Buckley v. Valeo
One of the big items today is news that the Romney campaign is bleeding cash. Considering his all out assault first on Newt Gingrich, and now Rick Santorum, this comes as no surprise. Yet while Romney spends more in a day than Santorum spent through most of the campaign thus far (only a slight exaggeration, I think), Santorum continues continues to poll ahead of Romney nationally and is neck-and-neck in Romney’s home state. Of course Romney still has plenty in reserve thanks largely to his Super PAC. Even Newt Gingrich’s fledgling campaign is still alive thanks to the generosity of one supporter funding a pro-Newt Super PAC.
These Super PACs have come under fire. They are the indirect result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, a law which itself amended the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), a law meant to restrict the amount of money that individuals could donate to individual candidates. FECA created a two-tiered structure that basically divided federal contributions into two categories: hard money and soft money. Professional sports fans probably recognize the terms as related to soft and hard caps, and it’s really the same concept. Under FECA individuals could only contribute $1,000 to a candidate per election cycle. Yet there were no restrictions placed on “soft money,” meaning contributions to party committees. This was the original end-run around campaign finance law. Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), or McCain-Feingold, individual contribution maxes to candidates were raised, but soft money contributions were phased out. This, in turn, gave rise to other organizations, mainly 527s, which were able to raise unlimited amounts of money to air issue advocacy ads against candidates. These various organizations are not technically affiliated with any candidate, and it is a violation of campaign finance law for candidates to collaborate in any way with these groups.
So is it time for another set of reforms? Indeed it is. And the reform is simple: repeal all these ridiculous (and arguably unconstitutional) provisions, and allow individuals to contribute whatever amount of money they want directly to candidates.