WASHINGTON – The campaign finance bill on its way to the White House for the president's signature will lead to significant shifts in the way those involved in the political process raise and spend money. Here is how some major players will be affected:
— National parties: Opponents argue that the national parties will be the big losers because they will be deprived of unregulated "soft money" contributions, which amounted to $500 million in the 2000 presidential election. Candidates would have to look elsewhere for support, probably reducing the party's influence. Supporters say the law would force the parties to reach out to less affluent donors and expand grass-roots activities, eventually making the parties stronger.
— Party and congressional leaders: They could lose power because they would have less ability to award or withhold soft money support to candidates.
— State and local party leaders: Their influence could increase because the legislation allows state and local party organizations to accept up to $10,000 a year in soft money donations per donor for voter registration and other party building affecting federal candidates. "It's an extremely cloudy crystal ball. This is a bill about unintended consequences," said Bill Miller of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the bill.
— Democrats and Republicans: Democrats have led the effort to pass the legislation. But figures compiled by The Center for Responsive Politics suggest at least an initial boost for the GOP. The organization says that in the 2000 election cycle the two parties raised roughly equal amounts of soft money, about $490 million in total. But Republican party organizations brought in $466 million in hard money to only $275 million for Democrats. The increase in the regulated hard money donations that individuals can make to a campaign — from $1,000 to $2,000 — should help Republicans. But Democrats, and their union backers, also have strong organizing skills that could be used in raising more hard money.
— Interest groups: Groups ranging from the National Rifle Association to the American Civil Liberties Union oppose the measure, arguing that the restrictions on "issue ads" violate their constitutional right to express their opinion on political matters. They say the news media will gain because they will keep their unfettered ability to shape public opinion. But advocacy groups could benefit if corporations and other large donors, banned from giving money to political parties, divert contributions to them.
— Incumbents: Opponents say restrictions on issue ads protect incumbents from criticism from outside groups and that challengers, without help from the parties, will have a tougher time against incumbents who can more readily raise hard money. Supporters contend that the measure is neutral to incumbents.
— President Bush: Both sides agree that the president, a master in raising money, will be a big beneficiary. In the 2000 primaries he declined public financing and raised more than $113 million in private money, and in 2004 he could become the first major party candidate to forgo voluntary spending limits, the condition for obtaining public financing, in a general election.
— The First Amendment. In 1976 the Supreme Court threw out mandatory limits on candidate spending while agreeing to limits on contributions. Opponents say the soft money ban and the restrictions on issue ads in the final days of an election violate First Amendment free speech rights. Supporters dispute this, saying that groups and individuals can still run issue ads if they use hard money and disclose the source of the ads.