McCain-Feingold and the Fieger acquittal

by Walter Olson on June 3, 2008

Terry Carter in the ABA Journal has more on the legal background:

The straw-donor law invoked against Fieger has been around since 1972, though Congress upped the ante and made it a felony as part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as the McCain-Feingold Act. In all these years there has been but one jury verdict concerning the law, before it was a felony, and it was for acquittal. (There have been several plea agreements in recent years.)

Thus no court has crafted an opinion concerning the law itself, according to some of the few experts in this narrow slice of election law.

Spence told the jury that the government tried to use snippets of law to go after Fieger, a prominent plaintiffs lawyer and former Democratic candidate for governor in Michigan, for political purposes. The campaign finance law (2 U.S.C. § 441f) says:

“No person shall make a contribution in the name of another person or knowingly permit his name to be used to effect such a contribution, and no person shall knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.”

The defense argued that the law, as worded, does not prohibit reimbursing people who make contributions.

If in fact Fieger’s acquittal will be cited in favor of the notion that the use of straw donors reimbursed after the fact is lawful after all, that might seem to blow a rather large hole in the side of the McCain-Feingold law — which makes it all the odder that the Fieger trial drew so little attention from either backers or critics of that law on the national level.

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Detroit Free Press on Fieger acquittal
06.08.08 at 10:38 pm

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