- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Maryland Democrat dissatisfied with the way the 2002 campaign-finance law affected black voter turnout, is working with conservatives to reopen the hard-money playing field to political parties.

The 527 Fairness Act — drafted by Mr. Wynn and Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Republican Study Committee — will be considered this week in a hearing of the House Administration Committee.

“This bill restores the role of the parties, and the reason it is important is because the federal parties are more transparent, they’re more accountable, more diverse and they are connected to the grass roots,” Mr. Wynn said.

“By virtue of the fact that the grass roots elects federal elected officials, it makes sense then that the parties be in a position to support candidates and also be able to distribute money to grass-roots organizations that need it for voter registration and voter mobilization,” Mr. Wynn said.

Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican and House Administration Committee chairman, has said he favors the bill as a viable solution to limit the influence so-called 527s — independent private-political groups — have on federal elections.

The Pence-Wynn bill will remove accumulated hard-money contribution limits on federal committees and parties and remove spending limits imposed on national political parties in a given election cycle. It will also allow state and local parties to spend state-regulated dollars for voter registration and use sample ballots that include the names of federal candidates if the sample ballot is paid for by the state and local party.

“What we see happening is these new and amorphous groups have dominated the political landscape while the major political parties, most respected labor unions, trade associations and constitutional groups just stand by on the sidelines,” Mr. Pence said.

“The forces that supported McCain-Feingold are once again responding with more regulations, and our act applies the only antidote a free people should ever apply … more freedom not less,” he said.

Mr. Pence and Mr. Wynn said their bill does nothing to curtail the efforts of 527 groups but simply allows nonprofits, labor unions, and trade associations to do the same thing that 527 committees are allowed to do under the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA).

“The Pence-Wynn bill is the best option by putting the power back into the political parties,” said a spokesman for Mr. Ney

Mr. Wynn and Mr. Ney were allies in the effort to stop BCRA three years ago.

“People have to focus on what happened to the small grass-roots organizations that used to get money that didn’t” get money in 2004, Mr. Wynn said.

Before BCRA, Mr. Wynn said the parties, through political action committees, were able to give money to nonprofit groups at the grass-roots level “that we knew could deliver votes or register voters,” but he said, “Now that there are other folks doing it, we are, because of the rules, not allowed to talk to them so we don’t know what’s going on.”

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