Supreme Court's Ruling on McCain-Feingold Will Further Complicate Campaign Financing, Says UB Political Scientist

Release Date: December 11, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Supreme Court's majority decision on Wednesday upholding the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) -- better known as the McCain-Feingold law -- was surprising in several respects and will further complicate campaign financing, according to a University at Buffalo political scientist who studies campaign-finance reform.

"In particular, the majority's decision to uphold restrictions on independent 'issue-advocacy' campaigning in the final weeks before an election was not expected," says James E. Campbell, professor of political science in the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

"This would seem to infringe substantially on free speech," he adds. "And the public purpose of restricting corruption by this limitation would not seem to be clearly compelling."

Campbell also was surprised by the court's decision to uphold the ban on soft money.

"What was surprising about this was not that the court allowed the further regulation of soft money contributions to the parties, but that it allowed a complete ban."

With BCRA left basically intact after the court's ruling, Campbell says the regulation of campaign financing will become even more complicated. He expects parties, interest groups and candidates to become ever more inventive in ways of circumventing "the complicated web of campaign finance laws and regulations," as a result.

"The fundamentals of campaign finance largely will be unchanged by BCRA," Campbell concludes. "The reform did nothing to address perhaps the chief problem of money in American politics: lopsided expenditures by some candidates that smothers real electoral competition, firmly entrenches congressional incumbents and leaves many voters without a real choice."

Campbell is a contributor to "Life After Reform: When the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act Meets Politics"(Rowman and Littlefield, 2003), a Campaign Finance Institute book edited by Michael J. Malbin, professor of political science at the University at Albany.

The Campaign Finance Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit institute that conducts objective research and education, empanels task forces and makes recommendations for policy change in the field of campaign finance.

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