Only Money: Campaign Finance Reform Bites Supporters in the Rear

By Welch, Matt | Reason, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Only Money: Campaign Finance Reform Bites Supporters in the Rear


Welch, Matt, Reason


SIERRA, A GLOSSY magazine published by the Sierra Club, has a Web site called "The Bush Archives" at sierraclub.org/sierra/bush_archive.asp. There you can find links to 62 original articles criticizing George W. Bush's impact on Mother Nature. Entries include "The Assault on Wild America: Mapping the Bush administration's damage," from March 2004; "W Watch," a recurring feature since May 2003; and a pre-2000 election package rooting for candidate Dubya and his fellow Republicans to lose. "We could win this time" the editors insisted.

Turns out they could lose much more than they feared. The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill--which the Sierra Club lobbied for with great enthusiasm--was finally signed into law in March 2002.That law was upheld by the Supreme Court in its December 2003 ruling McConnell v. FEC, and at press time the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) was on the verge of establishing specific new interpretive guidelines for how Americans can legally raise money and make public statements that could affect national elections.

According to the strictest of scenarios drawn up in the YEC's April draft proposal, issue-oriented advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association could suddenly find themselves regulated by the same rules that govern "express advocacy" groups such as STOPHillaryPAC or the Committee for a Democratic Majority.

That would mean no more contributions from foundations, corporations, or unions; no more personal gifts larger than $5,000; and no more anonymous donors, among other fund raising restrictions. To avoid this fate, many of these groups--known as 501(c)s, for the section in the tax code that defines their tax-free status--would need to show that they do not "promote, support, attack or oppose" specific candidates in federal elections, which is the standard the Supreme Court's McConnell v. FEC decision established to determine whether state political parties and political action committees warrant regulation.

This very column you're reading, in a magazine published by the 501(c)(3) Reason Foundation, could be construed as an "attack" on federal politicians, and therefore limit the foundation's ability to raise and spend money.

These restrictions would smother the rich variety of editorial expression the United States enjoys from its nonprofit sector. "Sierra magazine could not mention the president" Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope maintains. What about Pope's new book Strategic Ignorance, published by the Sierra Club, which attacks Bush's environmental record? "We'd have to pull it off the market and stop selling it," he says. "Ninety-five percent of our speech would be shut down."

Pope was one of a half-dozen heads of nongovernmental organizations to testify at the FEC's mid-April "rule making" hearings, which were intended to pave the way for a May 13 commission vote on regulations that could significantly alter the course of the November elections. "If adopted in anything like the form in which they have been proposed," a coalition including the Sierra Club and 414 other groups wrote in a joint letter to the FEC, the rules "would cause countless nonprofit organizations to drastically curtail their current programs or significantly alter the way in which they raise funds and conduct their activities. The proposed rules would seriously impair vigorous free speech and advocacy."

For years, newspaper editorial boards and other avowed friends of the First Amendment have scoffed at the argument that restricting political spending would restrict speech. In 2004 McCain-Feingold enthusiasts are discovering that the logic of prohibition can come around and bite them right in the bank account.

"Fundamentally," says Pope, the FEC proposal "effectively amended the First Amendment to say 'Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, except with regard to political candidates in a campaign year. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Only Money: Campaign Finance Reform Bites Supporters in the Rear
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.