Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release: Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Contact: Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699

States Ask U.S. Court to Uphold
Federal Campaign Finance Reform Law

States argue McCain-Feingold bill "is both constitutional
and essential to the health of our national democracy."

DES MOINES. Nineteen states have filed a "friend of the court" brief urging the Federal Courts to uphold the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law that was designed to eliminate the flow of virtually unlimited "soft money" through national political parties and tighten rules concerning "issue ads" run by corporations and unions.

"We argue that the law is both constitutional and essential to the health of our national democracy," said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose office co-authored the brief with Vermont. "The law is under attack, but we are convinced it is both constitutional and crucial. It responds to citizens' alienation arising from the perception that 'money talks' in the political system. The law will strengthen our political discourse and democracy."

The McCain-Feingold bill takes effect today, the day after the Nov. 5 election.

The amicus curiae or "friend of the court" brief was filed on Election Day at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C., where a special three-judge panel is now considering the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act ("BCRA") legislation -- the McCain-Feingold bill enacted by Congress earlier this year.

Various critics are challenging the law as plaintiffs in the consolidated case of Senator Mitch McConnell v. The Federal Election Commission.

The brief was co-authored by Iowa and Vermont. It was filed by the Attorneys General of nineteen states: AK, CO, CT, HI, IA, KS, KY, ME, MA, MN, MS, MO, MT, NV, NM, OK, RI, VT, WA. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands also joined the amicus.

Critics have raised constitutional challenges to the law, arguing that Congress exceeded its own authority and intruded too far on authority reserved to the States under the Constitution. The States argued that the law is a constitutional exercise of Congress' power because it is targeted to reach only activity that influences the outcome of federal elections and left untouched those campaign activities that relate solely to state elections.

The brief said the States strongly disagree that the Congress overstepped its bounds, noting that the states "are perhaps uniquely suited" to defend Congress' role because they have a long practice of carefully defending the proper division of power between the Federal and State governments. Efforts to challenge the law on federalism grounds are "wholly unsupported," the brief argued. In fact, the States said, efforts to reduce the reach of the McCain-Feingold law could endanger the States' authority to pursue their own campaign finance reform measures.

An entire section of the brief underscored the States' belief that the campaign finance reform law "serves an overriding national purpose that benefits the States and their citizens" -

  • "The dominance of money in politics seriously threatens the public's faith in the legitimacy of government" and elections, the brief said. "The confidence of Americans in their elected officials has been shaken by the influence of money, real or apparent, on the outcome of elections."

  • When voters perceive federal elections are suspect, it affects state and local elections as well. "Such a sentiment can lead to a pervasive loss of faith in all our governmental institutions, and a malaise characterized by cynicism, alienation and discontent at the local, State and federal level."

  • The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation "restores citizens' confidence in the people they elect to govern while ensuring an ongoing and vigorous political discourse," the brief said.

"We argue that removing the influence of 'big money' will not quash political debate, but reinvigorate it," Miller said.

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