'Soft money' reform should be a priority

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2000

The following editorial appeared in today's Los Angeles Times:

President-elect Bush has his own ideas about the legislative priorities he should pursue, but he also has some unsolicited and certainly unwanted advice from John McCain, his erstwhile rival for the Republican nomination. The Arizona senator suggests there is no better way to manifest the spirit of bipartisanship that Bush has embraced than by putting campaign finance reform legislation before the new Congress. Democratic candidate Al Gore had promised that would be his top priority, and now McCain proposes that Bush make it his as well.

The final cost of the 2000 election has yet to be tallied, but it's already clear that it was the most expensive ever, with "soft money" contributions accounting for much of what was spent. By law, these are intended for party-building activities, though in practice a lot of soft money goes for so-called issue advocacy ads that are often indistinguishable from ads promoting a candidate. There's no ceiling on how much soft money corporations or individuals can give.

McCain, with his co-sponsor, Sen. Russell D. Feingold, D-Wis., has tried for the last three congressional sessions to impose some controls on these donations, against the bitter opposition of most Republicans and some Democrats.

Americans understand that in politics big money is almost always special-interest money, and the more that is given the more access and influence it buys. McCain and a lot of others remain determined to curb that corruption, and in a few weeks they will have another chance to press their commendable case.



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