Court sends FEC back to the drawing board


Another plank in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act has been altered by the judiciary branch. The last time this happened, the rules were weakened. This time, the opposite is the case, as an appeals court judge ordered coordination rules tightened. BCRA, commonly known as McCain-Feingold, prohibits campaigns and independent groups from coordinating their advertising efforts. Congressional campaigns are bound by this restriction for 90 days prior to an election, and presidential campaigns for 120 days. The judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, said that it made no sense for the rules to be in existence during those periods when a gigantic loophole exists during other times. The FEC had argued that this windows covered the vast majority of political ads, which generally air close to the day that votes are cast, but the counter-argument that campaigning is expanding more and more a perpetual state carried the day. According to the Associated Press, the Judge ordered to FEC to tighten the rules up before the 2008 elections are in full swing. The FEC may also need to re-examine a loophole allowing soft money to be used for get-out-the-vote campaigns that tend to benefit one party or candidate over another.

RBR/TVBR observation: Pretty soon some grammar teacher somewhere is going to go to court to challenge BCRA’s use of commas, hyphens and semi-colons. That’s about the only portion of the Act that hasn’t been dragged through the courts. The fact that this outing tightens the rules while the recent Supreme Court win for Wisconsin Right to Life weakened them shows just how complicated the matter is. The bottom line is that money destined for politics will find its way there one way or another, no matter what the rules are.