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Thursday, December 11, 2003

Supreme Spin
There's lots of interesting coverage today about the ramifications of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the McCain-Feingold law.

Here's a story in USA Today. Some items of interest include:

1) The combined revenue of the Republican and Democractic parties for the first half of this year is up 17% from the last presidential cycle. This is because even though the parties can no longer raise soft money, the limits on what they can raise in hard money have gone up dramatically. So, contrary to claims that this is hurting the parties, they have more money than ever. What does Senator Feingold say about this? He says the development is "healthy."

2) Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth, says "This has not taken the special-interest money out of politics." He should know, his group spends millions of dollars on ads attacking candidates. He's right, his group will continue to be able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to attack candidates under the new law.

Here's a story from the Boston Globe which notes that groups of high income donors such as law firms are the winners. This is because these groups can now bundle $2000 checks instead of $1000 checks before McCain-Feingold. Just what we need, right, more influence by lawyers. This story says that wealthy individual donors are not winners, but I'm not sure why. A wealthy individual donor can give twice as much to a candidate as before, and can give $95,000 to all candidates and parties combined -- up from $50,000 before McCain-Feingold. They can't give unlimited amounts to parties, but they can still give unlimited amounts to electioneering groups who can use it for direct mail, telephone push polls, get out the vote efforts, all sorts of things.

Here's a story from the Los Angeles Times that quotes Senator Mitch McConnell saying that the McCain-Feingold law won't remove one dime from politics, just shift it around. I don't think he's totally right about this, but it likely will bring in more hard money under the higher limits than it will remove from the soft money regulations.

So, why then does the New York Times editorialize that this is a Campaign Finance Triumph? If they are just reading the opinion, perhaps they are right. Its a good ruling, and it authorizes Congress and the states to pass serious rules that would reduce the role of big money in politics. Unfortunately, the McCain-Feingold law won't actually do that.




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