19 Jun 2002 Political Money Monitor: June 19, 2002
* New Campaign Regulations Find Liberal Opposition
New Campaign Regulations Find Liberal Opposition
Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulators wrote strict new rules to comply with the McCain-Feingold legislation passed last March, but some experts are still skeptical about their effectiveness. Also, some of the bill’s initial supporters turned out to be not quite as supportive as they initially proclaimed.
When the FEC accepted public comment on the proposed new rules, hard-line reform groups such as Public Citizen and Common Cause discovered the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was no longer an ally. Although the DNC was active in passing the McCain-Feingold bill, DNC lawyers were submitting comments that proposed looser interpretations of the law, such as allowing parties to accept unlimited donations for limited purposes and state parties to run issue ads. Public Citizen also released a report stating that political groups called “non-politician 527s” – that include organized labor committees using money collected from mandatory member dues and other interest groups that are largely liberal – might not be covered by new regulations and thus become more influential. The Progressive Donor Network, organized by liberal consultant Mike Lux, brought big donors and liberal interest groups together in April in part to maximize this potential loophole.
Common Cause President Scott Harshbarger told The Washington Post: “[DNC Chairman] Terry McAuliffe says he supports reform, but his lawyers are working hard to undo the new law.” Post editors opined, “If the Democrats want to take credit for passing McCain-Feingold, they need to quit stabbing it in the back when nobody’s looking.”
Rules presented to the FEC’s commissioners, however, do not allow national parties to raise non-candidate “soft money” for state parties or use soft money for voter registration, identification or get-out-the-vote efforts.
Conservative opponents received backhanded praise for remaining consistent in their opposition to new regulations. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to find the new rules unconstitutional. Other plaintiffs include the National Rifle Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Broadcasters. Commenting on the situation, Representative Bob Barr (R-GA), another plaintiff, told The Hill: “It’s sort of the ultimate Washington hypocrisy that you work to support reform publicly but undermine it privately. It’s probably technically legal but it’s unethical.”
Next Regulatory Step Already ProposedSyndicated columnist George F. Will predicted in a February column that proponents of increased campaign finance regulation would probably wait “maybe two years” before mounting another advance toward their goal of full public funding of political campaigns. He was wrong – they waited only about two hours. The Alliance for Better Campaigns (ABC) sent out a press release the day the Senate passed the McCain-Feingold regulations to announce the launch of their “Free Air Time Campaign.” Speaking about their new demand for gratis, regulated political ad time, ABC co-chair and former network TV anchor Walter Cronkite said, “free air time would help free our democracy from the grip of special interests.” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is expected to introduce a related bill as early as June 19.
Campaign Finance Factoids
Oklahoma Right to Work Law Validated by Federal CourtA U.S. District Court recently threw out a legal challenge to Oklahoma’s new right to work law. The lawsuit, brought by organized labor, sought to overturn State Question 695, which was approved by voters in a September 2001 referendum. The law, in part, prohibits mandatory union membership and dues payments as a requirement for employees of private companies to keep their jobs.
Legislative Challenge to Colorado Paycheck Protection Order Turned BackProposed legislation to overturn Colorado Governor Bill Owens’s 2001 executive order prohibiting government authorities from withholding union dues from state employee paychecks was stopped in the Colorado House of Representatives.
Union-Supported Campaign Regulation Initiative Overturned in OregonA 1998 Oregon initiative to increase campaign finance regulation was unanimously overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court because it contained issues so diverse the judges determined they must be voted on separately. The initiative was promoted by organized labor as a means of deflecting voter interest from a paycheck protection initiative on the same ballot.
Teachers Union Warned Against Discriminating on Basis of ReligionThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warned the National Education Association that the union had violated the rights of a teacher who rejected union membership because of his religious beliefs. In Washington State, the state affiliate of the NEA told a bus driver who had similar religious objections that he must pay the equivalent of his union dues to the American Civil Liberties Union. The affiliate backed down after the union was threatened with a lawsuit.
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