Congress is scheduled to begin debate March 19th on legislation to reform federal campaign finance law. The major bill to be considered — sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold — would prohibit soft money contributions to political parties (those ostensibly given for nonfederal purposes and free from any restrictions on sources or size of contributions) and bring under federal regulation so-called issue ads that are clearly designed to promote or oppose specific candidates for federal office. While Senators McCain and Feingold have support from 60 senators to shut off a filibuster, their proposals are controversial and face opposition from outside groups and members of both major political parties. Heated debate and complex political strategies involving amendments and substitutes are certain.
Three campaign finance specialists affiliated with the Brookings Institution will provide a preview of the issues and the politics of the forthcoming Senate debate at the March 16 Forum. In addition, the event will feature a special presentation of the newly expanded Brookings campaign finance web page. Panelists will highlight a new section devoted specifically to the current congressional debate, which features regularly updated documents, transcripts, legislative proposals, legal opinions, and other resources on campaign finance reform.