Business Likes Soft-Money Ban, But Wants More

Posted April 5, 2005 at 6:36pm

While business leaders believe that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s ban on soft money was a “positive step,” many still feel pressure to make large campaign contributions, according to a report released Tuesday by the Committee for Economic Development.

In a Zogby poll of 301 business executives, 73 percent of the company executives said that BCRA’s prohibition on soft money was good for both them personally and for the country.

Still, 65 percent said they continue to feel pressure to make major political contributions.

The CED’s report, “Building on Reform: A Business Proposal to Strengthen Election Finance” lauded BCRA, saying that “corporate executives are no longer being ‘shaken down’ by elected officials and party leaders for soft money contributions.”

But it concluded that additional reforms are necessary, including regulation of 527s and reforms of the Federal Election Commission and the presidential campaign funding system.

The poll asked the executives’ views on the CED’s proposed reforms. Eighty-three percent said they support requiring 527s to register with the FEC as political organizations, and 74 percent said they support prohibiting corporations and unions from donating to 527s.

The recommendations include requiring 527s to register with the FEC as political committees; reforming the FEC to have an odd number of members and stronger enforcement powers; and instituting a “multiple dollar match” into the presidential campaign finance system.

As it’s currently structured, the first $250 of every contribution is matched dollar-for-dollar during the primaries. CED believes that a double or even quadruple match ratio would better encourage small-donor participation.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an original co-sponsor of BCRA who spoke at the CED’s release of the report, said “the business community is overjoyed” because it is no longer subject to “civilized extortion” of unregulated soft money.

At the luncheon, McCain also revealed possible support from the Bush administration for his efforts to change how members of the Federal Election Commission are named. He blames the FEC for inadequately enforcing campaign finance laws.

“We’ve been working with the White House to try and get a change in the way that federal elections commissioners are appointed,” he said. When asked to expand, McCain added that he would like to see a “process where the White House does the screening and then sends over the nominations,” rather than the current system of commissioners being chosen by party leadership in Congress.