Tags: Sen. | McConnell: | McCain | Bill | 'Is | Not | Reform'

Sen. McConnell: McCain Bill 'Is Not Reform'

Wednesday, 02 May 2001 12:00 AM

Thank you for the opportunity to testify about campaign finance reform. Last month, the Senate spent two weeks debating campaign finance reform, a subject that I have often said ranks with static cling as one the of the great concerns among the American people. The goal of many of my Republican colleagues through that debate was to craft a fair, balanced and constitutional reform package. However, the Senate failed on all of these critical fronts. The McCain/Feingold legislation is neither fair, nor balanced, nor constitutional.

By passing McCain/Feingold, I believe the United State Senate failed to uphold its oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The McCain/Feingold bill is full of constitutional infirmities ranging from restrictions on political parties to restrictions on outside interest groups. The Supreme Court has never upheld government regulation of the issue speech of parties, outside groups, corporations or unions. In fact, there are nearly two dozen federal cases in the past 25 years in which the federal courts have routinely and repeatedly struck down efforts to restrict issue speech.

The balance of my testimony today focuses on the winners and losers if McCain/Feingold becomes law.

1. The Losers

A. National Party Committees

The biggest losers under McCain/Feingold are the political parties. As I stated during the Senate debate, McCain/Feingold does not take the money out of politics, it takes the parties out of politics.

As the former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, I would like to dispel two myths about current law which ran rampant during the Senate debate. First, unlike the Sierra Club or NARAL, not a single issue advertisement run by a national or state party committee is paid for with 100% soft money. In 2000, for every dollar of issue advertising spent by a national party committee, 65 cents had to be hard money. Second, national party committees currently disclose all their soft money to the FEC.

To understand what the world will look like under McCain/Feingold, it is instructive to look at the 2000 election cycle as it was, and then what it would have looked like under McCain/Feingold.

In the 2000 cycle, the Republican National Committee had net federal contributions of $75 million dollars and the Democratic National Committee had $48 million. If McCain/Feingold had been in effect, the RNC would have had $37 million and the DNC just $20 million.

At the Senate Campaign Committees, the NRSC had net federal contributions of $14 million and the DSCC had $6 million in the 2000 cycle. If McCain/Feingold had been in effect, the NRSC would have had $1.2 million and the DSCC only $800,000.

And over here on the House side, in the 2000 cycle the NRCC had net federal contributions of $22 million while the DCCC had negative $7 million. If McCain/Feingold had been in effect, the NRCC would have had negative $13 million and the DCCC would have had a negative $20 million.

As these numbers clearly point out, McCain/Feingold would have a disastrous effect on the parties and those challengers who depend on the parties most. I note that several national party committees are carrying rather significant federal debts which may leave them in the red well into the 2004 election cycle.

B. State and Local Parties

Other losers under McCain/Feingold are the state and local parties. Some may think that state parties will be able to fill in part of the gap McCain/Feingold creates, but this is not the case.

In the 2000 cycle, less than half of all state party committees, Republican and Democrat combined, raised more than $1 million gross federal dollars - and that was during a presidential election year.

By federalizing the state and local parties, McCain/Feingold forces them to stretch their federal dollars much further while operating under new fundraising restrictions.

State parties will be required to do more with less.

2. The Winners

Now that I have outlined a couple of the big losers, let me share with you who wins under McCain/Feingold.

A. Outside Interests

The first big winner will be outside interests.

This legislation will do nothing to stem the tide of money being spent on politics, it just won’t be spent by the parties.

The outside groups, or "special interests," will continue to spend massive sums of money exercising their first amendment rights. McCain/Feingold leaves the party committees virtually helpless against those attacks.

According to the Annenberg Center for Public Policy, special interest groups accounted for 68% the issue ads last year. Parties accounted for only 32%. Outside interests are already outspending the parties more than 2 to 1, and it will only get worse. We have been afforded a glimpse of what the future will look like under McCain/Feingold:

During the debate over McCain/Feingold, Americans for Reform spent all soft money to encourage – what else – the elimination of soft money. This soft money ad ultimately would be unaffected by McCain/Feingold.

At the end of the McCain/Feingold debate in the Senate, NARAL announced it would spend $40 million "to elect a pro-choice president" and "restore pro-choice leadership in Congress." This massive all soft money campaign will also ultimately be unaffected by McCain/Feingold.

The week after the Senate vote, the Sierra Club launched an ad campaign criticizing three senators who voted against McCain/Feingold. Ironically, this also was an ad campaign attacking soft money funded solely by soft money. And McCain/Feingold will not change this.

B. Wealthy Individual and Corporate Owners of Newspapers or Broadcast Stations.

Other winners are wealthy individual and corporate owners of newspapers or broadcast stations will remain untouched by McCain/Feingold. The Washington Post and the New York Times ran a pro-McCain/Feingold editorial every six days for the past 28 months. At least in the Senate, they got what they campaigned for.

The profound influence on policy these media barons wield will only increase as they succeed in restricting the rights of everyone but the media.

C. Senate Incumbents.

The biggest winners under McCain/Feingold are Senate incumbents.

The mantra of the reform movement has been that there should be a cause greater than our own self-interest. However, this bill primarily serves the self-interest of incumbents.

Let me give you just one example: the Millionaire amendment, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the Senate.

This provision dramatically increases contribution limits for Senate candidates running against millionaire candidates. This is a gift for incumbents.

Let me explain how it works using an example:

Let’s say that at the end of 2001, I have raised $3 million for my race in 2002.

In January 2002, let’s assume a millionaire candidate enters the race against me and declares he is going to spend $5 million. This is not unprecedented.

In a 1994 House primary, a Kentucky millionaire candidate spent nearly $1 million of his own money, and in 1998 spent nearly $7 million in a Senate primary. And these figures are just for the primaries.

So, in my hypothetical, if a Kentucky millionaire candidate spends in excess of $2 million, I can start raising $24,000 per couple for my race, that is $12,000 per couple for each election.

There’s more. If a millionaire candidate spends in excess of $2.5 million, I can start raising $48,000 per couple - $24,000 for each election.

Wait, I’m not finished. There’s still more. If a millionaire candidate spends over $4.2 million, I can still raise $48,000 per couple and the party can make unlimited expenditures in coordination with my campaign.

In short, a millionaire opponent may have his own money, but Senate incumbents will have unlimited coordinated party support and greatly increased contribution limits, up to 12 times the current limits.

As I said earlier, this is a gift for incumbent Senators. And the message is clear to millionaire candidates - run for the House. Because this provision only applies to Senate races.

3. Conclusion

In conclusion, let me once again thank Chairman Ney and the Ranking Member Hoyer for holding this hearing and inviting me to testify about campaign finance reform.

The bill which passed the Senate can only be called reform if the goals are to:

decimate the only challenger-friendly institution in America, our political parties; and drive nearly half-a-billion dollars of disclosed, regulated political resources away from the parties and into unregulated, undisclosed shadow organizations.

I submit, today, that this is not reform.

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Thank you for the opportunity to testify about campaign finance reform. Last month, the Senate spent two weeks debating campaign finance reform, a subject that I have often said ranks with static cling as one the of the great concerns among the American people. The goal of...
Sen.,McConnell:,McCain,Bill,'Is,Not,Reform'
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2001-00-02
Wednesday, 02 May 2001 12:00 AM
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