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Bill would have required broadcasters to provide free time

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Bill would have required broadcasters to provide free time07/15/96 WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. Senate voted in late June to kill a…

Bill would have required broadcasters to provide free time

07/15/96

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The U.S. Senate voted in late June to kill a campaign finance reform bill that would have mandated free air time for political candidates and reduced unit rates that broadcasters would charge for political ads.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), failed to reach the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster and force a vote on the substance of the bill. Eight Republicans joined 46 Democrats in supporting the bill, while 45 Republicans and a single Democrat opposed it.

The bill would have provided one half hour of free prime time for political advertising to candidates who agree to abide by voluntary spending limits. The spending limits would be based on the populations of each state, ranging from a high of $8.1 million in a large state such as California to a low of $1.5 million in a smaller state such as Wyoming.

In addition to free television time, candidates abiding by the spending limits would qualify for broadcast discounts and reduced postage rates. Broadcasters would be required to sell advertising to all eligible candidates at 50 percent of the lowest rate they charge other advertisers.

During debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) expressed concern that the new spending restrictions, and thus less direct media contact between candidates and voters, would increase the influence of newspapers and their editorial pages in the electoral process. Gorton called the bill “a bonanza for the editors of the Los Angeles Times or The New York Times or The Milwaukee Journal or The Portland Oregonian.” (S. 1219)