Bush fakes effort at campaign reform

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2000

The following editorial appeared in today's Washington Post:

Texas Gov. George W. Bush has been warning the voters that his rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain, says one thing but does another. That was before Mr. Bush decided, four days in advance of the South Carolina primary, to dress up like a campaign finance reformer. The elaborate proposals he put forward this week were meant to suggest that the governor is even more of a reformer than Mr. McCain, who has made reform of the malodorous system of finance the centerpiece of his campaign.

Never mind that in the meantime the governor has been doing his level best to trash the present rules with regard to campaign finance, having chosen insofar as possible to operate outside their confines; that this has freed him to raise far more money than he would otherwise have been able to do, and more than Sen. McCain could ever dream of raising; that he is now trying to use precisely that advantage to blow Mr. McCain away in South Carolina; and finally, that the proposals he so piously announced Tuesday would accomplish almost none of the reform that he claimed for them.

His proposal to ban so-called soft money would allow it to continue to be given; it would just have to be given by individuals rather than unions and corporations. ``These are reforms that respect individuals,'' he explained. He panders in the proposals to some of the groups that support him in South Carolina precisely because, unlike Sen. McCain, he opposes true campaign reform; invoking the First Amendment, he says again that he would not seek to restrain these groups' expenditures. He makes a show of saying he would prohibit lobbyists from contributing to members of Congress while Congress is in session - but not otherwise, of course.

Since New Hampshire, Mr. Bush has taken to calling himself the reformer with results. He now offers a reform that even the Senate Republican leadership would be pleased to embrace, precisely because it is calculated to achieve no results except more of the purchase of office that it purports to curb.

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