March 31, 2022

This Country is in Dire Need of New Campaign Finance and Disclosure Laws

Russ Feingold President

Russ Feingold
ACS President Russ Feingold

Next week is poised to be a week worth celebrating. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court on Monday, with the full Senate to vote on her confirmation before the end of the week. With Senator Collins announcing this week that she intends to vote to confirm, Judge Jackson is expected to receive her fourth bipartisan Senate confirmation vote, underscoring her stellar qualifications. ACS looks forward to celebrating the first Black woman justice on our highest court.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out ACS Executive Vice President Zinelle October’s recent appearances on the Black Agenda podcast and On the Issue with Michele Goodwin, discussing Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearings and the Supreme Court.

Throughout the confirmation hearings last week, we heard a lot of distorted allegations from certain senators about “dark money.” This line of attack, meant to distract from Judge Jackson’s undeniable qualifications, reminded me that March 27th was the twentieth anniversary of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as “McCain-Feingold” or the last comprehensive federal campaign finance reform legislation to be enacted. Despite certain senators claiming to care about “dark money” last week, campaign finance reform has become viciously partisan, along with voting rights and election security, over the past twenty years. It is almost hard to believe that McCain-Feingold passed the Senate with a 60-40 vote and that it was signed into law by President Bush.

When Senator John McCain and I were working on the legislation, we had a policy of only accepting cosponsors in sets of two. We used to say that it was like the Ark, cosponsors boarded “two by two.” This was to ensure that the legislation remained bipartisan.

Such a bipartisan requirement would be the death knell of nearly any legislation today, let alone legislation meant to strengthen our country’s democratic credentials. We need look only to earlier this year for evidence of this when Republican Senators filibustered the Freedom to Vote Act, which would have responded to concerns that certain senators are suddenly claiming to have. The legislation, for instance, would have required groups running ads on judicial nominations to disclose their donors.

Twenty years after McCain-Feingold was enacted, this country is in dire need of new campaign finance and disclosure laws. So, to those senators suddenly opposed to “dark money”, all I will say is, I look forward to their future support for such legislation and for their vociferous opposition to any Supreme Court decision that further unleashes dark money into our politics.