Softer Campaign-Finance Bill Offered by McCain, Feingold: McConnell Promises to Defeat Measure Again

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Two senators yesterday introduced a weakened version of a House-passed bill to regulate campaign spending, and their main Republican nemesis in last year's fight pledged to defeat it again.

Unlike its companion measure in the House, the new bill proposed yesterday by Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, does not address explicitly the use of so-called "sham" issue advertising. But it would eliminate "soft money" - donations given to political parties to promote candidates indirectly.

"The bill . . . will serve as the foundation for a campaign-finance reform bill that can pass the Senate," Mr. Feingold said in a statement. "A ban on soft money is the bare minimum of reform that we can accept this year."

Mr. McCain said, "While I support a more comprehensive bill . . . I am also a realist and know that we must not let the perfect bill be the enemy of reform."

Last year, advocates of a McCainFeingold bill banning soft money were unable to obtain the 60 votes required to break a filibuster by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Mr. McConnell said yesterday that he is no more enthusiastic about the latest version of the bill.

"This is a dagger pointed at the heart of the Republican Party," Mr. McConnell said in a brief interview. "Whatever veneer of bipartisanship that was available on previous bills is not there on this one."

Mr. McConnell, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he particularly objects to a provision to curb unions' ability to take compulsory dues from nonunion members and funnel them into political campaigns. …