Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congress Takes Stab Again at Campaign Financing Reform

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Congress Takes Stab Again at Campaign Financing Reform

Article excerpt

CONGRESS is once again wrangling over campaign finance reform, and the outcome, as usual, is very much in question. At odds are Democrats, who want a cap on campaign spending, which now is unlimited, and Republicans, who don't. The proposed spending cap would vary from $950,000 to $5.5 million based on the voting-age population in each state.

Last year the Democratic-dominated Senate and House failed to reach a compromise on their separate proposals, in part because the House would not accept Senate insistence on ending contributions by political-action committees, the so-called PACs.

Even if Congress should agree on one bill, no guarantee exists that President Bush would approve it.

As members of Congress from both parties are uncomfortably aware, the current discussion is being played out against a background of growing public concern about the relationship between political contributions and Congressional action.

The most visible example in Washington is the so-called Keating Five case, which revolves around sizable political contributions by savings-and-loan owner Charles Keating to five senators or their causes, and the question of whether a relationship existed between the contributions and the senators' actions.

Polls indicate Americans feel members of Congress pay more attention to the desires of campaign contributors than to those of voters.

At present, congressional action is in the Senate, which is debating a Democratic proposal to reform the way presidential and congressional campaigns are financed. Democrats who favor this measure especially want to cap spending in each congressional contest and decrease or ban funds from political-action committees.

"All of us realize something is badly wrong," says a prime sponsor of the Democratic proposal, Sen. David Boren (D) of Oklahoma, when it now costs an average of $4 million to win a Senate campaign - about $1. …

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