Inside the Campaign Finance Battle
Court Testimony on the New Reforms
Publication Year: 2003
In 2002 Congress enacted the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), the first major revision of federal campaign finance law in a generation. In March 2001, after a fiercely contested and highly divisive seven-year partisan legislative battle, the Senate passed S. 27, known as the McCain-Feingold legislation. The House responded by passing H.R. 2356, companion legislation known as Shays-Meehan, in February 2002. The Senate then approved the House-passed version, and President George W. Bush signed BCRA into law on March 27, 2002, stating that the bill had "flaws" but overall "improves the current system of financing for federal campaigns." The Reform Act was taken to court within hours of the President's signature. Dozens of interest groups and lawmakers who had opposed passage of the Act in Congress lodged complaints that challenged the constitutionality of virtually every aspect of the new law. Following review by a special three-judge panel, the case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. This litigation constitutes the most important campaign finance case since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Buckley v. Valeo more than twenty-five years ago. The testimony, submitted by some of the country's most knowledgeable political scientists and most experienced politicians, constitutes an invaluable body of knowledge about the complexities of campaign finance and the role of money in our political system. Unfortunately, only the lawyers, political scientists, and practitioners actually involved in the litigation have seen most of this writing —until now. Ins ide the Campaign Finance Battle makes key testimony in this historic case available to a general readership, in the process shedding new light on campaign finance practices central to the congressional debate on the reform act and to the landmark litigation challenging its constitutionality.
Published by: Brookings Institution Press
Title page, Copyright
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Editors' Note: An Explanation of This Volume
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The testimony submitted by some of the country's most knowledgeable political scientists and most experienced politicians in the legal challenge to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold/Shays- Meehan) constitutes an invaluable body of knowledge about the complexities of campaign finance and the role of money in our...
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Congress last year enacted the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the first major revision of federal campaign finance law in a generation. The sponsors and supporters of this legislation describe the statute as a long overdue and urgently needed package of reforms designed to restore the system of campaign finance envisioned by Congress when it adopted...
Part I: Political Parties
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The Rise of Soft Money
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The rise of television and the increasingly candidate-centered nature of federal election campaigns after World War II led to a substantial increase in campaign costs and growing concerns about political financing. But it was not until the early 1970s that Congress began to wrestle seriously with the shortcomings of the old system and the challenges of the new. The Revenue Act of 1971 created a presidential public financing...
Parties versus Interest Groups
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Since the dawn of the twentieth century, many factors have threatened the indispensable yet fragile place of parties in American politics, including the growth of the mass media and the development of a mass entertainment industry. But these forces would have been far less debilitating were it not for reforms such as the direct primary, registration laws, and...
Why Soft Money Has Not Strengthened Parties
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There is no need to speculate about the immediate impact of a soft-money ban on parties since there is a long record of soft-money receipts and expenditures dating back a decade and longer.1 The two national committees and the congressional campaign committees raised nearly $1.2 billion in soft money from 1991 to 2000, including more than $700 million...
Why Soft Money Has Strengthened Parties
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Political parties are essential institutions in democracies. This is a widely accepted premise among political scientists. In the United States, political parties have played a critical role linking citizens to their government locally and nationally. Through efforts to build coalitions of candidates, officeholders, and voters at every level of government, American political parties have been agents of consensus in a society characterized by...
The Need for Federal Regulation of State Party Activity
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This report's recurrent theme is that parties are highly adaptable strategic actors. Notwithstanding their resistance to laws that restrict their ability to solicit and transfer large donations, parties will quickly adjust to the new incentive system created by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), for example, by broadening their base of...
A Senate Democrat's Perspective
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When I left the Senate in 1994, I left with a sense of gratitude for having had the privilege to serve there, but also in a state of great alarm about its future. Congress as an institution is in trouble, and only a change in the way our campaigns are financed can mend the broken trust between the American people and their...
A Senate Republican's Perspective
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During my tenure in the U.S. Senate, I became acutely aware of the need for campaign finance reform, particularly with the impact of soft money on the political system. I have seen firsthand how the current campaign financing system prostitutes ideas and ideals, demeans democracy, and debases debates. The national parties often ask senators to make phone...
Mobilizing Voters: The Coordinated Campaign
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One of my major functions is overseeing our "coordinated campaign" programs in the various states. A coordinated campaign is a project of the state party to register, identify, and turn out voters on behalf of the entire Democratic ticket, including federal, state, and local candidates. The purpose is to increase turnout of Democratic voters for the benefit...
State Party Activity and the BCRA
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CDP is integrally related to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which is the governing body of the Democratic Party of the United States. Under its charter, the DNC is made up principally of the state chair and highest ranking officer of the opposite gender from each recognized state Democratic Party, and of 200 additional members apportioned...
State Party Activity under the Levin Amendment
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Although I am familiar with the term "soft money" being used to refer to unlimited contributions from individuals, labor organizations, and corporations, from the perspective of a state party committee, there is no such thing as unregulated "soft money." There are federally regulated contributions and state-regulated contributions. In accordance with Federal...
Role of Federal Officials in State Party Fund-Raising
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The BCRA will substantially impair my activities (and the activities of those construed to be my agents) with respect to national, state, and local political parties, and state and local candidates. As a federal officeholder, I will no longer be able to raise money not subject to the BCRA's restrictions (soft money) for the purpose of voter...
Part II: Issue Advocacy
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Party and Interest Group Electioneering in Federal Elections
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Interest groups and individuals have multiple means to seek to influence the outcome of a federal election. Many of these strategies fall under the scope of the FECA and Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). However, interest groups, individuals, corporations, and unions have found ways to conduct electioneering and circumvent FECA requirements. Some provisions of BCRA seek to remedy...
Electioneering Communications in Recent Elections: The Case for a New Standard
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The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's (BCRA) provisions focus on broadcast ads sponsored by parties and interest groups. The main subject of this report is the nature of interest group advertising in the 2000 contest and, more specifically, the ads and sponsors that would be directly affected by BCRA provisions relating to ads that mention...
Issue Advocacy and the Integrity of the Political Process
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In our earlier discussion of soft money we argued that corruption encompassed bribery, undue influence, and the more extreme forms of privileged access. We stand by that definition here. The use of candidate-oriented issue ads for electioneering by an array of established interest groups, freshly minted "organizations," and parties...
Rebuttal to the Expert Reports of Kenneth M. Goldstein and Jonathan S. Krasno and Frank J. Sorauf
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In my review of the original Buying Time reports (1998 and 2000), I drew several major conclusions about the reports, their conclusions, and the data upon which the studies were based. It is perhaps useful to begin this rebuttal with a brief restatement of these conclusions.---As provided by Professor Goldstein, the 1998 and 2000 data bases...
Rebuttal to Gibson
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Professor James L. Gibson raises a series of concerns---some serious and some less so---about the 1998 and 2000 editions of Buying Time and the datasets from which they were derived. In this rebuttal, I address many of these issues by drawing on my experience as lead author of Buying Time: Television Advertising in the 1998 Congressional Elections...
The National Association of Manufacturers' Advertising Helps Lobby Congress
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To advance the interests of its members, the National Association of Manufacturers must regularly consult with members of Congress, officers of the executive branch, and others, including political party officials and current or likely candidates for election to federal office. At the same time, NAM must consult and work with a wide variety of other...
Why the Chamber of Commerce Runs Issue Ads
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To advance the interests of its members, the Chamber of Commerce must and does regularly consult with members of Congress, officers of the executive branch, and others, including political party officials and current or likely candidates for election to federal office. At the same time, the Chamber must consult and work with a wide variety of politically...
How the Reform Act Adversely Affects the Associated Builders and Contractors
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The Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., is a Maryland nonprofit corporation funded primarily by membership dues. It is a national trade association representing more than 23,000 contractors and related firms in the construction industry. Its members include both unionized and nonunion employers and share the philosophy that construction...
A Practitioner Looks at How Issue Groups Select and Target Federal Candidates
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Some interest groups conduct what amounts to a vetting process to decide if they will help a particular federal or state candidate. These groups often do a lot of screening before deciding to commit resources. Many make the candidates fill out lengthy questionnaires and then bring them in and essentially grill them about their positions...
How Issue Ads Are Designed to Target Federal Candidates without "Express Advocacy"
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In the modern world of thirty-second political advertisements, it is rarely advisable to use such clumsy words as "vote for" or "vote against." If I am designing an ad and want the conclusion to be the number 20, I would use the ad to count from 1 to 19. I would lead the viewer to think 20, but I would never say it. All advertising professionals understand...
A Consultant's View on How Issue Ads Shaped a Congressional Election
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Interest groups were an important factor in the 2000 congressional election in Florida's Eighth District. Many interest groups offered to provide campaign support, telling us all about what they would do for us if Linda Chapin would pledge to vote a certain way on their issues. You can send them your position, and they may come back...
Part III: Public Opinion and Corruption
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Public Attitudes toward Campaign Finance Practice and Reform
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The analysis and summary here focus on public opinion data based on responses to surveys that were fielded since 1990 (except for trend data that go back a bit further). The full data assembled include responses to questions that were asked in surveys since the 1940s. The findings from those earlier questions are similar, but for purposes of brevity...
Public Views of Party Soft Money
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This study demonstrates that large political contributions to parties are seen by the public to have a significant and detrimental influence on the American political system and the actions of elected representatives of the federal government. Our principal finding is that the American public believes:---The views of large contributors to parties improperly influence...
The Reform Act Will Not Reduce the Appearance of Corruption in American Politics
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I have reviewed data on campaign finance from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, one of the most widely respected repositories of publicly available public opinion data; the Poll Track database, compiled by the National Journal; an extensive online repository of data published in the Hotline; as well as historical data available from the Gallup...
Rebuttal to Ayres
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I have reviewed the expert report of Whitfield Ayres. I find that it contains serious flaws in reasoning and conclusions that are not supported by his data. In preparation of my original expert report, I studied many hundreds of survey questions and presented more than 200 tables of survey results. By contrast, Mr. Ayres selectively cited a total of eight...
Campaign Contributions, the Appearance of Corruption, and Trust in Government
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Defendants' experts make assertions regarding the links among the appearance of corruption, campaign finance law, and Americans' confidence in their government. These are empirical claims that can be analyzed if phrased precisely and if terms are well defined. This requires informal statements to be cast as hypotheses, with precise causal...
Large Contributions Provide Unequal Access
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I know of organizations who believe that to be treated seriously in Washington, and by that I mean to be a player and to have access, you need to give soft money. As a result, many organizations give soft money. While some soft money is given for ideological purposes, companies and trade associations working on public policy for the most...
Corporate America Contributes Soft Money under Pressure
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The fact is that the people who raise large soft-money contributions from business corporations and labor unions are often sitting members of Congress that consider matters affecting the financial health or operations of the organizations being solicited. Often, the members who solicit large corporate contributions sit on committees that directly...
Large Contributions Are Given to Influence Legislation
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When I was at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 1991--92, the DSCC rarely raised or spent soft money, in fact, we frequently turned away offers of corporate money. Our legal counsel at the DSCC was very strict about what soft money could be used for, and there was also a sense among senators at that time that soft...
Elected Officials Often Used to Obtain Large Donations for the Parties
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I have been involved in political fund-raising long enough to remember when soft money had little value to federal candidates. Ten years ago, a senator might call a potential donor and the donor would say something like, "I would love to write you a check, I'm a big fan of yours, but I'm...
Why I Participate in a Corrupt System
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Since the early 1990s, I have engaged in significant political activity, working with and financially supporting a variety of individuals and organizations. From the 1992 election cycle through the 2002 cycle, I have donated millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and political committees and progressive political organizations. All...
How My Soft-Money Contributions Have Helped Elect Good Federal Candidates
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In the 2000 election cycle, I made over $4 million in political donations. This included substantial soft- and hard-money contributions to the Democratic National Committee. It also included over $2 million in soft-money donations to Democratic state party committees, including six-figure donations to the Michigan, Missouri...
How the Senate Was Corrupted by Soft Money
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It is not unusual for large contributors to seek legislative favors in exchange for their contributions. A good example of that which stands out in my mind because it was so stark and recent occurred on the next-to-last day of the 1995--96 legislative session. Federal Express wanted to amend a bill being considered by a conference committee...
Consequences of Members Soliciting Soft Money
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No one should have any idyllic illusions about the role of money in politics. By and large, the business world, including corporations and unions, gives money to political parties for a combination of two reasons: they believe that large contributions to a party (or in some cases, to both major parties) will enable them to gain privileged...
A Cosponsor's Perspective: Why I Don't Raise Soft Money for the Party
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Part of my motivation for reforming our campaign finance system came from responses by my constituents to surveys my congressional office sent out in 1997 and in 1999. The results of both surveys indicated that over 82 percent of my constituents believe that our "democracy is threatened by the influence of unlimited campaign contributions...
Congress Is Mired in Corrupt Soft Money
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Opponents of reform frequently ask reform proponents to cite examples of "quid pro quo" corruption. I believe, based on my experience, that elected officials do act in particular ways to assist large soft-money donors and that this skews and shapes the legislative process. As Representative Eric Fingerhut has noted: "The public will often...
Parties Support Members Who Fund-Raise
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Members who raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) expect some of the money to come directly back to them. Part of this unwritten but not unspoken rule is that if you do not raise a certain amount of money for the DSCC, you are not going to get any back. The DSCC does not give a...
Corruption Is Not an Issue in American Politics
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During my eighteen years in the U.S. Senate, I have met thousands of Americans with whom I have shaken hands, posed for photographs, answered questions, and discussed legislative issues. The overwhelming majority of these meetings have been with people who are not contributors to the Republican Party at the...
Parties Undermined by Soft Money
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Party and government officials participate in raising large contributions from interests that have matters pending before the executive offices, the Congress, and other government agencies. Party officials, who are not themselves elected officials, offer to large-money donors opportunities to meet with senior government officials. Donors...
Parties Weakened by Appearance of Corruption
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In 1994 I ran for the Senate in Maryland. One conclusion drawn from this experience was that the enormous growth of soft money in the past decade had allowed both parties to substitute those funds for the more arduous task of grassroots organizing, thereby inflating costs and devaluing personal participation. Political parties...
Page Count: 333
Publication Year: 2003