Gephardt Says Many in Congress Favor Finance Reforms

By Jo Mannies Post-Dispatch Political Correspondent | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 25, 1997 | Go to article overview

Gephardt Says Many in Congress Favor Finance Reforms


Jo Mannies Post-Dispatch Political Correspondent, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt says congressional disgust and concern over campaign fund raising and rising campaign costs is so great that nearly half of Congress now favors public financing.

"I never thought I'd say that," said Gephardt, D-St. Louis County, in a meeting Monday with Post-Dispatch editorial writers.

Gephardt, one of Congress' leading fund-raisers, said he and many of his colleagues are in the same boat: "Calling for unilateral disarmament while building more nuclear arms." By that, he meant advocating public financing or stricter campaign-donation limits while joining in the fund-raising frenzy. Gephardt criticized some of President Bill Clinton's fund-raising practices, particularly those conducted in the White House. "We should not use public facilities for fund-raisers. . . . You rent a hotel, and you ask people to come to dinner." However, Gephardt added that he understood the president's mind-set. After the huge Republican gains in the 1994 elections, "the president was left for dead." With his 1996 re-election looming and consultant Dick Morris advocating a heavy barrage of pro-Clinton TV ads, "clearly he felt he had to go to extraordinary lengths to get the money and campaign." "I would be for public financing, no solicitation of money and free TV" for candidates to air their views, Gephardt said. Over Democratic objections, the House has approved spending $11 million on an investigation of fund raising by Clinton and the Democratic National Party. Much of that will examine donations from Asian-Americans accused of funneling illegal foreign contributions to the Democrats, perhaps as part of an effort by the Chinese government. Gephardt has returned $21,000 in donations from Asian-Americans linked to the investigation, saying he has advised his campaign fund-raising staff to return any donations "from anyone called or likely to be called in a congressional investigation. …

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