Abortion Groups Look for Loopholes to Get Around Campaign Finance Law
by Steven Ertelt
December 22, 2003
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Groups on both sides of the abortion debate are looking for ways to continue the kind of political activity they did before the Supreme Court validated a restrictive campaign finance law passed by Congress.
Pro-life groups such as National Right to Life and the Christian Coalition joined with other political organizations in strongly opposing the campaign finance reform bills in part because the legislation would prohibit political groups from running advertisements that name a federal candidate 30 days prior to a primary election and 60 days before a general election.
For example, if the National Right to Life Committee (not it’s PAC) ran ads urging pro-life advocates to call Congressman Smith and encourage him to vote for a pro-life bill or thanking Congressman Smith for voting pro-life, and those ads were run during the specific time periods before an election, such ads would be a violation of the law.
Political groups of all stripes are looking to get around the law, though doing so would require them to meet other limitations.
In 1986, the Supreme Court decided a case involving Massachusetts Citizens for Life, a state pro-life group. The MCFL decision allows political groups to accept unlimited contributions from individuals without disclosing their donors. It also allows such groups to engage in independent expenditures and run uncoordinated "electioneering communications."
The campaign finance reform law sought to prevent the use of "soft money" by political groups that are not political action committees seeking to elect candidates. Groups like NARAL and National Right to Life are political groups that lobby on issues, but they also have separate PAC organizations involved in elections.
The MCFL decision allows the non-PAC organizations to run issue advertising as long as the organizations fund the ads with donations from individuals.
According to Jim Bopp, legal counsel for National Right to Life, a political group has to go to court to qualify for the MCFL status. To qualify, political organizations must have no corporate contributions or obtain an exemption. Meanwhile, groups that run more than $10,000 in "electioneering communications" must file a report identifying any donor who gave money for the electioneering communication.
Bopp says National Right to Life will seek MCFL status and will qualify.
Meanwhile, NARAL and Planned Parenthood will also seek the exemption, according to representatives of both gorups.
Both groups are planning to run a multimillion dollar ad campaign to defeat President Bush and elect pro-abortion candidates to the House and Senate. "We know we can use (the exemption)," a NARAL spokesperson said, adding, "we’re excited to have the advantage."
"We are looking at a very aggressive, significant advertising commitment in the last two months of the campaign, when almost every other advocacy group will be off the air," a spokesman, David Seldin, told the New York Times.