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September 2001


Campaign finance reform becomes a crucial platform issue


Editorial: Welcome to the Pittsburgh Standard

Letters to the editor:

Two powerhouses govern the people in different ways

Bush power to the rescue


Finding the right priced textbook


Cruising the Burgh on foot


Chi Alpha ministries makes an impact

The Newman Club offers Catholics hope

Moral law or religious banter: The debate over the 10 Commandments continues


Jaromir Jagr makes capital with the Capitals

The Great Race: For the elite and slow of feet

The pampered life of a college athlete




September online edition

Campaign finance reform becomes a crucial platform issue

Kelly Coleman
Pittsburgh Standard

            The controversial 2000 presidential election brought out many questions about the way we elect a President.  One of the hottest issues debated was campaign finance reform. 

            Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was beaten out of the Republican Party candidacy by George W. Bush, has sworn to continue the fight for campaign finance reform.  Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) have joined McCain to create the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2001, also known as the McCain-Feingold-Cochran campaign reform bill.  This bill would ban soft money contributions, restrict how much money corporations and unions could spend on campaign advertisements, and strengthen election laws.  

             Soft money is money that is unregulated by election laws and should be used for state and local voting efforts.  Because the money is unregulated, it creates a loophole in election laws.  Some politicians take advantage of this loophole and use soft money to almost completely fund their campaigns.  Because these soft money contributions are not regulated, the American public is often left in the dark about whom is funding a presidential campaign, and how much they are contributing.  In an effort to close the soft money loophole, the McCain-Feingold-Cochran bill would prohibit corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals from donating soft money to the national political parties.  Federal candidates would also be banned from raising soft money.  State political parties could continue to accept soft money contributions, but these funds could not be used to support or oppose a candidate running in a national election.  

             Corporations and labor unions are currently able to advertise their support for or against a federal candidate by buying radio and television time for “Phony Issue Ads.”  These ads usually highlight one candidate’s mistakes or achievements, but do not directly ask voters to vote for or against any federal candidate, which makes them immune to federal election laws.  Under the McCain-Feingold-Cochran bill, corporations and labor unions would be unable to spend their treasury funds on radio and television advertising for any federal candidate within 60 days of a general election.  Non-profit organizations can run these advertisements as long as the money used to fund them comes from individual contributions.

             This bill would also strengthen election laws by clarifying how labor unions are allowed to spend agency fees paid by non-union members.  These non-union members would have the option of having their fees refunded if they were being allocated for political purposes.  The McCain-Feingold-Cochran bill would also prevent immigrants to the US from contributing to any federal, state, or local elections.

             What does this mean for us as students?  Because most students do not have the financial means to contribute large amounts of money to federal candidates, we are more likely to invest our time in the candidate we support.  Students often join non-profit organizations and get involved on a more grass-roots level of campaigning.  The ability of non-profits to advertise so close to election time without the competition of corporate or union advertisers seems to give them a stronger voice in support of or in opposition to federal candidates.  However, whether or not non-profit organizations can afford to buy a substantial amount of radio and television airtime within 60 days of a general election is another issue.


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