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Senators Debate Campaign Finance (Sept. 27)
On Fund-Raising Issue, Clinton Has It Both Ways (Sept. 27)
At DNC's Fall Gathering, Money Matters Matter Most (Sept. 27)

In GOP, Two Sides of the Debate

Federal Document Clearing House
Saturday, September 27, 1997; Page A04

Excerpts from opening remarks of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.):

The Senate now begins a debate that will determine whether or not we will take an action that most Americans are convinced we are utterly incapable of doing, reforming the way we are elected to office.

Most Americans believe that members of Congress have no greater priority than our reelection. Most Americans believe that every one of us, whether we publicly advocate or publicly oppose campaign finance reform, is working either openly or deceitfully to prevent even the slightest repair to a campaign finance system that they firmly believe is corrupt.

Most Americans believe that all of us conspire to hold on to every single political advantage we have, lest we jeopardize our incumbency by a single lost vote. Most Americans believe we will let this nation pay any price, bear any burden, to ensure the success of our personal ambitions, no matter how dear the cost might be to the national interest.

Madam President, now is the moment when we can begin to persuade the people that they are wrong. . . .

Madam President, opponents of campaign finance reform will argue that there is no public hue and cry for reform despite the fact that more and more public polls show that the people support reform by ever widening margins. A recent poll commissioned by my own party revealed that the public now considers campaign finance reform to be among the most important issues facing the country. . . .

The opponents will argue the people are content. I will argue that the people are alienated and that this explains why fewer and fewer of them bother to vote. . . .

As long as the wealthiest of Americans or the richest organized interests can make six-figure contributions to political parties and gain the special access to power such generosity confers on the donor, most Americans will dismiss even the most virtuous politician's claim of fairness and patriotism.

Excerpts from opening remarks of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.):

Madam President, today the Senate begins to formally debate what is probably the most discussed and least understood issue before the nation. . . . This is our chance to see more closely some of the ideas that have been presented and whether or not they will really work, whether they will be fair, and whether they will encourage discourse. . . .

Legislation is never considered in a vacuum. . . . The Senate will be debating campaign finance reform against a background of lurid exposes about the campaign of 1996. . . . From all that, some may conclude that we need more laws. Others may wonder why we don't enforce the laws we already have concerning campaign finance and let the personal chips fall where they may.

The fact is this country already has so many campaign laws and campaign regulations that to avoid breaking the law, most congressional campaigns have to hire a battery of legal experts. . . . No longer do you sit down like I did in 1972 and fill out my campaign finance reports, you know, in longhand, you know, and try to make sure it added up. . . .

The fact is today's political campaigns are forced to operate within a web of campaign law first devised almost a quarter century ago. And no matter how unworkable some of them are, no matter how out of date some of them are, instead of pruning back and clearing away, the temptation is always add on. . . .

Now comes the real test – of ideas – so the American people can decide for themselves whom to believe and whom to trust about this matter that goes to the heart of their personal rights and their political liberty.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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