The McCain-Feingold Cochran Campaign Reform Bill also known as a Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002 is the bill related some amendment made in financial issues of electoral campaigning.
Firstly, it post the ban on “Soft Money” whose contributions are sometimes called “nonfederal” contributions because they are often used by the political parties for the intentions other than supporting candidate for federal office. However there are no set boundaries on the amount of soft money given to the political parties by the individuals unlike hard money which is been limited in amount as well as closely regulated. Labor union and corporations gives soft money to the parties which are not allowed otherwise. So this soft money had been loophole which has introduced excesses and corruption in current system of financing political campaign. It has been reason thorough which political parties are raising tens of million of dollars since 1995. Both Republicans and Democratic money fund recorded raise of 183% and 217% in 1995 election with respect to 1991-92 election respectively. This soft money does not come from average American rather it provide wealthiest sectors a passage to influence the political process and it makes the contribution of common people in election insignificant which is against democracy. The McCain-Feingold bill has places full stop to this channel of $263 million worth of soft-money (Feingold, pars.4-5).
The ban on soft money is compensated with raising the contribution limits, so individual limit to any candidate have been raised from $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 in general and primary election separately, an individual cumulative limit has been raised to $37,500 per year which was previously $25,000, and annual aggregate limit of an individual has also been hoisted from $20,000 to $25,000, besides this an individual can now contribute up to $10,000 to any national political party committee (Section-by-Section Analyses of McCain-Feingold, pars ). So the bill makes sure that money comes through proper legal channels in electoral campaign and that influence of wealthy people upon the government can be reduced effectively.
The bill also support elimination of involuntary contributions which means that no one should be compelled to support any candidate unwillingly, two reforms regarding this issues are firstly treasury funds cannot be used without shareholders’ permission in any political activity, secondly unions will require to get authorization from the employees or worker before spending their dues on political activities (Campaign Reform Bill: Senate Debates, pars 9).
Some critics also says that the bill imply restriction on Political Active Committee (PAC) contribution but PAC restriction are not the point of focus and they are even under negotiations(Feingold, pars.17). Some also thinks that limiting the fund rising would only let the rich candidate to stand for election, well this might not be the case as limiting the fund in elections and maximizing the contribution of the general public would give vest power in the public to chose their representative rather than a person who has big contacts rather than public contacts.
Previously according to Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) only those ads which used “magic words” like “vote for”, “elect”, “support”, or “oppose”, so parties leave out the use of these words and escape from violating FECA hence sponsors benefit from this in three different ways, one is that a large amount of money flow in advertisings during election, second donor are both corporations and labor union, last but not least they find a way around to divulge information about their receipt and expenditures but the research have shown that viewers really don’t discrimination between ads with magic words or no magic words( Krasno, 1).
The McCain-Feingold bill counters this by changing the criteria for issue and express advocacy to “6o day bright line” which means that any TV or radio commercial that mention a federal candidate by name within 30 days of the primary election and 60 days of general election are categorized as electioneering by FECA so sponsors have to provide information about the source of their finance if it exceeds $10,000(Krasno, 2). Its consequences on ads have to be established but there is debate going on in court to change or make amendment in this provision.
1- Senator Russell Feingold (D- Wisc.): Modest Reform? Boston Review May 1997
Retrieve from <http://bostonreview.net/BR22.2/feingold.html>
2- “Section-by-Section Summary of McCain-Feingold: Increase Contribution limit”
Retrieve from < http://www.brookings.org/gs/cf/debate/MF_summary.htm#sec102>
3-Karsno Jonathan: Non profit Advocacy and McCain-Feingold Bill
Retrieve from <http://www.independentsector.org/pdfs/krasno.pdf>
4- About.com Campaign Reform Bill: Senate Debates- McCain-Feingold-Support and Opposition, part 2 1-2
Retrieve from http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa032101b.htm