Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002
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The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (H.R.2356), otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bills, originated in 2001 with bills sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), respectively. The purpose of the act was to ban "soft money" from being contributed to candidates and political parties. It also prohibited the airing of "non-partisan" issue ads funded by soft money in days leading up to elections, among other things. President George W. Bush signed the act into law on March 27, 2002.
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) banned "soft money" from being contributed to federal or state candidates and national, state, and local political parties. BCRA also prohibited non-partisan "issue ads" funded by soft money from corporations and labor unions - those referring to candidates for federal election without expressly advocating their election or defeat -- in the 60 days prior to a general election, or 30 days prior to a primary election. It also required the disclosure of sources of finance for "electioneering communications" in excess of $10,000 per year, and raised the legal limits of hard money that could be raised.
Legislative action on the bill
February 14, 2002
The bill passed the Senate in a vote of 60-40 on March 20, 2002.
March 20, 2002
Implications for Bush
Some argued that President George W. Bush benefited from the act, as federal contribution limits were increased by it. A Bush Pioneer, for example, who raised $100,000 in 2000--by bundling $1,000 checks from 100 people--could now obtain $2,000 from those donors and enter Bush's new elite club of $200,000 "Ranger" fundraisers."
- See Bush's Rangers for more fund-raising information.
Judicial action on the bill
On June 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which restricted corporations and labor unions from broadcasting ads at election time using general funds. In the 5-4 decision in the case of Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that the ads at issue were not "the 'functional equivalent' of express campaign speech," meaning that these ads are protected under the First Amendment. Supporters of campaign finance reform worried that the decision would lead to a surge of soft money funded campaign ads disguised as issue ads.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spearheaded the legislation, commented on the decision:
"It is regrettable that a split Supreme Court has carved out a narrow exception by which some corporate and labor expenditures can be used to target a federal candidate in the days and weeks before an election... It is important to recognize, however, that the Court’s decision does not affect the principal provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which bans federal officeholders from soliciting soft money contributions for their parties to spend on their campaigns."
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- 527 committee
- New Democrat Network
- Progressive Donor Network
- soft money
- U.S. presidential election, 2004
- Bush's Rangers
- THOMAS page on McCain-Feingold, THOMAS.
- THOMAS page on McCain-Feingold, THOMAS.
- Charles Laurence. "Bush's Rangers on trail to round up record $200m,". Telegraph. June 15, 2003.
- Ariane de Vouge. "Supreme Court Weakens Campaign Finance Law," ABC News. June 25, 2007.
- Alexander Bolton and Klaus Marre. "McCain: 'Regrettable' decision," The Hill. June 25, 2007.
- Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, 107th Congress, 2D Session H.R. 2356, An Act to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.
- Robert A. Levy, Shays-Meehan Ad Nauseam, Cato Institute, February 13, 2002.
- The Big Lie behind Shays-Meehan, and the phony 'soft-money' crisis, LP.org, February 14, 2002.
- H.R. 2356 to Amend section 103(b) to read as follows: (b) Building Fund Exception to the Definition of Contribution. 107th Congress, H.R. 361 Agreed to March 22, 2002.
- BCRA McCain-Feingold, Campaign Legal Center.
- President Signs Campaign Finance Reform Act, Statement by the President, White House, March 27, 2002.
- President Bush Signs McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Reform Bill, Common Cause, March 27, 2002; Summary of Bill.
- Joint Statement by McCain, Feingold, Shays and Meehan on Challenges to FEC Soft Money Regulations, October 8, 2002.
- Campaign Finance Reform/Shays-Meehan, Public Citizen.
- Allison R. Hayward, McCain-Feingold Goes to Court (excerpt), Hoover Institution, December 4, 2002.
- Lawrence M. O'Rourke and James Rosen, Ruling overturns campaign reforms. Blanket ban on 'soft money' unconstitutional, court says, News Observer, May 3, 2003.
- Special Interest Ruling, Boston Daily Globe, May 3, 2003.
- Half-Right on McCain-Feingold, The New York Times, May 3, 2003.
- Steven Weiss, Where Are We Now? The new campaign finance law makes its way through the courts, Capital Eye, May 14, 2003.
- Andrew C. McCarthy, "Gonzales and McCain-Feingold. The attorney general abandoned the Right before it abandoned him," National Review, April 25, 2007.
- Robert Barnes, "Justices Reconsider Campaign Finance. Some Are Skeptical Of Earlier Ruling," Washington Post, April 26, 2007.
- David G. Savage, "Justices may ease limits on 'issue ads'. Some groups may be permitted to mention candidates in preelection spots, exempting them from a broadcast ban," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2007.