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McCain-Feingold Bill Threatens First Amendment, Media Institute's Legal Analysis Finds

Campaign finance reform bill would unconstitutionally restrict independent political speech.

FOR RELEASE: May 6, 2001

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute


(Washington) - The McCain-Feingold bill on campaign finance reform presents significant challenges to political speech, according to a legal analysis released today by The Media Institute, a nonprofit foundation specializing in communications policy.

The analysis states the McCain-Feingold bill harms the First Amendment in three major ways. First, the bill ignores the Supreme Court's protection of advertisements addressing political issues by banning organizations from running any political ads that mention a candidate within 60 days of a general election.

Second, the bill requires any individual or political action committee to disclose the identities of all donors if the ads meet certain requirements of cost, content, and timing. This obligation violates the established rights of individuals participating in political speech by removing an individual's anonymity.

Finally, the bill expands the definition of "coordination" between candidates and third parties in a way that would limit the activities of independent advocacy groups - an action forbidden by the First Amendment.

Daniel Troy, a constitutional scholar and a member of The Media Institute's First Amendment Advisory Council, authored the analysis.

"The paradox of McCain-Feingold is that, although its proponents claim to want to empower the 'little guy' against the 'monied interests,' they have adopted a scheme that, if implemented, is likely to have precisely the opposite effect," Troy says in his analysis. "Such a scheme is bound to fail under the requirement that a limitation on speech be the least restrictive means of advancing the government's stated interest."