December 21, 2002


FRIST AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Below, I noted that in the 2000 campaign, Bill Frist supported certain campaign finance laws. He was in favor of a ban on "soft money" and prohibiting PAC contributions to candidates, among other things. But as Dave notes below, he voted against the McCain-Feingold act, which banned soft money (among other things). What's going on?

As this play-by-play of the McCain-Feingold debate shows, Frist introduced a "non-severability" amendment. This means that certain parts of the bill would be connected, so that if one of these parts was found unconstitutional, the others would have to be thrown out as well. The bill's supporters saw this as an underhanded effort to weaken the bill, but Frist said that he was concerned that the bill could become unfairly tilted toward one interest or another if the courts dismembered it. Since Frist himself actually favored some of the bill's "reforms," this was probably an honest concern. If a free-political-speech stalwart like Mitch McConnell had introduced it, it could only be seen as a nakedly strategic move to kill the bill in the courts if it became law.

Frist's amendment was killed by a 57-43 vote, and Frist voted against the final bill. He's no McConnell, but at least he wouldn't vote for any old "reform" just so he could wear the "reformer" label. That's more than we can say about a lot of Senators.

Posted by John Tabin at December 21, 2002 01:24 AM