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Posted: 12/10/2003 4:07:51 PM EDT

Campaign Finance Ruling Gives GOP Edge
2 hours, 41 minutes ago

By SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court's campaign finance ruling gives the Republicans, who raise far more in small donations, a big advantage in next year's elections for the White House and Congress.



Democrats will have to try to make up the difference through outside groups exempt from most of the new restrictions.


Several Democratic-leaning groups are already in action, raising millions in corporate, union and unlimited "soft money" donations that the national parties can no longer accept under the new law.


With an eye toward unseating President Bush (news - web sites) and taking control of Congress, they plan to finance the get-out-the-vote drives and political issue ads that their party has underwritten in the past with large soft money checks.


Republican activists had largely held off on forming new outside groups, waiting to learn the law's fate while the GOP and Bush built a commanding advantage in raising the limited donations permitted under the law. With the justices' ruling, Republicans are now aiming to match the Democratic soft-money groups dollar-for-dollar.


"If the other side is going to raise tens of millions of dollars in soft money and if the Supreme Court says it's OK to spend that on political activity, then we would be foolish not to play by the same rules," said Frank Donatelli, a GOP consultant and co-founder of Americans for a Better Country, a pro-Bush group. The group is vetting its plans with the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites) before going ahead.


Meanwhile, congressional and presidential candidates and the national political parties must abide by the new restrictions that took effect after the 2002 elections and have now been upheld by the high court after months of legal uncertainty. The law lets candidates collect twice as much from each individual donor — $2,000 — as they could in the last election.


"It has forced elected officials to reach out to more people for smaller contributions," said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., a sponsor of the campaign finance law who along with his colleagues must run for re-election next year.


Republicans have long raised more than Democrats in so-called hard money donations, which come from individuals and political action committees and are limited in size. But Democrats made a push in the 1990s to narrow the gap by raising corporate and union donations aggressively. The GOP also raised lots of soft money.


With that gone, Republicans enjoy an instant advantage.


The Republican National Committee (news - web sites) and its Senate and House counterparts together raised $173 million in hard money through the first 10 months of the year, compared to just $75 million for the three national Democratic committees.


Bush has already raised more than $100 million for his re-election, compared with the top Democratic presidential fund-raiser, Howard Dean (news - web sites), who had about $25 million at the end of September.


"Today's ruling breaks the Democrats' back," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds boasted.


Democratic National Committee (news - web sites) Chairman Terry McAuliffe disagreed, saying his push to enlist more small donors is paying off. The DNC has gone from 400,000 direct-mail donors to more than 1 million over the past several months, and has eliminated its debt.


"I'm sitting here with $10 million in the bank," McAuliffe said. "We have transformed the DNC from a soft money committee to a hard money committee."


McAuliffe said he intends to raise $185 million for get-out-the-vote drives and other activities in presidential swing states. That's the same amount the DNC had to back 2000 nominee Al Gore (news - web sites), but now it must do without the $105 million in soft money it had then


Special-interest groups also must operate under new rules. In the month before a primary and the two months before an election, they cannot use corporate or union money for ads targeting candidates.





Groups whose finances include corporate and union money say they'll still find ways to play a part in next year's elections.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (news - web sites) says it will spend on phone banks and direct mail, among other activities. The AFL-CIO has said the law won't prevent it from spending millions trying to get its members to the polls.

The National Rifle Association plans to ask each of its 4 million members to give at least $20 to its political action committee, money it could use for direct candidate support, including ads calling for candidates' election or defeat.

"It's not going to shut us up," NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre said of Wednesday's ruling. "And we're up to the task, so stay tuned."

But with the legal issues now settled by the Supreme Court, the big test of the new system will occur with the new outside soft money groups that are cropping up.

"I think it clearly underscores the need to do what we're doing," said Harold Ickes, a former Clinton White House official who has formed one such group called the Media Fund which intends to raise $10 million to help elect Democrats next year.

___

EDITOR'S NOTE — Sharon Theimer covers political fund raising and special-interest lobbying in Washington.


story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20031210/ap_on_go_su_co/campaign_finance_analysis_1
Link Posted: 12/11/2003 3:11:59 PM EDT
Well? Anyone?
Link Posted: 12/11/2003 3:17:24 PM EDT
When both politacal parties, and special interest are compalining about something. It's probably a good thing!
Link Posted: 12/11/2003 3:57:38 PM EDT
More from the NY Times;
Court Ruling Affirms New Landscape of Campaign Finance Thu Dec 11, 8:35 AM ET By GLEN JUSTICE The New York Times WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 The Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of last year's campaign finance law quashed any final hopes politicians and their parties had about returning to the days when unlimited contributions flowed freely into their hands. • Bush's Advisers Focus on Dean as Likely Opponent Next Year • British Warning on Antidepressant Use for Youth • For the latest breaking news, visit NYTimes.com • Get DealBook, a daily email digest of corporate finance newsDealBook. Search NYTimes.com: Today'sNewsPast WeekPast30 DaysPast 90 DaysPastYearSince 1996 The decision affirmed the core provisions of the largest overhaul of the campaign finance system in the last 30 years, locking in place rules that have been in effect since last November. It upheld the ban on the "soft money" that national political parties collected from corporations, labor unions and anyone wealthy enough to write a large check. And it restricted political advertising around election time. What's left is a system in which regulated contributions known as "hard money" are the official coin of the realm for those who play in federal politics. Candidates can collect up to $2,000 per donor in each election and parties can raise $25,000 per donor each year. Practically speaking, those who have skillfully found ways to raise such contributions in large amounts will hold the largest sword in next year's elections. At the top of the list is President Bush (news - web sites), who has established a vast network of business executives and other loyal Republicans and has amassed roughly $110 million so far this year. Among the Democratic candidates, Howard Dean (news - web sites) has far surpassed his party's rivals by building an Internet-based network of contributors who have so far given more than $25 million. The decision is toughest on the Democratic National Committee (news - web sites) and its counterparts in the House and Senate, which have counted on soft money to make up as much as half their contributions and have had to rethink their fund-raising strategies since the law was passed. Had the court overturned the ban, one Democratic party official said, the party had been poised to begin soliciting prospects immediately to collect soft money. Now, both parties will have to operate on a steady diet of hard money contributions, which Republicans have been far more adept at soliciting. National Republican committees out-raised their Democratic counterparts 2 to 1 through the third quarter, campaign finance records show. One daunting challenge for the parties is that they will be increasingly competitive with new groups of outside organizations that can legally collect unlimited contributions and are already attracting tens of millions from wealthy donors. They could displace the parties as a home for large donations. "It puts them in a damaged position relative to these groups," said Bob Bauer, a Democratic campaign finance lawyer who represents political parties and organizations. "This was not a good decision for the parties." More than anyone else, the ruling was a personal victory for Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who, along with Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, was a primary architect of the legislation. "Now, no politician can pick up the phone, call the head of a major corporation and say, `Give me a million dollars,' " Mr. McCain said in a telephone interview. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the chief critic of the law in Congress, said that the ruling cut into the free speech rights of those who want to have a role in federal elections and that money will always find a way into the system. "This law will not remove one dime from politics," he said in a statement. Many campaign finance experts agree that, after months of waiting for a Supreme Court ruling, political players who were frozen by uncertainty will slowly wade back into the system. The question is how many will step back in and how they will spend their money. Thousands of corporations, labor unions and wealthy ideologues gave about $500 million in soft money to the national parties in last year's races. Some believe major donors will now direct that money to third-party organizations. The most prominent of these third-party groups have been formed this year to press liberal causes and have had varying fund-raising success. Some have yet to crack $50,000 in donations. Others, like an organization called America Coming Together, have tapped wealthy donors such as George Soros, the financier and philanthropist, and gathered pledges for more than $30 million. Though most are subject to the advertising restrictions under the new law and coordination with candidates is restricted, several of the groups plan to spend millions on large-scale efforts to register and mobilize voters. "Soft money is not gone," Mr. McConnell said, "it has just changed its address." Others say that as long as there are restrictions on what the groups can do with the money, they pose no threat to the new law's intent. Mobilizing voters, they say, is far different from spending millions on television advertising. Either way, a battle begun earlier this year over what these groups can and cannot do may only intensify. Though Republicans have several of their own groups, party members began an aggressive attack on Democratic organizations earlier this year, including Congressional hearings and an appeal to the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites) to render an opinion on what these groups can legally do. Both matters are still pending. For other organizations, the primary focus is the advertising rules, which restrict how political organizations must pay for television and radio ads. In general, candidates, political parties and advocacy groups using regulated hard money to pay for their ads can run them without restrictions. Organizations using soft money to pay for ads cannot mention or depict a candidate within 30 days of a primary, a provision that will kick in state-by-state, or within 60 days of a general election nationwide. Campaign finance experts say that much of the money that was spent on television in previous elections may be directed to other forms of influence that are not covered by the new law, such as direct mail, phone banks and Internet sites. Such is the case with the National Rifle Association. Wayne LaPierre, the group's executive vice president, said his organization, which has some four million members and spent about $25 million on television advertisements in last year's races, will shift its energies to other avenues. It will also boost efforts to raise more hard money through its political action committee, he said. "We are going to be heard, I promise that," he said. "We have new lines on the football field, but the game is still going to be played."
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Link Posted: 12/11/2003 4:00:16 PM EDT
As for the parties, both Republicans and Democrats have been functioning without soft money since November of 2002 and are retooling their fund-raising efforts to attract more hard money. State parties, which also fell under heavy soft money restrictions brought about by the law, are also adjusting. While they have more ground to cover because they relied more heavily on soft money, Democrats provided most of the support for the bill when it emerged from Congress last year. "For years, Democrats pretended that they wanted campaign finance reform, all while relying heavily on soft money," Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement. "Today's ruling breaks the Democrats' back. Republicans will continue to out-raise Democrats." Not so, insisted Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who played down the disadvantage to his party and instead pointed to intensive efforts to increase mail and Internet solicitation in the years since the bill came through Congress. "We're alive and well," he said. "We've transformed from a soft money committee to a hard money committee."
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It appears that, for example, AR15.com could become a political action group, as long as it did not give or take money from a political party or a union. It could collect unlimited donations and spend unlimited ammounts on attack ads against canidates over their positions on gun control- and be totally legal. In fact the real problem would seem to be the LACK of party control over these outside sites. Which therefore can publish all sorts of inaccurate or outright fabricated information about a canidate. Slander pure and simple, and even the party they were supposedly supporting would not be able to turn them off.
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