- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

NEWS ANALYSIS

Republican officials say that their party will have a significant fund-raising advantage over the Democrats if the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill becomes law.
Republican campaign officials who have been studying the fine print in the bill and comparing fund-raising numbers say they can live with its ban on unlimited, unregulated "soft money" contributions and even believe they can find ways around it.
"It's devastating to the Democrats. For the Republicans, it's a problem that can be worked around, but for the Democrats it's crippling because of the 'hard money' advantage that Republicans have," said a top Republican Party campaign official.
"Republicans have objected to the bill, principally because of the First Amendment issues raised by its restrictions, but politically we can deal with the consequences if it is passed in its present form," this official said.
"If Republicans had sat down to write a piece of legislation to put the Democrats out of business, we could not have come up with something better," he said.
This national party official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, maintained that the Republicans' nearly 2-to-1 fund-raising advantage over the Democrats in regulated "hard money" contributions would allow the party to out-raise the Democrats, especially now that the Senate has voted to raise the $1,000 limit on contributions to individual candidates to $2,000.
"Raising the limit to $2,000 makes it even better for us to offset the soft-money ban," he said.
Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, one of his party's few opponents of the McCain-Feingold bill, agrees with that assessment.
"It allows the one area where Republicans have the ability to raise twice as much money as Democrats to continue, and the one area where we are comparatively even in to be eliminated," Mr. Breaux said this week on CNN.
Republican campaign committees, with their vast fund-raising lists, raised nearly $450 million in hard money in the last election and the Democrats, by contrast, raised about half that amount.
The Democrats have closed the gap with the Republicans on unrestricted soft-money donations, raising $243 million compared to $244 million for the Republicans during last year's election cycle.
"There's no question that at the aggregate party level we have the ability to raise hard federal dollars better than the other side," said another Republican Party campaign committee official.
As the Senate nears final action on the McCain-Feingold bill, President Bush has suddenly hinted that he is eager to sign a bill. Republican officials said yesterday that the White House has similarly concluded that the bill was not the threat to party fund raising that it at first seemed to be.
"The president looks forward to working with the Congress so he can get a campaign finance bill into law this year and he's making his position clear to the interested parties," said Ari Fleischer, the president's chief spokesman.
Democratic Party campaign committee officials have been opposed to the ban on soft money in the bill and some have said so, only to be chastised by party leaders for speaking out.
James Jordan, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told The Washington Post earlier this month that the bill would have "unintended consequences" that would hurt the Democratic Party.
A Democratic official told The Washington Times yesterday that Mr. Jordan "got into trouble" for his remarks, but that his views were shared throughout the party's campaign committees. "This is going to hurt us," the official said.
Republican campaign officials said yesterday that there were ways that they can get around the ban on soft money contained in the bill.
"There's so many ways you can do it; set up secondary groups, one for raising money, one for the nominating process," one official said.


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