- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

The Republican National Committee yesterday joined the list of those suing to overturn the new campaign-finance law even though the head of the party, President Bush, signed the measure into law.
Yesterday marked the deadline for those filing suits under the fast-track judicial process set up by the law. A host of politicians and interest groups have sued, arguing the bill restricts their ability to take part in the political process by eliminating uncapped donations, called "soft money," to political committees and by regulating how they may run advertisements in the days before a primary or general election.
In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Marc Racicot, chairman of the RNC, said the party had a responsibility to go ahead with the legal challenge: "When Republicans face unconstitutional obstructions of political activity, the RNC is obligated to protect and defend the equal access of all Americans to engage in protected political speech."
But Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and the chief legislative proponent of campaign-finance reform, called the RNC suit "paradoxical."
"We know that the RNC is under control of the White House, and the president signed the bill, and yet the RNC the instrument of the White House is intervening against the bill," Mr. McCain said.
The RNC's objections aren't new they had opposed parts of the bill when the legislation was debated in Congress. Jim Dyke, an RNC spokesman, said committee leaders decided to sue on their own, and did not consult with the president.
But, he said, the RNC's actions don't conflict with the president's signature on the bill.
"It was clear from the president's statement that he felt there may have been, in addition to improvements to the law, some parts of the law that were unconstitutional," Mr. Dyke said. "And Chairman Racicot made clear that we would make that decision here, and encouraged, in fact, the White House not to provide input so we could make an independent decision."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the decision to sue was solely that of the RNC. But Mr. McClellan said that, even as the president was signing the measure, he laid out several concerns that he expected would be settled in court.
So far, the federal three-judge panel in Washington hearing the challenge has consolidated all of the challenges into a single case, headlined by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and the chief opponent of the bill as it went through Congress.
"The RNC and the various state and local parties who join our efforts today demonstrate the dramatic way in which this new federal law encroaches upon the rights of Americans both Democrat and Republican to fully participate in our democracy," Mr. McConnell said.
Also joining the list of plaintiffs yesterday were the California Democratic and Republican parties, who filed a suit together. The California political parties argue that their state laws already set limits on contributions to candidates but specifically set a role for parties. The parties have said that role is harmed by the new finance law.
A coalition of groups headed by state affiliates of the Public Interest Research Group yesterday announced their participation in the lawsuit as well, arguing that the law allows too high a contribution level of "hard money" the small-dollar donations that can be used to advocate directly for or against a candidate. The coalition is opposed to the increased hard-money donations, saying that it hurts low-income individuals by diluting their influence in the political process.

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