Campaign Finance Reform Makes NOW's Political Action Committees More Important Than Ever

Article excerpt

Reformers rejoiced last week when the U.S. House of Representatives begrudgingly passed campaign finance reform legislation. An examination of this flawed legislation reveals that-in the name of "reform"-the monied interests' power may have been strengthened.

The National Organization for Women has long supported true campaign reform, which we believe can only come from leveling the playing field with public financing. Rather than achieving equality of political voices, the McCain-Feingold bill, as it's popularly known, will probably magnify the influence of many of our political opponents.

Bill proponents tout that it eliminates the evil influence of soft money. However, a closer look at the key provisions reveals that the bill, at most, re-channels the flow of money. McCain-Feingold bars unions, corporations and individuals from unlimited and unregulated contributions to the national political parties. The reality is that these "party-building donations" will just be redirected to state and local parties.

And because McCain-Feingold doubles the "hard money" limit for candidates, the money that used to be given to the parties will end up being directly donated to candidates. This election reform bill, which purports to eliminate the corruption of large sums of money, allows a wealthy donor to give up to $95,000 in direct candidate contributions, plus an additional $10,000 to their state and local parties.

George W. Bush was able to avoid the voluntary spending limit of $40 million under public financing by simply foregoing public financing of his 2000 campaign. He was able to do this because he raised so much hard cashmore than $113 million.

If Bush does not solicit one new donor, his next campaign can still double the astronomical amount of cash he raised in 2000. Even more astounding is that Republican campaign operatives are predicting that with the power of incumbency Bush could raise $500 million in hard money contributions in 2004.

The provision of the act that has already been challenged in court bars unions, corporations and non-profit organizations, from buying issue ads within 60 days of a general election or 30 days before a primary, if those ads refer to any federal candidate, even the incumbent president. Challenged by organizations on first amendment grounds, this provision contains an enormous loophole for wealthy individuals to spend unlimited funds to exercise their free speech rights. …