OPED20 Campaign Finance 'Reform'

A hot topic in the news is campaign finance reform. The McCain-Feingold-Cochrane Campaign Finance Reform Bill - Senate S27 (PDF file), Common Cause summary , and OMB Watch summary - has passed the Senate, while the Shays-Meehan Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act - House HR 2356 - passed the House in February. Both these bills aim to regulate campaign financing by eliminating 'soft money' donations, and imposing other restrictions.


Since Shays-Meehan is slightly different from the Senate version discussions are back in the Senate. Senator Daschle has vowed to get it through the Senate by 3/25, Republicans (led by Mitch McConnell, R-KY) are resisting and threatening a filibuster.

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The passage of these bills was helped by revelations of Enron's massive political contributions, even though these paled in comparison to union contributions - In the 2001-2002 election cycle Enron ranked 33rd in soft money contributions, while in the 1999-2000 election cycle it ranked 15th in soft money contributions. (The AFSCME was on top in both of these cycles, the SEIU was once second and once third in the rankings, while the CWA was 6th in both cycles.)

Instead of fighting the "villain du jour" (today it is soft money, a few years ago it was Political Action Committees...) with restrictive and constitutionally questionable laws, we should ease restrictions on campaign financing but subject all financing to the light of day, a sort of Regulation FD for the political industry. The following is a suggested outline for a campaign reform system:

© SNi 03/07/2002