Senator John McCain's (R-Ariz.) push for campaign financing reform may help general aviation by leveling the playing field against the airlines. President George W. Bush met with McCain this week to discuss the senator's bill. Although no decisions appear to have been made regarding when the legislation will be brought before Congress, the reforms proposed could substantially lessen the clout of the major airlines.
The key element of the bill is a ban on "soft money" to the national political parties. The major airlines, along with other corporations, labor unions, and individuals have used this loophole to give unlimited amounts of money to the national party associations such as the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee. Grass roots organizations like AOPA can't come close to matching the millions of dollars that these corporations pour into the coffers to gain influence with political leaders in Washington. Through December 2000 the major airlines had already provided more than $4 million in soft money contributions to political parties. This amount is twice the level they spent in the 1998 election cycle.
AOPA PAC contributions go directly to individual candidates and legislators. Contributions are limited to less than $10,000 in an election cycle, and each contribution is clearly noted in the public record. (Member contributions to the AOPA PAC, not member dues, support AOPA's bipartisan political contributions.)
As the legislation moves toward debate in congress, AOPA will continue to monitor any changes in the bill that might affect its ability to effectively advocate on behalf of its members.