Thursday, November 20, 2003
The same group of politicians that brought us the McCain-Feingold bill to partially ban soft money while doubling hard money limits are now aiming to repair the federal system of voluntary spending limits. Citizens should be skeptical of any reform proposed by people who are directly impacted by it (McCain ran for president, Feingold has said he might some day.) This skepticism is especially warranted given that the increases in contribution limits contained in the last McCain-Feingold bill are one of the main reasons that the presidential system of voluntary spending limits is in trouble.
But, so far this seems like a reasonable approach. Some details can be found here in this Boston Globe story. While the best approach would be to set mandatory spending limits, this reform proposal makes it more likely that candidates would opt into voluntary limits by making it easier for candidates to accept these limits to compete with candidates who don't. In the last presidential cycle, Steve Forbes opted out of the system, forcing George W Bush to opt out as well to compete. In this cycle, President Bush was the first to opt out, causing Democrats Howard Dean and John Kerry to follow suit.
Citizens who care about reforming our presidential campaign finance system should follow this proposal closely. As we've seen in the past, proposals that pass Congress sometimes look a lot different than the ones the public is told about as they are introduced. But, with the current system in shambles, something clearly needs to be done and these legislators should be commended for getting the ball rolling.