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McConnell v. FEC (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act)

The Center, in its defense of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, focused primarily on defending the portion of the law that regulates campaign advertising by interest groups.

Published: December 10, 2003

Brennan Center research, in particular our analyses of television advertising in the 1998 and 2000 elections (the Buying Time studies), was a key tool used in the drafting and passing of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“BCRA”). The law closes the soft money loophole and regulates “sham issue ads.”

Once passed, BCRA was immediately challenged in court. Working with a team of law firms and nonprofit legal organizations, the Center represented Senators John McCain, Russ Feingold, Olympia Snowe, and James Jeffords, and Representatives Christopher Shays and Martin Meehan as Intervenor-Defendants in the ensuing litigation, McConnell v. FEC.

The Center focused primarily on defending the portion of the law that regulates campaign advertising by interest groups. A special three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upheld portions of the law and struck down others in a decision in May 2003. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in September 2003.

On December 10, 2003, the Supreme Court upheld all of the most important elements of BCRA .

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002
Statement by the President
    Research and Analysis
    • Buying Time 1998
    • Straight Talk on Campaign Finance Reform: 
    • Paper #1: Democracy and Campaign Finance Reform 

    • Paper #3a: Hard Money World

      • Top Constitutional Scholars Refute Attacks on Constitutionality of Campaign Reform
              Specific Issues:
              Snowe-Jeffords Amendment
                  Soft Money
                  Other litigation documents in this case include the following: 
                  • For public District Court and Supreme Court proceedings, including the20parties’ briefs, amicus briefs, and rulings, see the Campaign Legal Center’s comprehensive library.
                  • Supreme Court Brief of Intervenor-Defendants (Redacted)
                  • District Court Panel Issues Stay of Recent Campaign Finance Ruling
                  • BCRA Congressional Sponsors File Supreme Court Appeal
                  • District Court Issues Ruling on McConnell v. FEC
                  • Summary of Major Rulings in District Court Decision in McConnell v. FEC
                  • District Court Reply Brief of Intervenor-Defendants (Redacted)
                  Controversy over District Court Decision & Center’s Research 
                  • A Compelling Case for McCain-Feingold by Al Hunt (The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2003 – subscribers only)
                  • Solid Evidence of the Need for Reform by Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr. (The Washington Post, May 16, 2003)
                  • 1,600 Pages of Confusion by George Will (The Washington Post, May 8, 2003)