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Pence, Wynn Offer Bill to Strip BCRA Limits

Leading what is likely to be one of many efforts to unravel part or all of campaign finance legislation enacted in 2002, Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Albert Wynn (D-Md.) plan to introduce legislation today that would once again allow the national party committees to raise and spend soft money.

The two lawmakers’ proposal, which they plan to announce at a press conference this morning, comes on the heels of efforts by the sponsors of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act to restrict the ability of 527 organizations to raise soft money.

Instead of reigning in 527s, Pence and Wynn are seeking to give the parties parity in the soft- money chase. They believe BCRA went too far in “imposing severe constraints” on the parties, unjustly weakening them vis-à-vis 527 groups. Such groups raised more than $400 million in the 2004 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) — who co-sponsored BCRA and testified at a Senate hearing Tuesday on their legislation to restrict the ability of the independent political organizations to influence federal elections — have repeatedly said they will strongly oppose efforts to turn 527 legislation into a “Christmas tree” for those who wish to change BCRA.

Nonetheless, the broad consensus developing to limit soft-money donations to 527 groups has provided BCRA opponents with a perceived opening to address campaign finance laws more broadly.

Among other things, Pence and Wynn’s proposal would: remove the aggregate contribution limits that BCRA imposed on individuals giving to influence federal elections, thus allowing them to avoid choosing between donations to parties, candidates and federally regulated independent groups; remove limits on how much the parties can spend in coordination with candidates; allow state and local parties to spend soft money on voter registration drives for elections, including those involving federal candidates; and eliminate the taxes nonprofit 501(c) organizations pay on communications that do not include “express advocacy” for the election or defeat of federal candidates.

Organizations that operate under Section 527 of the tax code do not pay taxes on expenditures for political activities and communications.

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