- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

Nothing scares a U.S. senator more than the prospect of facing a multimillionaire challenger exercising his or her constitutional right to self-finance his campaign. (Just ask former Republican senators Slade Gorton and Rod Grams, who lost their seats last year to millionaire challengers.) Of course, once these financial titans win their elections, their personal wealth combined with all the incumbency advantages virtually guarantees them a lifetime seat. The trick, then, is for incumbent senators to protect themselves from such challenges. In a 70-30 vote, this they managed to do laughably under the rubric of "campaign-finance reform" by constructing a Rube Goldberg-like contraption that entitles them to obliterate the $1,000 individual contribution limit, which increases to $6,000 when a senator faces such a challenger. In all other cases, of course, McCain-Feingold treats the sacrosanct $1,000 contribution limit, which ludicrously has not increased since 1974, as though it were inscribed on one of Moses' tablets.

In a 69-31 vote, in which all 50 Democrats voted in the majority, the Senate also rejected an amendment that would have required both labor unions and corporations to receive permission from their respective members and shareholders before spending money from their treasuries on political campaigns. In recent years, Democrats have said they oppose "paycheck protection" legislation because it invariably excluded comparable requirements on corporations. This year, however, President George W. Bush accommodated the Democrats' longtime demand by insisting that corporations treat shareholders the same way unions would have to treat their members. As it turned out, Democrats never had any intention of relinquishing their stranglehold on the dues of union members, including Republican unionists.

Democrats dread the thought of losing the hundreds of millions of dollars in unregulated, in-kind contributions that Big Labor bosses spend in each election cycle on their behalf. Thus, Democrats have repeatedly threatened that "paycheck protection" would constitute a "poison pill" that would eliminate their support for "reform." Despite the fact that well over a third of voters from union households consistently vote for Republican presidential and congressional candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain was only too happy to accommodate the demands of his Democratic collaborators in "reform."

In the unlikely event that a comparable provision originating in the House would survive a conference committee, any final version of McCain-Feingold that excludes "paycheck protection" and "shareholder protection" should be summarily vetoed by Mr. Bush.

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