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Publication Date


Publication Title

William and Mary Law Review


The recently-enacted McCain-Feingold campaign finance law pushes to the fore the questions of whether and to what extent the First Amendment allows government to regulate the electoral activities of political parties. One of the new law's primary components is its attempt to eliminate so-called "soft money"- unlimited donations to national political parties that the Democrats and Republicans have used to circumvent legal limits on campaign contributions? One congressional opponent of the new law called it "the death knell" for political parties' role in elections." Not surprisingly, both major parties have attacked McCain-Feingold. Most Republicans in Congress opposed the legislation, and some of them are leading a constitutional challenge to the law. Democrats, while largely supportive in Congress, encouraged the Federal Election Commission to weaken the law's effects through rule-making. While opinions differ about whether McCain-Feingold will prevent circumvention of contribution limits, the two major parties strongly assert that the law will impede their functioning and thereby disable democracy.


Political Parties, First Amendment, Free Speech, Public Rights

Publication Citation

Gregory P. Magarian, Regulating Political Parties under a Public Rights First Amendment, 44 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1939 (2002)