Campaign Finance Reform
Despite BCRA Serious Concerns Remain
FEC: BCRA Rulemaking Documents
McConnell v. FEC at:
Supreme Court of the United States
The Campaign and Media Legal Center
Stanford Law School
[Updated December 15, 2003] On December 10, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 in a 5 to 4 decision seen as a victory for campaign finance reform advocates.  After a six and a half year effort, the Senate passed BCRA in a 60 to 40 vote on March 20, 2002.  President Bush quietly signed the measure into law (Public Law No. 107-155) on March 27, 2002; it took effect on November 6, 2002.  The law next faced the Federal Election Commission's rulemaking process and legal challenges

On March 21, 2002, the day after the Senate passed the bill, Sen. Mitch McConnell, who termed the measure "unconstitutional" and  an "assault" on freedom of speech, announced the heavyweight legal team he has put together to challenge the legislation--Floyd Abrams, Judge Kenneth Starr, James Bopp, Bobby R. Burchfield, Jan Baran, and Dean Kathleen M. Sullivan.  The very day Bush signed the bill, McConnell filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Suits by various other groups were consolidated into McConnell v. FEC.

Dec. 4, 2002--During a break on the first day of oral arguments in McConnell v. FEC, RNC Chairman Marc Racicot (front) and Sen. Russ Feingold speak to reporters outside the U.S. District Court .  [More Photos]
On December 4-5, 2002 a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments in the consolidated McConnell v. FEC suit.  Their decision, handed down on May 2, 2003, was appealed on an expedited basis to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court heard oral argument on September 8, 2003.  On December 10, 2003 the Supreme Court issued its ruling generally upholding BCRA.

On the rulemaking track, the Federal Election Commission began to gear up its rulemaking process in April 2002.  On May 9, the FEC issued a first round of proposed rules to implement aspects of the Act; and over a year later they were still developing and finalizing rules related to the Act. 

Despite passage of BCRA serious concerns remain over many aspects of how elections are financed in the United States, ranging from low public participation in the matching funds checkoff to the financing of the presidential nominating contests to the activities of Section 527 organizations. 

Next Step: FEC Reform?
On May 15, 2002 the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Democracy 21 released a 142-page report "No Bark, No Bite, No Point" which called for "closing the Federal Election Commission and establishing a new system for enforcing the nation's campaign finance laws."  Specifically the report, by a bipartisan 14-person task force, called for establishment of "a new enforcement agency headed by single administrator to lead the agency.  The administrator would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, and hold a long term of office with limited grounds for removal."  Senate and House leaders of the campaign finance reform movement were on hand to express support for the concept of overhauling the FEC.

On July 10, 2003, Sens. McCain and Feingold introduced the Federal Election Administration Act of 2003, which would create a new independent agency, the Federal Election Administration, to replace the FEC.

Copyright 2002, 2003 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action