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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

D.C. Power Play - Political Parties Angle for Dominance

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As Patrick O'Connor reports in The Hill, several campaign finance bills are being considered in Congress this week. Most of the action centers around dealing with 527 organizations, the billionaire-backed groups that took in and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to influence last year's presidential elections.

In the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), Congress finally checked the flow of unlimited donations ("soft money") to political parties, although the $25,000 limit on soft money hardly qualified as putting government back in the hands of the people. Aided by poor congressional drafting, the Federal Elections Commission decided that 527 groups, even if they raised and spent money trying to influence federal elections like political committees, weren't political committees, and therefore could take in million-dollar contributions from the likes of George Soros and Roland Arnall.

As O'Connor reports, the Senate is looking to treat 527s as political committees, a common sense solution. The House, however, is considering the "527 Fairness Act", which would not do anything to check billionaires' use of 527s to influence American elections, but would instead direct billionaires' cash back to . . . the political parties.

The 527 Fairness Act, a title written apparently from the standpoint of the money-hungry political parties, unsurprisingly has sponsors from both major parties. The wealthy interests with a stranglehold on American politics are likely salivating at the prospect of Congress opening up even more channels for them to flood with cash.

Directing the flow of money to the country's political parties does nothing to put our government back in the hands of the people, where it belongs. Instead of increasing the amount of money in the system, which has the very intended effect of making it harder for the rest of us to be heard, Congress can take some easy and obvious steps to Deep Six the 527 loophole.

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