Andrew Brown Politics and Government 101 Analytical essay "The Bill That Wasn't: The Failure of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001"Passing campaign finance reform will help restore public confidence in our government and boost our nation's disturbingly low rate of voter turnout in national elections," says Jim Jeffords, a Democrat from Vermont. Jeffords along with many other Republicans believes that some sort of campaign finance reform will help, but will the current proposal pass? To be able to be put into use and have the United States electoral process benefit, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 must first be passed, and that just may prove to be a task that is too much for the bill to handle. There are many steps that the bill must take and encounter many groups. The aspects that will have a role in the final fate of the Act are Congress, party organization, interest groups, and unorganized interests. Due to irreconcilable differences in Congress, and various other problems within the parties, and with other interests, no part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 will actually become a law. Most of the members of Congress do believe that some sort of reform is needed.
The actual reform is a debatable subject. Democrats feel that some things need to happen and Republicans believe in other changes. One might ask why reform is needed for campaign finance, that question is easily answered. The nation has many perceived and arguably true ideas of problems dealing with campaign finance. One such problem is corruption.
The idea of vote buying, and other such corruptions are popular ideas among voters and politicians. Another perceived problem is that money runs the entire electoral process, you have to have money to win an election, and you have to have money even to run. Another large problem that is perceived is the idea that at the presidential level, appointments and committee choices are all based on the outcome of the election. Congress and its many members have various differences on how campaign finance should be reformed. The Democratic Party strongly supports the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform proposal. They feel that the important legislation would improve their current campaign finance system by dramatically reducing the influence of money on their political process.
(1) Many individuals in the Democratic Party feel that subjects other than money and power should drive political elections. The Democrats take this stand because as a whole, the amount of money that the Democrats have at their disposal is far less than that of the Republicans. Republicans have consistently attacked the McCain-Feingold bipartisan campaign finance reform proposal. During the 105 th U.
S. Congress, the Republican-led U. S. Senate filibustered the McCain-Feingold bill while the Republican-led U.
S. House refused to schedule debate or a vote on the Shays-Meehan bill. (2) Being the more wealthy party, it is obvious that Republican leaders are going to have some objection to a bill that intends to ban soft money, and limit other areas of finances. Regulations on money might mean a leveling of the playing field between the Republicans and Democrats, something Republicans want to avoid at all costs. 1) Campaign Finance Reform.
November 26, 2001. web > 2) Campaign Finance Reform. November 26, 2001. web > Despite widespread agreement among politically active people that the campaign finance system is flawed in one way or another, fundamental changes are unlikely because there is no consensus on what would count as an improvement or how to achieve it.
(3) Many Democrats favor a ban or a limit on Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions. Many Democrats also favor banning "soft money", spending limits on campaigns, and more public financing of campaigns. (4) On the other hand, many Republicans favor prohibiting labor unions from spending compulsory union dues on political activities. Many Republicans also favor raising limits on individual donations, and restricting donations from PAC's. (5) Republicans seem to oppose the bill much stronger than Democrats do. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, questions the bill and criticized the damage that it would do to political parties.
"The theory of this bill," said McConnell, "the underlying theory, is that there is too much money in politics, in spite of the fact that last year Americans spent more money on potato chips than they did on politics." It is widely agreed upon that the McCain-Feingold bill is the most prominent chance for a reform to actually take place. The provisions of the bill are extensive (in an attempt to please both parties) some of the main provisions include: ~A ban on soft money, the unlimited contributions to the political parties, from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals. 3) Kernel, Samuel and Gary Jacobsen. The Logic of American Politics. "Voting, Campaigns, and Elections." (Washington D. C.
: Congressional Quarterly). Pg. 379 4) "Campaign Reform: Reform Proposals." In Focus. 1997. CNN. November 27, 2001.
web > 5) "Campaign Reform: Reform Proposals." In Focus. 1997. CNN. November 27, 2001. web > ~Codification of the Supreme Court's decision in the Beck case, which permits non-union members to request a refund of the portion of the agency fees they pay to the union in lieu of dues in some states that is used for political activities unrelated to collective bargaining. ~A provision outlining the circumstances under which spending by outside groups or parties will be considered to be coordinated with candidates.
~A clear prohibition of political fundraising on federal property. A clear prohibition on contributions of any sort by foreign nationals. ~A prohibition on candidates using campaign funds for their personal benefit. The bill obviously holds many provisions that are meant to please both the democrats and the Republicans. The big question is, are the two parties going to be willing to budge and settle for what is proposed? I feel that the answer is going to be no. Another obstacle that I feel the bill is going to have to contend with is the organization of the two parties.
How are the parties going to react at the local, state, and national levels? At the local level, the parties are not really going to have a problem with the ban on soft money, because soft money is not as much of an issue at the local level. The local level will be affected by the fact that spending by outside groups will be monitored. At the state level, the objections are going to start growing a little. People running for state positions often benefit from the use of soft money.
Corporations and unions would be prevented from paying directly for issue ads. This will be a large change, as now the parties will have to spend more of their own money on the ads that they run. Any way you look at it, local, state, or national, the different parties are going to feel the hit in different areas, and I don't think that they are going to like it. Another area that is going to present an obstacle to the bill are Political Action Committees (PAC's) and other independent organizations.
PAC's play a huge role in elections, and the parties rely heavily on the money from the PAC's. With the new bill, people would be prohibited from giving "soft money" to the PAC's. The bill also enacts a window of time in which independent organizations to express political views with messages that mention candidate's names. The McCain-Feingold bill not only limits donations but also limits political activities that unions, corporations, and special interest organizations typically undertake.
As mentioned earlier the Supreme Court decision in the Beck case will be codified which will also affect the political process. According to the Supreme Court a dues paying nonmember employee (one who pays dues but has yet to join the union) has the right to object to the local and national union and receive a refund of funds collected for non-representational activities. A union giving money to a political action committee or forming their own PAC would be an example of a non-representational activity. (6) This decision by the Court is going to hamper the PAC process due to the fact that unions provide a lot of money. Now that it is legal for nonmembers that pay dues to withhold their money, many unions will not have the same amount of funds at their disposal as they had previously.
As I said before, there are many steps for this bill to take. It faces a long journey ahead of it filled with differences of opinions between Congress members, members of the political parties, and PAC's. And although many people believe that some sort of change would be beneficial, or change the entire process in a positive way, change is hard. Not just in campaign finance, but in many aspects of politics, and business alike trying to bring about a huge change is going to come up against problems. This is why I feel that every part of the McCain-Feingold bill will fail. 6) "Special Notice: Refund of Union Dues." Your Oklahoma.
November 29, 2001. web.