Say Good-Bye to McCain-Feingold...

Created: 16 December, 2014
Updated: 15 October, 2022
3 min read

government shutdown has been more common in recent years so there was a possibility, but there has always been a relatively quick fix to them -- pass a budget or continuing resolution. In this case, Congress passed a combination in the form of the $1.1 trillion cromnibus.

The bipartisan opposition in the House was not enough to dissuade the Senate from passing the cromnibus 56-40 on Saturday. If there was more time, things might have been different, but the limited time constraints were an obvious reason for passage.

Like any budget, the results will sooner or later become visible. Meaning good or bad, Congress will either be thanked for preventing another government shutdown or blamed for the negative repercussions that may follow from changing past acts of Congress.

In particular, the $1.1 trillion spending bill greatly affects milestone legislative acts like Dodd-Frank and McCain-Feingold.

Sen. Warren made it sound like a Wall Street lobbyist had written the provision repealing Dodd-Frank’s Lincoln Amendment. At least if it turns out badly it would lend credence to the view that Wall Street needs more regulation.

Aside from altering the rules set in Dodd-Frank, the campaign donation limit increases in the semi-omnibus spending bill is a worrisome topic for campaign finance experts. Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer says it is such a leap backwards that it would suppress 2002's campaign finance bill known as McCain-Feingold.

By de facto repealing McCain-Feingold, Congress could inadvertently be setting the stage for an increase in corruption that was the impetus for McCain-Feingold passing in the first place.

Legislative rollbacks are not the only tool the cromnibus contains in curbing government regulations. Spending cuts are another, more common way of managing government’s growth. Unfortunately, the IRS has been a victim of this tool.

The $1.1 trillion spending bill contains $350 million less for the IRS. That not only is a jab against Obamacare, but it could dampen the enforcement of 501(c)(4) organizations, the tax-exempt groups that are “engaged in activities that promote social welfare.” These groups were also at the center of last year’s IRS controversy targeting conservative groups.

While the IRS could see their overseer responsibilities take a hit, the Koch Brothers could take advantage of the increase in deregulation.

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David and Charles Koch are in a legal battle with California Attorney General Kamala Harris over disclosing contributors to their nonprofit 501(c)(4), Americans for Prosperity Foundation. These brothers and other wealthy donors could see their annual political contribution limits increase to “extraordinarily corrupting money" at the new levels, according to Mr. Wertheimer.

Prior to the $1.1 trillion spending bill, the maximum a person was able to contribute to a single national party was $259,200. Now the limit is $1,555,200 per party for every two-year election cycle. That would go toward funding party building activities, conventions, and recounts. Theoretically a person could double that amount by giving the max to both major parties.

If money speaks, anybody who could give over a million dollars during every 2-year election cycle could get quite the audience in both parties. This raises obvious ethical questions.

Taking the time constraints into account, the legislators that voted for the spending bill will have some cover. If questioned, they could claim the alternative would have been worse; that a government shutdown would create more problems in the short-term.

Whether it is over health care, immigration, or another issue, government shutdowns are not a good thing, but so is bad spending. The cynic would say one step forward in some areas, but two steps back in others.

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