Campaign Reform Bill: Senate Debates
The US Senate on Monday, March 19, 2001, opened what promises to be at least two weeks of debate on S. 27 - the Campaign Finance Reform Bill cosponsored by the bipartisan duo of Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold. Senator McCain has stated that he expects the bill to bring heated debate, along with introduction of several proposed amendments. The McCain-Feingold bill has failed to pass in five previous presentations before the Senate.
Here is an explanation of what the McCain-Feingold bill would do, who supports and opposes it, and what President Bush has indicated he will support in a campaign finance reform bill.
What the McCain-Feingold Bill Would Do
Soft-Money - Title I: The bill as introduced would ban some and place strict limitations on other donations of "soft-money." Soft-money is money donated to political parties rather than to specific candidates. Most soft-money donations come from wealthy individuals, corporations and organized labor unions. In the last election, soft-money donations to political parties amounted to more than $500 million.
Specifically, the bill states: "A national committee of a political party (including a national congressional campaign committee of a political party) may not solicit, receive, or direct to another person a contribution, donation, or transfer of funds or any other thing of value, or spend any funds, that are not subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this Act."
Supporters consider soft-money control to be the heart of the bill, arguing that restricting these contributions will reduce the influence of special interest groups in the political system.
Campaign Advertising - Title II: The bill also places limitations "issues-based" campaign advertisements paid for by independent groups or organizations. An example would be a campaign TV ad paid for by a private industry or company, rather than from funds raised by the candidate or political party.
Miscellaneous Provisions - Title III: The bill also prohibits campaign fundraising on property belonging to the federal government and strengthens existing laws against campaign contributions by foreign nationals.
Specifically, the bill states: "It shall be unlawful for -- (1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make --(A) a donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election; or -- (B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or -- (2) for a person to solicit, accept, or receive such contribution or donation from a foreign national."
The provisions of the bill would amend various sections of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431 et seq.)
Support and opposition on the McCain-Feingold bill comes from both Republican and Democratic Senators. An alternate bill, sponsored by another Republican Senator also has bi-partisan support, including that of President Bush.