Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002

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The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (H.R.2356), otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bills, originated in 2001 with bills sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), respectively. The purpose of the act was to ban "soft money" from being contributed to candidates and political parties. It also prohibited the airing of "non-partisan" issue ads funded by soft money in days leading up to elections, among other things. President George W. Bush signed the act into law on March 27, 2002.


Bill summary

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) banned "soft money" from being contributed to federal or state candidates and national, state, and local political parties. BCRA also prohibited non-partisan "issue ads" funded by soft money from corporations and labor unions - those referring to candidates for federal election without expressly advocating their election or defeat -- in the 60 days prior to a general election, or 30 days prior to a primary election. It also required the disclosure of sources of finance for "electioneering communications" in excess of $10,000 per year, and raised the legal limits of hard money that could be raised.

Legislative action on the bill


The bill, sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), passed in a vote of 240-189 on February 14, 2002.

February 14, 2002
Passed, 240-189, view details
Dem: 198-12 in favor, GOP: 41-176 opposed, Ind: 1-1



The bill passed the Senate in a vote of 60-40 on March 20, 2002.

March 20, 2002
Passed, 60-40, view details
Dem: 48-2 in favor, GOP: 11-38 opposed, Ind: 1-0 in favor


Implications for Bush

Some argued that President George W. Bush benefited from the act, as federal contribution limits were increased by it. A Bush Pioneer, for example, who raised $100,000 in 2000--by bundling $1,000 checks from 100 people--could now obtain $2,000 from those donors and enter Bush's new elite club of $200,000 "Ranger" fundraisers."[3]

Judicial action on the bill

On June 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which restricted corporations and labor unions from broadcasting ads at election time using general funds. In the 5-4 decision in the case of Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that the ads at issue were not "the 'functional equivalent' of express campaign speech," meaning that these ads are protected under the First Amendment. Supporters of campaign finance reform worried that the decision would lead to a surge of soft money funded campaign ads disguised as issue ads.[4]

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spearheaded the legislation, commented on the decision:

"It is regrettable that a split Supreme Court has carved out a narrow exception by which some corporate and labor expenditures can be used to target a federal candidate in the days and weeks before an election... It is important to recognize, however, that the Court’s decision does not affect the principal provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which bans federal officeholders from soliciting soft money contributions for their parties to spend on their campaigns."[5]

Articles and resources

See also


  1. THOMAS page on McCain-Feingold, THOMAS.
  2. THOMAS page on McCain-Feingold, THOMAS.
  3. Charles Laurence. "Bush's Rangers on trail to round up record $200m,". Telegraph. June 15, 2003.
  4. Ariane de Vouge. "Supreme Court Weakens Campaign Finance Law," ABC News. June 25, 2007.
  5. Alexander Bolton and Klaus Marre. "McCain: 'Regrettable' decision," The Hill. June 25, 2007.

External resources

External articles