- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

Opponents of the campaign finance law enacted this year told a federal court yesterday that new limits on donations and election activity violated the Constitution's guarantee of free speech and would have a devastating effect on the national political parties.
Bobby Burchfield, an attorney for the Republican National Committee, told a three-judge federal panel that his party would have to lay off 40 percent of its staff by the end of the year because of the restrictions.
He also said his party no longer would be able to coordinate election activities with state and local parties.
"This is the core of American democracy," Mr. Burchfield argued in the first legal test of the legislation often known as McCain-Feingold, after its two chief sponsors, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat that Congress passed and President Bush signed earlier this year.
Mr. Burchfield told the judges the law won't reduce special-interest influence in elections as its supporters claim because interest groups still will be allowed to engage in the same election activities they always have, such as advertising and get-out-the-vote drives, even if the political parties can't.
Supporters of the law brandished internal corporate memos linking big donations to government policy.
Donors "give the money because they feel it is a necessary calling card to get into the door in Congress," argued Richard Bader, an attorney for the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which was defending the law.
"We think that's enough to uphold the contribution limits," Mr. Bader told the court. He also evoked Clinton-era scandals, including Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers and White House coffees for donors.
Lawyer Kenneth W. Starr called the legislation a "dragnet of regulation" that violated free-speech and association guarantees and wrongly infringed on the right of states to regulate their own elections.
Mr. Starr argues the law wrongly prohibits state and local parties from using non-federal money for a range of traditional get-out-the-vote and voter-registration activities anytime a federal candidate is on the ballot even if the efforts don't mention federal candidates.
"The only reasonable conclusion to be reached is that Congress does indeed in this law regulate state elections," said Mr. Starr, representing Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and other opponents of the law. "It intrudes into state and local parties' ability to be active."
Mr. McConnell and dozens of groups including the California Democratic Party, AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Rifle Association contend the restrictions violate free-speech and other rights.

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