Bradley Vows to Reject Campaign `Soft Money': He Took Contributions as Senator, Critics Say

Article excerpt

Bill Bradley took aim at Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush yesterday, vowing to spurn "soft money" contributions if he is the Democratic nominee for president.

"Nothing breaks down trust in democracy as powerfully and surely as money," Mr. Bradley said during a 30-minute speech at the National Press Club.

Soft money is a political term used to describe unlimited and largely unregulated donations.

Mr. Bradley, 55, making the first major policy address of his campaign, proposed public financing of congressional elections, a ban on unregulated contributions to national party committees and free broadcast time for federal candidates.

The proposals exceed the failed McCain-Feingold campaign finance-reform plan that President Clinton supported.

Mr. Bradley also proposed same-day voter registration, allowing voters to cast ballots by mail and a "voting leave law" that would require employers to give workers at least two hours to vote on Election Day.

"Gov. Bush and Vice President Gore have both said they support changing the soft money system," Mr. Bradley said. "However, both reportedly have directed their top fund-raisers to begin raising soft money for the general election.

"But before the money machines start humming, let's pause and think about a better way."

Mr. Gore led Mr. Bradley 64 percent to 28 percent among Democrats in a CNN-Gallup-USA Today poll conducted in late June.

But Mr. Bradley is trying to cast himself as an alternative to the vice president, who trails Mr. Bush, the GOP front-runner, by 17 points in the latest CNN-Gallup-USA Today poll, released Tuesday.

Democrats and Republicans alike quickly branded the former three-term senator from New Jersey a hypocrite.

"Bill Bradley can try to present himself as a reformer today, but as a senator he never set a reformist example," responded Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee. "He always milked the system for all he could get. …