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McConnell and Van Hollen Agree on Campaign Finance Reform McConnell and Van Hollen Agree on Campaign Finance Reform

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Leadership

McConnell and Van Hollen Agree on Campaign Finance Reform

Well, sort of. The Senate Republican and House Democrat want to bring down the wall that prevents party organizations from coordinating with a candidate. 


Campaign finance law prohibits direct coordination between a party organization like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or the National Republican Congressional Committee and a candidate's campaign, beyond a limit of $85,000. Party committees may spend up to that amount in direct coordination on their favored candidates. Any amount beyond that must be spent through an independent expenditure wing, walled off from the coordinated wing of the party apparatus.

[snip]

The prohibition leads to a sort of wink-and-nod operation by party strategists. The coordinated side will frequently add raw footage and research documents it would like to see in advertising to hidden sections of various websites, knowing full well that the independent side will take the hint and find it (The Rothenberg Political Report's Nathan Gonzales has the best rundown of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans).

Campaign finance law is yet another debate in which the two parties are miles apart. But there's surprising bipartisan agreement on coordination. The drivers of the debate on Capitol Hill believe coordination between campaigns and super PACs shouldn't be allowed, but that coordination with party committees only makes sense.

"It's ... absurd to say that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee couldn't spend every penny it's got in one race if it wants to, in direct coordination with the candidate," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a recent interview. "Now, what the party committees have to do is transfer the money to outside entities and then have no contact with them at all. And these outside entities, completely independent of the entity that transferred them the money and the candidate they may want to help or hurt, are out there on their own. I think that's a good law with regard to outside groups--you know, 527s, and 501(c)(4)--they shouldn't be allowed to coordinate, because that is independent advocacy."

Former chairs of the DSCC and DCCC agree. The first version of the Disclose Act, the campaign finance reform measure authored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and backed by Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Chuck Schumer of New York--the current DSCC chair and her two predecessors--would have reformed the manner in which coordinated spending with party committees is regulated.

The Disclose Act fell one vote short in 2010. This week, Democrats brought up another version of the bill that dealt with disclosure alone; it failed twice in a two-day period.

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