Look forward to an even uglier election this year than in '96.
Even some Republicans are as fed up with the system. Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine: "Unfortunately, the Senate has once again proven that the American people's cynicism about Congress' ability to pass meaningful reform is well-founded. If not for the unwillingness of the leadership to recognize the majority support in the Senate and the nation, we might have prevailed."
Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat from Wisconsin and a sponsor of the bill: "There will be a display of this awful system in the elections this year."
McCain-Feingold would outlaw "soft money" -- contributions that influence elections but are channeled to avoid disclosure requirements and actually remain tax-deductible to boot. Some well-known opponents of "soft money":
Brownback and others claim that restricting "issue ads" within 60 days of an election would violate 1st amendment rights. This is smoke. The authors of the bill very deliberately, carefully, and according to experts successfully avoided violating the Constitution.
Political columnist Robert P. Sigman:
"Many opponents hide behind the allegation that contributions cannot be regulated because of free speech rights. Yet reputable scholars in the law have studied the legislation that was rejected on Thursday. They find it meets constitutional muster...
"Many Americans do not seem to realize the connection between the large sums of money given to political candidates and the impact it has on the way laws are written and policy established in Congress. It sometimes is difficult to pinpoint the precise tax breaks and other huge savings that contributors get in legislation passed by recipients of their money, but there is no doubt that this kind of quid pro quo occurs regularly."