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RNC Presses Lawsuit to Strike Limits on Soft Money Spent in States

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The Republican National Committee has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission, hoping to prevent restrictions on donations to political parties designated for spending on state-level campaign work and congressional redistricting, among other things.  The RNC has teamed up with James Bopp, the country's top crusader against campaign finance regulations, who has had substantial success of late.  He argued the Wisconsin Right to Life case that eviscerated McCain-Feingold's ban on corporate and union spending on advertisements in federal elections.  (He is also himself a member of the RNC and counsel to the rightwing, socially conservative group Focus on the Family).  Previously his mission has been to tear down all restrictions on independent groups, but in this case Bopp is expanding his goals to include the political parties themselves.  And while new Democratic National Committee Counsel Bob Bauer, late of the Obama campaign and an election law scholar in his own right, thinks the law and the constitution are on their side, the Robert's Supreme Court is clearly on a path toward dismantling the campaign finance regime we have now.

If Bopp and the RNC are successful, the unlimited contributions to the national parties for money spent influencing state-level politics would open a huge loophole in states that currently limit donations to state parties. Also, given that the soft money ban would remain for dollars spent on federal elections, the amount of money flowing into state and even local races from the national parties would likely be enormous.  Donors looking to curry political favor by writing huge checks have few opportunities to do so under current law, ensuring that any avenue that opens in the future will be used widely.

The RNC has been pushed to this point, desperate to destroy a law signed by George Bush and championed by John McCain, because they seem unable to tap the small donor base that has reinvigorated the Democratic Party's fundraising.  When McCain-Feingold passed, conventional wisdom had it that the law would benefit the Republicans, who held a sizable lead in hard money donations.  Ironically, the RNC is now trying to keep the DNC, which is eager to defend the law, out of the case.  Of course, publicly financed elections are the real solution to this morass.

Resources

RNC Complaint
Progressive States Network - Clean Elections
NPR - Jim Bopp's Fight to Liberate Political Money
Bob Bauer - The RNC Attack on McCain-Feingold—in Association with Mr. Bopp