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New Reports Bolster McCain-Feingold Bill

New Reports Bolster McCain-Feingold Bill

Studies Show $700 Million Cut In Campaign Spending

Bill Would Be Fair To Both Parties, Impact Is Greatest on Incumbents

Washington, D.C., — Public Citizen today released two new studies of the effect of the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (S. 25) on campaign spending and fundraising. Public Citizen found that the bill would have cut Senate campaign spending by $259 million over the last three election cycles — a reduction of 37% — if all candidates had agreed to the bill’s voluntary campaign spending limits. Special interest PAC receipts would have fallen by $50 million, a 41% decrease. Because the bill also closes the soft money loophole, total spending would have been reduced by more than $700 million over three cycles. (Enactment of voluntary spending limits for House races, which are not covered in the McCain-Feingold bill, would cut even more spending.)

“These reports prove what we have been saying all along, that our bill will have a substantial impact on overall campaign spending,” said Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI). “Any way you look at it, $700 million out of the system would considerably reduce the influence of special interests.”

Public Citizen studied three core provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill — the soft money ban, voluntary spending limits for Senate candidates, and new restrictions on PAC contributions to candidates. Savings under the bill include almost $450 million of soft money expenditures by political parties in the last three cycles, which would be eliminated completely under the bill.

The reports conclusively counter two of the most frequent criticisms voiced by its opponents — that it is biased toward Democrats and that it will protect incumbent Senators. “Public Citizen’s analysis shows that our bill can reform the system without giving an unfair advantage to either party,” said Senator John McCain (R-AZ). “That’s the essence of a bipartisan approach to campaign reform.”

According to Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen: “These studies show, once and for all, that the characterization of the McCain-Feingold bill as an ‘incumbent protection’ bill is utterly false. This bill directly attacks the incumbent fundraising advantage, making it easier for challengers to run competitive races.”

The analysis of the impact of voluntary spending limits, Popping the Campaign Spending Balloon, shows conclusively that those limits would affect incumbents far more than challengers. Over 90% of incumbents exceeded the limits, compared to only 24% of challengers. PACking It In, Public Citizen’s study of the impact of PAC receipts, showed a similar disparity between incumbents and challengers. 81% of incumbents, as opposed to 13% of challengers, exceeded the 20% aggregate limit on PAC contributions that would take effect if the bill’s ban on PAC contributions to candidates is invalidated by the courts.

Public Citizen also found that the McCain-Feingold bill would have a more or less equal impact on Democratic and Republican candidates: 54% of the Democrats and 59% of the Republicans who ran for the Senate in the last three cycles exceeded the spending limits applicable in their states, and 57% of Republicans versus 48% of Democrats exceeded the 20% aggregate PAC limit. Democratic PAC receipts would have been cut by $23 million and Republican receipts by $28 million under the bill.

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