Here’s what McCain-Feingold did and did not do.
1. BCRA successfully prohibited most party soft money fundraising by federal officials.
So what? 527 groups took up most of the slack.
2. Parties raised as much hard money in 2006 as they had soft and hard money in 2002.
Yes, but they did not raise as much soft and hard money as they would have in 2006 if BCRA had not been passed. This had an interesting consequence…
3. BCRA cost the Democrats 20 House seats in the 2006 election.
4. BCRA made it illegal to broadcast advertising for a movie criticizing the president of the United States.
If the ads were to run 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election. Unless, of course, the film enjoys the media exemption.
5. BCRA criminalized attempts to get people to contact their member of Congress.
If they mention a member’s name in an ad, if it’s 30 or 60 days, you know the drill. But the Supreme Court may yet overturn this part of the law.
6. BCRA may destroy the presidential public financing system.
By raising the hard money contribution limits, thereby making it possible for presidential candidates to run outside the system. But credit must also go to the Internet for lowering the costs of fundraising.
7. BCRA enabled a majority of the Supreme Court to be cowardly in the face of a frontal assault on the First Amendment.
Did I say cowardly? I meant BCRA gave the Court the chance to show “proper deference to Congress’ ability to weigh competing constitutional interests in an area in which it enjoys particular expertise.”
8. BCRA did not prevent corruption.
Remember why congressional Republicans were in trouble in 2006? BCRA didn’t prevent that corruption. Nor did it punish the malefactors. The voters did.
9. BCRA did not restore confidence in government.
Yes, I know. People should not have too much confidence in government. But justices of the Supreme Court care about such things. The American National Election Studies trust in government index fell in 2004 after rising continuously from 1994 to 2002. No prizes for guessing whether it fell or rose in 2006, surely one of the worst years on record for people’s faith that their government is not corrupt. So BCRA passes in 2002 and trust in government falls thereafter.
10. BCRA made John McCain a credible candidate for the presidency.
For now, at least.
11. BCRA did not hurt the Republican party.
They did that all by themselves.