Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2003

Abstract

On March 27, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 ("BCRA") into law.1 The culmination of a six-year legislative and political struggle, BCRA works the most comprehensive change in federal campaign finance law in nearly three decades. BCRA addresses a broad range of issues, including soft money, issueadvocacy advertising, fundraising on federal property, campaign activities of foreign nationals, and penalties for violation of campaign finance laws. Enacted in the face of intense political opposition, BCRA, if it stands up in court, is a significant reform achievement.

Or is it? BCRA closely follows the main lines of campaign finance regulation set out in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974 (collectively "FECA")2 : disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures; limits on individual contributions to candidates, political action committees ("PACs"), and parties; limits on contributions by PACs and parties to candidates; and prohibitions on campaign contributions and expenditures by business corporations and labor unions. BCRA plugs many of the gaps that emerged in FECA's structure as Federal Election Commission ("FEC") and Supreme Court decisions eroded FECA's provisions, and politicians, interest groups, and donors found new ways of raising and spending campaign money that undermined FECA's requirements, restrictions, and prohibitions. By subjecting soft money3 and issue advocacy4 to regulation, BCRA essentially restores the status quo ante of campaign finance law of the early 1980s.

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