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June 2, 2005
527s Acquire New Opponents: Congressional Black Caucus

What issue could possibly draw conservative Republicans and the Congressional Black Caucus into a legislative alliance? This morning, the Washington Times reports that the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act's provisions on campaign limits hit sour notes with both groups, as traditional African-American outreach efforts got starved in favor of the massive influence of George Soros' 527 strategies in 2004:

Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus are teaming up with conservative Republicans to push for the first major changes in the 2002 campaign-finance reform bill, most admitting that they made a mistake in voting for the bill three years ago.

"If I had the chance to vote again, I wouldn't vote the way I voted," said Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat, who along with most of the CBC supported the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act after they were promised by Democratic leaders that the bill would not harm their constituents or funding bases in order to garner their support.

Wait -- the BCRA's sponsors weren't completely honest about the bill's effects? Stop the presses! However, unlike most, the CBC's concern remains mostly with the financing rather than the free-speech issues that the bill's other components created:

Three years and a failed presidential election later, black politicians saw their political grass-roots organizations starved for funds under the new rules, as so-called "527s," private political groups so named for the Internal Revenue Service code provision under which they are organized were able to raise unlimited amounts of money for partisan purposes, subsequently siphoning off the cash. ...

In the 2004 presidential election, many of the black civic groups were supplanted by 527s, which attempted to turn out the black vote on their own, a strategy that Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat, said had proven to be inadequate. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, who was expected to surpass his 2000 predecessor Al Gore, received 85 percent of the black vote, compared with Mr. Gore's 90 percent.

Remember how John McCain, Russ Feingold, and the rest of the BCRA apologists told us that their bill would remove the big money from politics and allow for better grass-roots activism? It didn't turn out that way, and at least the CBC recognizes it and wants to do somthing about it, as inadequate as their response might be. They swallowed the notion that a bill sponsored by two politicians and championed by a political-action organization that gets its funding from Soros and other heavy hitters actually wanted to reduce the influence of the very people who funded it.

In fact, they bought that notion so well that they sold out the First Amendment to ensure it became law -- and the White House lacked the guts to protect freedom of speech and veto it.

It's telling that the first corrections that Congress wants to consider to the BCRA focus on getting more money into their pockets instead of restoring protections to political speech. Someone once wrote that no man's liberty or property was safe while Congress is in session -- and the BCRA is just the latest example of the truth contained in that proverb. This might be a good time to remind this new bipartisan alliance that the entire BCRA should be scrapped, instead of trimming it at the edges.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 2, 2005 7:20 AM

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