Court hears four hours of arguments in preparation for landmark ruling
WASHINGTON – On Monday, the Supreme Court convened in special session to hear arguments from supporters and opponents of last year\’s Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), popularly known as McCain-Feingold. The Court is expected to hand down its decision by January.
The law\’s supporters, including the Democratic Party leadership and the Bush administration, contend that it roots out corruption in the political process by reducing the presence and influence of money. Opponents, which include the Republican leadership and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) argue that the law violates First Amendment free speech protections by banning soft money contributions and issue ads before elections.
"The legislation is flawed in numerous ways," said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. "It is an affront to free speech; it arbitrarily empowers some interest groups over others; it limits the ability of a candidate to advocate for himself; but most importantly, McCain-Feingold disrupts the very foundation of the Founders\’ system, which has given America such remarkable stability over time."
BCRA directly confronts a Supreme Court ruling from eight years ago, stating in part that: "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, 513 U.S. 454, 475 1995.)
McCain-Feingold also does not include Paycheck Protection, a measure that prevents union dues from funding political activity without the consent of its members. Campaign Finance Reform with Paycheck Protection is not real reform at all," continued Norquist. "Rather, it\’s a raw political power play designed solely to benefit one political party at the expense of another."
Countering the claim that there is too much money in politics, ATR\’s research shows that in 1996, Home Depot spent more money to advertise than did presidential candidates Bob Dole, Bill Clinton, and Ross Pero combined. Additionally, Americans spend twice as much on yogurt and two to three times as much on the purchase of potato chips as they do on political campaigns each year.