RNC chair Mike Duncan held a conference call today to discuss the lawsuits it has filed to challenge the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), better known as McCain-Feingold.  The irony of filing suit against one of the banner achievements of its presidential nominee did not go unnoticed.  Duncan, currently embroiled in a battle to keep his position as chair after two successive national-election defeats, wants an end to the BCRA so that political parties can return to traditional building roles in the states:

Mr. Duncan said one suit will be filed in the District of Columbia to strike down the soft-money ban that is the central tenet of the McCain-Feingold Act — formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. “Soft money” is largely unrestricted contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions.

The second suit will be in a Louisiana federal court to strike down the limits under the law Mr. McCain co-sponsored with Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, that control coordination between parties and their candidates.

“It prohibits us from spending over $84,000 in coordination with a candidate in a congressional race,” Mr. Duncan said. “That means we have to find some group to raise and spend money but without any coordination” with the candidate, his campaign or the RNC.

Duncan called from the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami.  The governors were apprised of the lawsuit last night.

They want the soft-money ban lifted immediately, especially for Virginia and New Jersey.  They want to raise money for the state parties in order to compete for statehouse races.  This impacts redistricting, and Duncan wants to ensure that Republicans have a voice in that in 2010.  It also impacts standing in lawsuits; the RNC has to be able to spend money on lawyers in redistricting challenges.  In California, the RNC cannot raise money for initiatives.

Duncan wants to get rid of the coordination rules, and are targeting William Jefferson’s district in order to overturn them.  In order to get around them now, they have to donate to independent-expenditure units, which removes all controls on messaging.  It encourages corruption to third parties and eliminates the accountability which prevents it within the political parties.

Questions:

  • Erick Erickson: Why wait until after the election, and doesn’t it slap John McCain in the face? — They had to wait for an election to show the damage done by the application of the law.  They’ve also been encouraged by the direction of the court in the last couple of decisions on the BCRA.
  • Me: Is this part of an effort to recapture the conservative message after two successive national-election failures? — This is a center right nation and the GOP is a conservative party. This is about protecting freedom of speech.
  • Reed Wilson, RCP: Do you think this will go all the way to the Supreme Court, and is the redistricting focus a catch-up plan regarding the Democrats?  Duncan feels very good about this; the earlier case involving McConnell went almost directly to SCOTUS, and the Louisiana case needs to be resolved by December.  They’ve been working hard on redistricting for a while.
  • Ross Kaminski, Human Events: McConnell lacked standing for some of his claims; will that be a problem for the RNC?  Duncan says they have “a compelling fact circumstance” that shows they’ve been impacted negatively by this.

It’s too bad that the RNC didn’t try this after 2006.  Most of the “compelling fact circumstance[s]” could have been established in that cycle as well.  It may have been a little embarrassing to have lawsuits attempting to overturn the nominee’s agenda during the presidential campaign, but (a) we lost anyway, and (b) it may have kept McCain from winning the nomination in the end.

Nevertheless, this is a good move by the Republican Party to end government control of legitimate political activity and political speech.  Hopefully, the Supreme Court will finally dismantle the BCRA and force Congress to adopt the more open-source approach of requiring 100% transparency on all donations instead.