Campaign Reform Still Needed

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 19, 1993 | Go to article overview

Campaign Reform Still Needed


One of the major, though presently apparently almost forgotten, issues on the congressional agenda this fall is campaign finance reform. All the elements of a successful bill presently exist. The Senate has passed a significant reform measure. The House has before it a sensible bill endorsed by both the administration and the Democratic leadership. All that is missing is the political will.

Instilling it may be a real problem. President Bill Clinton has his hands full on several other fronts - health insurance and NAFTA, for starters. Moreover, many House Democrats, despite their support for campaign finance reform in principle - and their votes last year for a bill similar to the proposal now pending - are having second thoughts.

Still, it is essential the political will be found. Nothing else Congress does this year can do so much to rebuild public trust in government as restoring fairness to campaigns - as well as restricting the corrupting influence of money.

The Senate bill, S 3, passed in June, sets spending limits for Senate candidates based on the size of the state's voting-age population. Had these limits been in effect in 1992, incumbents would have had almost one-third less money to spend, while challengers would have been only marginally affected - nearly leveling the playing field.

S 3 also bans political action committee contributions outright, a vital step to limit the influence of corporate money in campaigns. If the ban is found to be an unconstitutional limit on political activity, the bill would instead restrict PAC money to only 20 percent of the bill's overall spending limits. In this case, the bill would cut the maximum individual PAC gift to $1,000 from $5,000. If this provision had been in effect in 1992, incumbents would have had - their war chests cut by $24 million. …

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