The Senate on Thursday defeated 57-43 an amendment to campaign finance reform that would have required the courts to strike down the entire bill if any part was found unconstitutional.
That move clears the last big hurdle to Senate passage of the package, which at press time was expected to happen on Friday or Saturday. The Senate also defeated an amendment 72-28 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that would require TV stations to give free advertising time to candidates to respond to attack ads run by independent issue groups.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fiercely opposed the amendment, saying he supported requiring broadcasters to give free TV time to politicians but the Bingaman amendment would not pass legal muster and would hurt the overall bill.
Meanwhile, the NAB on Thursday sent a letter to all Senators opposing the overall campaign finance reform package, specifically because of two of its amendments. Broadcasters' major opposition to campaign finance reform is an amendment sponsored by Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) that would require broadcasters to always give politicians the lowest ad rate they offer.
"Government regulation of speech, including speech on broadcast stations, must be both the least restrictive means available and must directly advance a governmental interest," wrote NAB President Eddie Fritts. "This amendment does not stand up to that test." NAB also opposes an amendment sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and John Breaux (D-La.) that would require broadcasters to disclose publicly all issue advertisers and the ad rates they paid. - Paige Albiniak