Well, so much for "getting rid of the corrupting influence of money on politics" — the basic aim of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, aka McCain-Feingold. That’s Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive front-runner for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination who raised "only" $12.5 million during the first three months of 2007. The Arizona senator trailed far behind former Gov. Mitt Romney, who raised $21 million and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who raised $15 million, $10 million of which came in March alone. Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., raised $26 million, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards raised $14 million and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson raised $6 million. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has not released his figures but is estimated to have raised about $22 million. Collectively, more than $125 million has been raised by the 2008 presidential candidates in just three months, with more than nine months to go before the first primary.
Think back to the days before McCain-Feingold became law. The biggest target of the law’s backers was the estimated $500 million in soft money contributed to political parties by corporations, individuals, labor unions and others. Just last year, Fred Wertheimer and Trevor Potter, two of the most ardent McCain-Feingold supporters, charged that soft money "ultimately turned into a $500 million national scandal and disgrace." Now it looks like the presidential primary contenders will equal or even surpass that once-scandalous threshold long before the start of the general election campaign. We know little or nothing about what was promised by the candidates in return for this unprecedented flood of cash.
There is a distinction to be made between "soft" and "hard" money in politics, but the common denominator is the cash, the corrupting influence that McCain-Feingold’s backers sought to eliminate. Ever since Bill Clinton found creative new ways to channel foreign money into domestic politics, gathering and collecting from campaign donors has been raised — or lowered — to levels of sophistication and efficiency that would have amazed Boss Tweed. Despite McCain-Feingold, more money is flowing to candidates than ever before in American politics.
What McCain-Feingold did accomplish was opening the door for Congress to decide what is acceptable political speech. For the first time in American history, individual citizens cannot join with like-minded others as members of a variety of associations to buy a broadcast spot to criticize an incumbent congressman by namefor 60 days prior to the November election. In other words, this terrible law has unleashed the most corrupting influence of all in giving career politicians the power of government to silence their critics. McCain-Feingold must be repealed.