What Is the McCain-Feingold Act?


Quick Answer

The McCain-Feingold Act (better known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002) was intended to limit the use of non-federal funds in federal elections. A key provision of this act, the limitations on amounts of money that private groups could donate to political action committees for the purpose of campaign advertising, was struck down by the Citizens United ruling of 2010.

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Full Answer

The major provisions of the BCRA addressed the use of soft money (money raised outside of federal campaign finance law), issue ads on radio and television, coordinated and independent expenditures, limits on contributions and rules about disclaimers and contact information in all types of campaign communications.

National parties could no longer raise or spend any non-federal funds and new limitations were placed on state and local parties. Issue ads, or those that did not endorse a specific candidate but talked about one within the context of a certain issue, could not be funded by corporations or labor organizations if they were on radio or television. A three-part test was also established to determine if a communication by an individual was coordinated by a political entity for the purpose of influencing an election. As of 2014, all of these provisions are still in effect, with the exception of the restrictions on money used by labor unions and corporations to fund radio and television ads.

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