An Inclusive Litany

2/19/03

The New York Times, February 19, 2003:
It began as a modest idea: a series of small seminars by Democratic Party lawyers for elected officials, political consultants and Congressional aides on the intricacies of the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law....

"We sometimes leave our audiences in a state of complete shock" at what they hear, said Robert F. Bauer, a lawyer for the Democrats' House and Senate campaign committees. "A sort of slack-jawed amazement at how far this thing reached" is not uncommon at the seminars, Mr. Bauer said. Nor are "a lot of very anxious questions."

Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican Party lawyer who has conducted seminars for the other side of the aisle, said lawmakers were startled to hear that once-standard practices like acting as host at a fund-raiser for a home-state governor might now be illegal. "There's an initial stage where the reaction is, 'This can't be true,' " Mr. Ginsberg said. "And then there's the actual anger stage."...

The new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Representative Robert T. Matsui of California, who voted for McCain-Feingold, says he has been surprised by its fine print.

"I didn't realize what all was in it," Mr. Matsui said....

"I think it was a total surprise to people who don't read C.Q. with a yellow pen," said Bill Knapp, a Democratic media consultant, referring to Congressional Quarterly, which keeps close tabs on legislative maneuverings here....

Finally, members of both parties have been startled to learn the law's penalties. A violation of McCain-Feingold—be it a national party official's soft-money raising, or a senator's acting as a host at a fund-raiser on behalf of a governor—is a felony carrying a prison sentence of as much as five years....

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