Evaluating the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA)


We write this report because we believe that our research and that of other political scientists speaks directly to issues in McConnell v. FEC, Civil Action No. 02-582 (D.D.C.) (including all consolidated cases). We hope the theoretical and empirical issues that we and other scholars have wrestled with in studies of public opinion, political parties, campaign finance, elections, and related subjects will be helpful to the courts as they seek to maximize electoral integrity and personal freedom in this case. To be more specific, we believe that a careful analysis of the empirical issues raised in this case provides very strong reason to support Congress’s and the President’s judgment and uphold the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA).

We must be clear from the outset that we limit our consideration of the BCRA to its two main components: the ban on the use of soft money donations by the national parties (extending to state and local committees with regard to federal elections), and the more realistic dividing line between electioneering and issue speech BCRA provides over the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). We are satisfied that the other pieces of the bill do not in any way conflict with our analysis of these two sections. While the soft money and electoral communications provisions are separate, our examination shows that they are highly complementary. For example, the notable rise in the national parties’ soft money receipts in the last three election cycles from $86.1 and $101.6 million in 1991-2 and 1993-4 to $262.1, $224.4, and $495.1 million in 1995-6, 1997-8, and 1999-2000 was fueled largely by the parties’ ability to air candidate oriented or electioneering “issue ads” with this money. Though our analysis reveals the value of each provision by itself, in this case the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, a point we will demonstrate in greater detail below.

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