Campaign Bill Seen Rerouting Funds; Parties Would Lose, Interest Groups Gain, Analysts Say
Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Campaign-finance reform legislation to ban soft money in federal elections will not eliminate it, but merely redirect it to other powerful interest groups, legal analysts said yesterday.
The House neared final action today on legislation to further regulate campaign financing that its supporters say will rid presidential and congressional elections of big, unregulated money. But that is not how campaign lawyers and strategists see the results of pending legislation.
They predict that the soft money will shift quickly to national political advocacy and grass-roots organizations such as unions, the National Rifle Association, right-to-life groups and environmentalist forces. Independent political committees will be big beneficiaries, too, as will wealthy individuals who will be free to finance nationwide television ad campaigns of their own.
"I think we are going into a world of unintended consequences. This is not going to get rid of the soft money. It will just redirect it and put it in other places in a way that is less accountable and less disclosed," said Don McGahn, general counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The soft-money ban will "generally reduce some of those large contributions, but there are other people who want to get money into the political arena and they will do so using whatever legal avenues are open to them," said Kent Cooper, founder of Political Moneyline, which tracks political expenditures. "And no one has dreamed up a system that will totally keep that money out."
Throughout the lengthy battle over campaign-finance reform, supporters have insisted that it will once and for all remove the influence of union and corporate funding to the two major parties. But analysts said yesterday that, while the parties will see their funding fall in the short term, the reforms will lead to powerful "mini-parties" who will become surrogates for the major parties.
"The biggest losers are going to be the political parties, because they will be defunded of half a billion dollars. …