In an historic vote last night, the Senate approved campaign finance reform legislation aimed at restricting the unregulated special interest contributions to political parties. The legislation, sponsored by senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), still faces a tough fight in the House of Representatives. As approved by the Senate, "McCain-Feingold" bans soft money donations from unions, corporations, and wealthy individuals to political parties. It also increases hard money donations, or regulated individual contributions to candidates, from $1,000 to $2,000 per year and restricts special interest broadcast issue ads before primary and general elections.
The full ramifications of these proposed reforms are unclear. For example, the restriction on issue ads will surely face a court challenge. However, if the legislation passes the House, it could level the playing field between general aviation and the airlines that have donated millions of dollars in soft money to political candidates and parties. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the air transport sector provided over $10 million in soft money contributions to political parties in the 2000 election cycle alone.