mary Landrieu are hoping to save face by supporting the watered down Hagel camp aign finance reform bill. The Hagel bill limits soft money contributions to $60,000, and allows unlimited funding as long as the money is channeled through state parties. My guess is that most Democrats will vote for an amended campaign finance reform bill, but only to save face, and then hope like hell that Bush will veto it. Essentially throwing the ball back into the Republican court.
My advice to Bush. Pass campaign finance reform. They want it, let them have it. That groan you hear after you sign it into law. That will be the sound of the left getting what they asked for!