As promised, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has renewed his campaign-reform effort,
unveiling legislation that would require broadcasters to fund federal
candidates' TV ad buys with spectrum-use fees.
His bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), would also require stations to air two hours weekly of candidate- or
issue-centered programming before elections and would reduce the cost of
campaign ads by giving candidates the right to buy time at the lowest rates charged
to stations' high-volume customers during the previous 12 months. Currently,
stations may charge candidates the lowest rate charged to any other customers
during the comparable time slot and season.
"Free airtime can better inform the public about candidates and invite
viewers to become more engaged in their government," McCain said. He acknowledged
that no action will be taken this session, but he said he would reintroduce the
plan next session.
Broadcasters despise the notions of free airtime for candidates and spectrum
fees, and they have successfully lobbied against previous attempts.
McCain and Feingold pushed campaign-reform law to the president's desk in
February preventing soft money -- undisclosed corporate or union monies -- from
funding so-called attack ads in the 60 days before an election or 30 days before