Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Today's New York Times reports that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold bill, has led to a 53% increase in contributions from lobbyists to federal politicians. This is not at all surprising, given that the law doubled the amount that any lobbyist can give to a politician from $1000 to $2000, and took the total amount that any lobbyist can give to all their favorite politicians and parties from $50,000 to $95,000. Those aren't amounts that the rest of us can fork over, but highly paid lobbyists seem to be managing no problem.
The McCain-Feingold bill banned parties, but not outside groups, from raising and spending unlimited soft money contributions. However, according to a 2001 study that I helped design called Lobbyists Last Laugh, 92% of the funds previously given by lobbyists were hard money contributions to candidates, not soft money gifts to parties. So, it was easy to predict that this so-called reform would be a boon to lobbyists. Given that the candidate who raises the most money wins about 95% of the time, this gives any member of Congress second thoughts before they decide to stand up to the lobbyists on Gucci Gulch.