NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Political Parties Raise Record Amounts

September 5, 2003

The "Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002," commonly known as McCain-Feingold, limits so-called soft money donations -- the large gifts political parties used to receive from companies, unions, advocacy groups and people that often were used to aid candidates. These donations were not subject to federal "hard money" limits on gifts to a candidate or a party.

McCain-Feingold was supposed to shield politics from the allegedly corrupting influence of money -- but according to fund-raising figures from the first six months under the new law, the Democratic and Republican parties are adapting:

  • In the first six months of the 2004 election cycle (from Jan. 1, 2003, through the end of June), the national party committees raised $161 million -- 45 percent more hard money than they received in the comparable 2002 cycle and some 50 percent more than in 2000.
  • The parties raised $23 million more in hard money in this period than they raised in hard and soft money combined in the first six months of the last presidential election cycle in 1999.
  • This is some 25 percent less than the total of both hard- and soft-money donations of $213 million raised in the first six months of 2001; however, in that year, 60 percent of the Democrats' money and 40 percent of the Republicans' revenues were soft money donations that are now outlawed.

Republicans have been affected less by the law because they have emphasized small-donor fund-raising, which has allowed them to build a broad base of donors. For example, in the 2002 election cycle, before McCain-Feingold was passed, the Republican National Committee attracted 500,000 new donors.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court will return from summer vacation a month early to hear four hours of oral argument on the constitutionality of the law.

Source: Norman Ornstein (American Enterprise Institute) and Anthony Corrado (Brookings Institution), "'Hard Money' Is Easy to Come By," New York Times, September 5, 2003.


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