Campaign finance reform bill in U.S. House has four major problems that must be addressed before floor vote.
WASHINGTON – The Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill is heading for a vote in the House of Representatives later this evening. But lawmakers must address four fundamental problems with the bill before a vote. The legislation:
Arbitrarily strengthens some special interests at the expense of others. With its ban of soft money to political parties and limitation on issue advertising by third parties, the Shays-Meehan legislation arbitrarily empowers special interests that contribute to campaigns in less tangible ways, such as phone banks. Without Paycheck Protection, a measure that prevents union dues from funding political activity without the consent of its members, Shays-Meehan arbitrarily empowers one set of special interests at the expense of others. Accordingly, the legislation loses credibility by being a raw political power play that benefits some special interests that seek to defeat their adversaries.
Slights the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled seven years ago: "Political contributions, as well as political expenditures, are core constitutional activities affecting freedom of expression and freedom of association" (United States v. National Treasury Employees Union, 1995). As drafted, the Shays-Meehan legislation threatens the First Amendment\’s guarantee that all parties can have a voice in the policymaking process.
Disrupts political stability. America\’s existing electoral system has granted her people unheralded political stability for 225 years. And in current dollars, the money spent on campaigns today is not significantly more than earlier in the century. In fact, Americans now spend twice as much on yogurt and three times as much on potato chips as they do on political campaigns.
Weakens candidates\’ ability to campaign for themselves. As demonstrated in Governing Magazine\’s July 2000 issue, a Wisconsin campaign finance reform bill similar to Shays-Meehan gave way to interest groups, such as Wisconsin\’s teachers unions, extensively campaigning on behalf of candidates without their knowledge. Extensive campaigning by special interests outside of a candidate\’s control should be tested and examined before a grand experiment on the federal level.
Taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, said, "The Shays-Meehan legislation is deeply flawed on a number of fronts. In the very least, policymakers should first consider this exact approach on the state level, before risking an electoral catastrophe on the federal level."