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Five New Ideas to Deal With the Problems Posed by Campaign Appeals Masquerading as Issue Advocacy

For years, campaign finance has been one of the toughest issues facing policymakers in Washington and elsewhere.

Published: May 2, 2004

May 2000

Five New Ideas to Deal With the Problems Posed by Campaign Appeals Masquerading as Issue Advocacy

by the Brennan Center for Justice Policy Committee on Political Advertising


For years, campaign finance has been one of the toughest issues facing policymakers in Washington and elsewhere. Reformers have pushed for new laws to achieve a number of worthy goals, from protecting against the potentially corrupting influence of campaign contributions and reducing the appearance of corruption, to attracting new kinds of candidates to the political process, and shifting legislators’ focus from fundraising to policy making. Opponents have fought equally hard to prevent reform, arguing, among other things, that campaign finance laws stifle First Amendment rights by limiting what contributors can give and how candidates and other interested parties may speak to the public.

Nothing exemplifies the tension between free expression and the need for reasonable regulation more than the rise of what has become known as “issue advocacy.” In Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark 1976 campaign finance decision, the Supreme Court had to decide how to draw a line between electioneering and other political speech because the newly enacted Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) did not clearly define the types of activities that would be subject to regulation. The Supreme Court was concerned that, without a precise definition, issue discussion might be “chilled” because advocacy organizations would not know whether their speech was covered by the vague language, and the statute might regulate conduct that is not in fact electioneering. (Significantly, the Court was not concerned about political parties, whose predominant interest is to influence elections). Confronted with an inadequate definition, the Court created its own limiting language, holding that only those communications that “expressly advocated” the election or defeat of a candidate would be considered electioneering covered by FECA. In a footnote, the Court gave examples of “express words of advocacy,” such as “vote for,” “elect,” “support,” and “defeat.”

In recent years, interest groups and political parties have seized on this “loophole” in the federal campaign finance laws with a vengeance, creating advertisements that look, sound, and feel exactly like campaign commercials, but simply avoid using so-called “magic words” of express advocacy. Although the sponsors of such advertisements often claim that they are engaged in issue advocacy rather than electioneering, in practice the primary “issue” that is being discussed is usually the fitness of a particular candidate for public office.

Participants in the political arena, by simply eschewing the use of the magic words of express advocacy, have been able to turn the world of campaign finance upside down, threatening the three pillars of federal campaign finance law: contribution limits, financial source restrictions, and disclosure requirements. By arguing that their activities are not electioneering, parties and interest groups are able to solicit unlimited sums from donors. For more than half a century, Congress has banned corporations and labor unions from influencing federal elections, but now corporations and labor unions use this narrow definition of electioneering to claim their activities are not electoral and spend millions from their treasuries. Finally, everyone agrees that the best feature of the campaign finance system is its transparency, but these new campaigners are able to avoid the campaign finance laws’ disclosure requirements and operate in near secrecy.

This secrecy is a particular problem for policymakers trying to preserve the integrity of our elections. Absent facts about the electioneering that is escaping regulation, the debate over campaign finance proposals has turned into a battle of hypotheticals, particularly regarding how proposals would affect First Amendment rights. Instead of a reasoned debate about what interest groups and political parties running these ads really say and do, discussions of campaign reform seem characterized by apocalyptic anecdotes, rampant speculation, and of course, deadlock.

The result has been a growing despair about reforming the campaign finance system. Each election brings new developments that make the campaign finance system more appalling. Even as editorialists have inveighed against the phenomenon of campaign ads masquerading as issue advocacy and Senator McCain’s campaign highlighted these concerns for millions of voters, many have grown ever more pessimistic that any solution can ever be achieved. Despite the growing chorus of voices arguing that change is needed, even those most desirous of reform have begun to wonder whether it is possible to overcome the political and legal obstacles.

Against this backdrop, the Brennan Center for Justice created this committee to examine the role of “issue advocacy” in elections. Other committees have tackled the same subject, but what made our effort unique was an important new development—the creation of the most comprehensive data set ever developed about political advertising on television, including issue advocacy and electioneering. This resource shed remarkable light on the world of issue advocacy, both the genuine and fake varieties, and allowed us to consider policy proposals based on a solid foundation of fact.

Our members bring a range of viewpoints, experiences, and expertise to this debate: we include Republicans and Democrats, former Members of Congress and White House staff, business leaders, and scholars of law and politics, and we bring experience in both campaigning and governing. Given this range of experience, we also brought a variety of concerns about the problems posed by sham issue advocacy. What unites us is the conviction that the campaign finance system must be reformed to benefit candidates, parties, interest groups, and, most of all, citizens.

We believe that the recommendations below accomplish that goal. Each is worthy of careful consideration. We have used the information about television advertising to uncover problems with the current system and design solutions based on fact, not speculation. The ideas we have come up with in some cases are new and in some cases support approaches currently being advocated. Taken separately, each idea offers a specific and important improvement on the current system. Taken together, these proposals have the potential to promote more meaningful elections and to restore common sense to the campaign finance system—all without creating significant new government bureaucracies or endangering genuine political speech.

We divide our recommendations into three parts: 1) enhancing disclosure; 2) distinguishing between electioneering and genuine issue speech; 3) distinguishing among speakers. We present the specific problem we are addressing, our proposed solutions, and an analysis and discussion.

I. Enhancing Disclosure

Although proposals for campaign finance regulation often arouse dissent and controversy, almost no one argues against the need for clear and timely disclosure of the sponsorship of election advertisements. Even bills such as that introduced by Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) in the House last year, which called for almost total deregulation of the federal campaign finance system, still contained relatively strong disclosure requirements. As the Buckley Court recognized, disclosure is often the least restrictive means for satisfying the compelling government interests that undergird campaign finance reform legislation. Thus, comprehensive disclosure requirements, which are an integral part of a well-functioning marketplace of ideas, raise few serious First Amendment issues.

A fully effective system of disclosure would ensure that, a) the name of the sponsor of an advertisement appears clearly within the ad and that, b) basic information about the sponsors of election advertisements is publicly available. Unfortunately, both of these basic pieces of information were often hard to come by in 1998.

Disclaimers, the portion of the ad that reads “Paid for by . . .”, are for most people the only means to learn who sponsored the ad they are seeing, but even this minimal piece of information was missing from a sizable number of ads in 1998. The sponsorship of slightly less than one quarter of ads in our study was either missing or illegible. Of this 25 percent, 79 percent were candidate ads, 11 percent were party ads, and 11 percent were interest group ads. Despite the existence of Federal Communications Commission regulations in this area, discerning sponsorship proved to be surprisingly difficult.

Gaining meaningful information about ad sponsors was often difficult in 1998, as new groups with unclear purposes and backgrounds emerged. A group called “We the Parents,” for example, ran ads in several key presidential primary states featuring presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander. This “group” was in fact a political committee based in Virginia, where it could receive unlimited contributions, was headed by Alexander (until he officially announced his candidacy) and had no activities apart from sponsoring these ads. Other groups, such as the “Committee for Fairness” and the “Committee for Common Decency,” were formed close to the election and ran ads without clues as to who was behind them.

The problem of front groups with mystery donors is not going away, as demonstrated by the recent controversy surrounding ads purchased by Texas billionaire Charles Wyly, a longtime supporter of George W. Bush and a member of his “Pioneers” fundraising group. Wyly and his brother together spent some $2.5 million funding a series of ads touting Governor Bush’s environmental record in three battleground states on the eve of the Super Tuesday Republican presidential primary. These ads identified “Republicans for Clean Air” as their sponsor, although Wyly and his brother later admitted to having paid for the ads, and the sponsoring organization did not even exist until the ads were planned and purchased. Finally, interest groups, and even officeholders, have formed organizations under section 527 of the tax code, which they claim allows them to raise unlimited funds for political activities without disclosure requirements, provided they do not use the “magic words” of express advocacy.

So the cracks in the disclosure regime, first visible in 1996, are now threatening to widen. One way to make the sponsorship of ads more transparent without establishing new standards for electioneering would be to use the existing statutory authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC’s rules apply to all noncommercial speech; their enforcement does not depend on whether an ad uses “magic words.” Specifically, three separate steps might be attempted: 1) requiring disclaimers on ads to be more prominent, 2) increasing access to existing information about media buys, and 3) preventing sponsors of political ads from hiding their identities.

Recommendation #1: Make disclaimers more prominent.


The sponsorship of 25% of 1998’s ads in our study was impossible to discern.


Enforce existing FCC rules on disclaimers and adopt stronger requirements for the display of sponsor information within all political advertisements.


Current FCC rules maintain that sponsorship of ads with political content “whether or not they are sponsored by a candidate” must be “identified with letters equal to or greater than four percent of the vertical picture height” and must air “for not less than four seconds.” This applies to all political ads, including ones that are not explicitly campaign-related but simply “political matter or matter involving the discussion of a controversial issue of public importance,” a test that includes true issue advocacy. Both the size and duration of the disclaimer could be increased, along with controls insuring that the background does not render it illegible (i.e. no black text on black background, white text on white background). In addition, it may be worthwhile to require that the sponsors of the ad be identified orally as well as visually.

This should be an uncontroversial idea. There is ample precedent for requiring a greater proportion of a commercial to be devoted to disclaimer messages. If pharmaceutical companies are required to provide relatively extensive messages on the potential risks of their products, then certainly political advertisers should not object to taking a few minor steps to decrease the possibility of voter confusion.

Recommendation #2: Increase access to existing information about media buys


Basic information on sponsorship is often difficult to track down.


Require the FCC to promulgate forms for disclosure and create a central repository for public access.


For all political ads, FCC regulations mandate that their sponsors file organizational paperwork with the broadcast station for public inspection. The required organizational information includes a list of the members of the group’s executive committee, board of directors, or chief executive officers. All radio and television broadcast stations and cable operators are required to keep this information available for public inspection during regular business hours.

Despite these requirements, records can be sloppy and access to the data less-than-willingly granted. The FCC could promulgate forms for disclosure and provide a central repository (perhaps at FCC headquarters or via the web) to allow easier access for citizens and journalists. Creating a clear process for disclosure of ad buys through a standardized form and through requiring stations to share this information does not represent a large change for political advertisers, who are already required to disclose their identity; it would only be part of an attempt to improve and make more transparent this already existing process.

Creating a central repository for ad buy records would, however, be a welcome change. The Federal Election Commission (FEC), whose ability to provide financial information on candidates and parties to the public is widely praised, presents itself as a model for what is possible. The FEC has also made great strides in making information available via the Internet, something the FCC or a new data center could also do.

Recommendation #3: Require full disclosure of the true identity of sponsors of media buys.


The emergence of front groups running ads without meaningful disclosure of their backers.


Prevent sponsors of political ads from hiding their identities by requiring full disclosure of basic information to television stations and giving clear direction to television stations on these requirements.


The FCC requires that the sponsorship identification provided in the ad itself must “fully and fairly disclose the true identity” of the organization paying for the ad. If the person placing the ad is known to be an agent for someone else or the station could determine that with “reasonable diligence,” the ad must disclose the identity of the actual sponsor of the advertisement. The regulation’s scope has been substantially unexplored by the courts, and its constitutionality has not been ruled on. However, in 1996, the FCC found that a number of stations in Oregon failed to properly identify ad sponsors during an anti-smoking campaign and had failed to exercise reasonable diligence to determine the true identity of the sponsors. In that action, the ads identified “Fairness Matters to Oregonians Committee” as the sponsor, although the Tobacco Institute funded, designed, and implemented the advertisements. Notably, the FCC did not impose sanctions because the stations lacked guidance from the Commission on how they were supposed to proceed in these situations. Given the proliferation of groups such as these, it is more clear than ever that new rules for what constitutes full and fair disclosure are necessary.

The FCC’s rules provide the lever to force advertisers such as “Republicans for Clean Air” to fully disclose their true identities—including contact information and the names of the group’s principals B and require stations to exercise reasonable diligence in assembling this information. This information could be incorporated into the disclaimer within the ad or may simply be available to those who review the station’s records of media buys. Requiring groups running political ads to disclose basic information (for example, a physical address, not a post office box) does not approach what groups running independent expenditures disclose to the FEC, but it provides a minimum level of information to citizens and journalists, who can then make more informed evaluations of the claims made in the ads they see.

These two disclosure requirements—the basic organizational information and the true identity disclosure—provide a hook for getting more information to the public about who is sponsoring the sham issue ads. For these steps to be effective, however, the FCC must provide stations with guidance on how they are supposed to determine the “true identity” of sponsors and what constitutes reasonable diligence when the station doubts that the identified sponsor is the true sponsor. In addition, the FCC must be willing to enforce these rules.

II. Distinguishing Between Electioneering and Genuine Issue Speech

The Supreme Court’s insight in Buckley that campaign finance laws that are too inexact might inadvertently affect speech unrelated to campaigns was undoubtedly correct. None of the members of this Committee wish to see the FEC or other government regulators involved in overseeing debates of the great issues of our day. Yet at the same time, it is beyond reasonable dispute that the so-called “magic words” test—discussed in a three-sentence footnote in the Buckley decision—is glaringly deficient when used as a method for differentiating between electioneering and issue speech. In 1998, only four percent of studied candidate ads (which are indisputably electioneering) contained these direct appeals. Campaign communications may once have been typified by entreaties like “vote for,” “defeat” or “support,” but that is clearly no longer the case, rendering the magic words test worthless.

How might we do better? First, we must recognize that, as a legal matter, Congress is not foreclosed from adopting a definition of “electioneering” or “express advocacy” that goes beyond the “magic words” test. When the Supreme Court devised the “express advocacy” test in Buckley, it did so in the context of a poorly drafted statute whose definition of regulable electioneering contained problems of both vagueness and overbreadth. The Court found that the regulated conduct, which included spending “relative to a clearly identified candidate” and “for the purpose of influencing an election” was not defined with sufficient precision. The Court adopted a narrowing interpretation of this specific language in order to save the statute from constitutional invalidity. Congress is of course bound by the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Buckley, which teaches that regulation of political speech must be drafted clearly and targeted at electioneering rather than true issue advocacy. However, as long as these vagueness and overbreadth concerns are met, Congress is presumably free to draft new legislation that is more effective in achieving its constitutionally valid goals.

The most prominent current proposals for better defining regulable electioneering are “bright-line” tests that are based on a series of measurable factors. The bright-line approach has been adopted in various forms by the main campaign finance proposals before Congress in the last four years, including McCain-Feingold (1998), Shays-Meehan (1998 and 1999), and Snowe-Jeffords (1998). This approach typically uses the calender to label as electioneering ads that mention or picture a candidate for federal office if the ads appear close—usually within 60 days—to an election. Under the current proposals, the ads are not banned; rather they are subject to the same rules about disclosure and funding that affect regular campaign activities.

Examination of 1998’s ads shows that 82 percent of the total airings of ads regarded by coders as electioneering would have been captured under a bright-line 60-day approach, and only seven percent of the total airings regarded by coders as genuine issue ads would have been similarly captured. Both numbers are reassuring. The bright-line approach is designed to delineate sham issue ads and, judging from the 82 percent figure, it does so fairly accurately. And the seven percent figure of total airings regarded by coders as genuine issue ads all resulted from multiple airings of only two separate spots. Thus, the bright-line 60-day approach would have been largely successful in allowing genuine issue ads to air without FEC oversight, while capturing the vast majority of electioneering ads that were masquerading as issue ads.

We do not believe that the seven percent of issue-oriented ads that would have fallen under FEC regulation under the bright-line 60-day approach are sufficient to call into question the constitutional validity of the bright-line approach. Nevertheless, the bright-line approach can be further modified to ensure that even small amounts of issue speech are not chilled by the bright-line approach. We suggest two ideas below.

Recommendation #4: Adjust the Bright-Line Test.


While the 60-day bright-line test works fairly well, there is the possibility that it might affect a few legitimate issue ads.


Build exceptions for geographic targeting and the sponsor’s intent into the existing proposal.


The study’s examination of 1998’s commercials shows that just two genuine issue ads would have been subject to regulation under the bright-line approach. The first, an AFL-CIO commercial asking viewers to contact specific Republican senators about S.2661, the Patients’ Bill of Rights, appeared in a dozen states in September, including states where the named senators were not up for reelection as well as two where they were. The second issue ad aired only in Nevada and asked viewers to contact the winner of the upcoming Senate race—naming John Ensign and Harry Reid—and tell them to support lower taxes. While taxes were one of Ensign’s main campaign themes, nothing about the ad betrayed any preference for either candidate. These two examples—the only ones that both mentioned candidates and were aired within 60 days of an election that were deemed true issue ads—suggest that it may be desirable to modify the bright-line approach in an attempt to ensure that it does not capture any genuine issue ads.

The first modification would be to include a geographic targeting provision. We propose to let the nature of the ad by itself—where the sponsors ran their ads—help describe the underlying purpose of the commercial. Ads would be deemed electioneering only if they were targeted to the electorate of the identified candidate. Thus, an ad campaign in the months directly preceding the election that focuses on lobbying members of Congress irrespective of whether or not they are candidates would be treated differently than one that—by not-to-be-believed coincidence—lobbies only those facing hotly contested races. Although a variety of standards might be used to define “targeting” with specificity, the underlying principle is that the strategies employed by advertisers offer objective indications of their intent. In the case of AFL-CIO’s campaign against S.2661, the union’s actions suggested their ad should not be counted as electioneering. Groups could try to take advantage of this rule by purchasing ad time in states and districts without contested elections, but that would be a very expensive form of evasion.

Although modifications of this type can be suggested to take into account the peculiarities of individual ads, any test that is based solely on objective factors is unlikely to be 100 percent accurate in distinguishing between issue ads and electioneering ads. In the end, we are trying to gauge the speaker’s actual intent, and objective factors alone will not take us inside the speaker’s mind. Of course, judging intent is not an unfamiliar concept in our legal system; indeed it is a ubiquitous feature of the criminal code. We believe that the 60-day bright-line approach can be modified in different ways to take into account the speaker’s intent more explicitly.

One way to incorporate intent into the bright-line approach is to utilize the factors in the bright-line test to create only a presumption that an advertisement is regulable electioneering. Speakers who fail to meet all of the requirements of the bright-line test would be in a safe harbor; they would be assured that their advertisements would not be regulated by the government. For those speakers whose ads meet all of the presumptive criteria of the bright-line test, they would still be permitted to run their ads as issue ads, but they would be proceeding with the knowledge that the government might seek to bring an enforcement action claiming that the ads are in fact electioneering. If the government brought an enforcement action, the speaker would be permitted to claim a lack of electioneering intent, and the government would bear the burden of proof on the issue of intent. This approach is more protective of First Amendment values than the pure bright-line test. By utilizing a presumption, rather than a hard and fast rule, there is a safety valve for those few cases of true issue advocacy ads, like the Reid-Ensign ad described above, that otherwise resemble electioneering ads.

A similar way to achieve this result would be through a regime of self-disclosure. Any speaker who runs an advertisement that meets the presumptive criteria for electioneering speech would be permitted (but not required) to file a statement with the FEC declaring that his or her advertisement was not intended to influence the election of the named candidate(s). The filing of such a statement would prevent the FEC from treating the advertisement as electioneering, rather than issue advocacy. That is not to say, however, that the sponsors of sham issue ads would easily be able to evade regulation. Making a formal declaration of intent does create some legal jeopardy for those who would lie. If, for example, the AFL-CIO were to declare—against common sense and statements from its own leadership—that none of the various ads that it ran which mentioned specific candidates within 60 days of the election had an electoral purpose, the organization would open itself up to possible investigation and serious sanctions for filing a false statement with the Government. The enforcement would inevitably occur after the fact, but it would still provide enormous incentive not to file a false statement. At the very least, advocacy groups would no longer be able publicly to trumpet their intent to elect or defeat certain candidates while claiming they are engaged in mere issue advocacy.

Under either of these proposals for adding an intent element to the bright-line test, the sponsors of the Reid-Ensign advertisement could safely run their issue ad, which focused on lowering taxes. Despite the mention of specific candidates close to an election, the speakers could rely on the fact that the ad’s focus, coupled with its even-handed treatment of both candidates, would be sufficient evidence of a non-electioneering intent to survive government scrutiny. Similarly, if an advocacy group has been running a long-standing series of communications criticizing a current office-holder concerning his policy choices, the group would not feel compelled to stop its ad campaign when an election drew near because it could, with confidence, demonstrate through that course of conduct an absence of electioneering intent. Likewise, speakers who could truthfully sign a declaration of lack of electioneering intent would have little to fear from declaring their objective and running their ads as planned.

Taken together, these steps provide insurance that the bright-line test is not overly broad. While we believe that the threat posed to genuine issue speech by the current version of the bright-line test to be quite minimal, our suggested modifications are intended to make the bright-line test even more responsive to First Amendment concerns.

III. Distinguishing Among Different Speakers

One of the most remarkable findings from the study of campaign advertisements is that just 4 percent of ads broadcast by political candidates use the so-called “magic words” of express advocacy. Yet, everyone agrees that 100 percent of ads sponsored by candidates are express advocacy. The reason can only be that the intent of these commercials is obvious; since they come from candidates the purpose of the ads must to help their sponsors win election. While the nature of candidate ads is judged according to their source, the intent of ads by other sponsors is adduced from their content. This double standard is troubling precisely because the candidates ads show how inadequate the magic words test is to the task of determining which ads are electioneering. But candidates are not the only advertisers whose motives are so transparent. Scholars agree that political parties exist to elect their candidates to public office; the valuable roles they play in democracies throughout the world are byproducts of this first, overwhelming reason for being.

Recommendation #5: Treat all advertising sponsored by political parties as electioneering.


The increasing use by political parties of sham issue ads to evade campaign finance regulations.


Congressional action or an advisory opinion from the FEC stating that advertisements by political parties mentioning a candidate for federal office are electioneering.


The political parties are raising record amounts of “soft money” to fund candidate-centered ads that exploit the “issue advocacy” loophole. Although “soft money” spending is supposed to be limited to the specific party-building activities enumerated in the Federal Election Campaign Act, the Democratic and Republican Parties are increasingly using “soft money” to fund sham issue ads. Interestingly, our data demonstrate that just 15 percent of the issue ads sponsored by Democratic or Republican party organizations mentioned either political party by name, compared to 99 percent that mentioned specific political candidates. The failure to even mention political parties in ads that are supposed to be for “party-building” is a glaring omission.

The change we seek is relatively subtle. Political parties are already political committees, subject to FECA’s regulation. The law allows them to give money to candidates, make coordinated and, under the Supreme Court’s decision in Colorado Republican, independent expenditures. Parties’ sponsorship of candidate-centered issue advocacy is, however, a relatively new phenomenon, first coming into broad use in the 1996 presidential elections. The reason for the parties’ delay in entering this area is simple: for years they assumed that the law prohibited issue advocacy that focused on candidates, rather than the parties themselves. FEC inaction and the aggressive tactics of interest groups, however, eventually encouraged them to take the plunge.

Restoring the pre-1996 understanding would require the FEC to issue a regulation or advisory opinion—or Congress to pass a law—stating that advertisements by political committees that mention or picture a federal candidate are express advocacy. Legal challenges would certainly follow, but the Commission could point to their authority over parties and the existing rules on actions of political committees. We believe these regulations would have an excellent chance of surviving court scrutiny. When the Supreme Court in Buckley originally adopted the “express advocacy” test, the Court wanted to ensure that issue advocacy groups—groups like the National Right to Life Committee or the National Abortion Rights Action League—could continue to be involved in the public debate over policy issues without fear that their activities would automatically be subject to the restrictions placed on advocacy sponsored by political candidates or political parties. The Court explicitly stated that its holding did not apply to ads that were sponsored by candidates or political parties. Ads sponsored by such entities, the Court noted, were by definition campaign-related. This common-sense truth has been lost through the use of party-sponsored sham issue ads.

One important aspect of this recommendation is its effect on parties. Scholars are virtually unanimous in their belief that parties are vital institutions in mass democracies that are worth strengthening, a policy goal with which judges have often agreed. As a result, critics will claim that any action that interferes with the way parties behave must inevitably weaken them. Ironically, we think that just the opposite is true: one of the best reasons to support this recommendation is the impetus it would give to genuine party-building. The findings from the research on 1998’s broadcasting show how little party-building occurs. There is little doubt that political parties’ commercials, the vast majority of which mention candidates but not the name of their party—have much more to do with advancing the prospects of a particular candidate than building the party.

Contrast this behavior with the most recent celebrated example of party building, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Contract With America” in 1994. Rather than identify particular candidates, the Republicans in that year highlighted a set of beliefs that Republican candidates for Congress adhered to, differentiating themselves from the opposing “team” of candidates. This campaign would not have been affected by the regulations we propose. Rather, our proposal would make genuine efforts at party building like the Contract With America more prevalent by limiting the uses of soft money to activities that first and foremost strengthen the reputation and organizational capacities of parties. It is important to remember that, despite the apparent success of the Contract, the NRCC abandoned these tactics in subsequent elections in the face of demands from individual candidates to invest directly in their races. The regulations we propose give parties the ability to fend off these calls and act to strengthen themselves.


Brennan Center Policy Committee