07/04/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Core of McCain-Feingold Untouched

Today's Supreme Court decision on the millionaire's amendment left the core of the McCain-Feingold law intact, and that's good news for everyone who cares about stamping out corruption in government. The most important part of McCain-Feingold has always been the ban on soft money, a ban the Supreme Court upheld in 2003. That ban did one very simple, very important thing: It ended unlimited contributions to the national parties and prohibited federal officials and candidates from raising those contributions for federal or state parties. Before McCain-Feingold, both parties raked in million dollar contributions from tobacco companies, oil companies, labor unions, and all kinds of wealthy donors. What's worse, those donations were often raised by members of Congress themselves, the men and women who voted on interests important to those wealthy donors every day. It was a system of legalized bribery that had no place in our democracy, and thanks to McCain-Feingold, these soft money contributions to the parties are over.

Today's decision was about a different, much smaller provision of the bill, known as the millionaire's amendment. This amendment, which was added to the bill on the Senate floor, allowed candidates facing rich, self-funded opponents to increase the amount of money they could raise from their wealthy donors by up to six times. Senator McCain and I actually opposed this amendment when it first came to a vote during the Senate's big debate over McCain-Feingold in 2001. Changes were later made to fix some of the problems with the amendment. As I said at the time, while I ultimately voted for it in the spirit of compromise, I didn't believe it was essential to reform.

The ruling on this minor provision aside, I'm very pleased that the essential reform of McCain-Feingold remains the law of the land. We should never go back to the days when members of Congress -- whom the American people elect to represent their interests -- were asking for huge, unlimited contributions from wealthy interests to fuel the political parties. McCain-Feingold has ushered in a new era in fundraising, with a huge increase in the participation of small donors. And the parties, which many argued had to have soft money to survive, have actually thrived since McCain-Feingold became law. I'm proud of what McCain-Feingold has achieved, and I'm very pleased that today's ruling does nothing to impact the soft money ban that is at the core of this landmark law.