I was surprised to read that Sen. John McCain and I are trying to "stymie needed changes in the [campaign finance] law," according to David Broder [op-ed, Oct. 24]. Having just secured 55 pro-reform votes in the Senate, including those of three senators who in the past had opposed the McCain-Feingold bill, I also was surprised to see our bill labeled a "proven loser."
Each year, the McCain-Feingold bill has gained Republican support and come closer to defeating procedural roadblocks put up by opponents. The House passed a soft-money ban for the second consecutive year by a wide bipartisan margin. We are within striking distance of success on this issue.
When a wealthy interest gives $200,000 to a political party just days after a bill crucial to its financial interests is voted out of a conference committee, the appearance of corruption is devastating to the public's faith in government. That must be addressed before we undertake any other reform, including free television time and subsidized mailings, which Mr. Broder suggests and which I have long supported.
We must ban party soft money. While we remain open to any good faith proposal, anything less would be an abdication of our responsibility to preserve and protect our democracy.
U.S. Senator (D-Wis.)
I'm pleased that George Will quoted my speech on campaign finance reform [op-ed, Oct. 10], but he misinterpreted my motives for changing the laws affecting issue advertising.
I'm not out to decrease the amount of money interest groups spend on political advertising. The bipartisan Shays-Meehan bill, which I support, is intended to make groups that seek to influence federal elections play by the same rules as everyone else.
For example, a few days before my special election last year, a typical TV viewer in my district saw one of my ads urging my election. Then she saw my opponent's ad urging my defeat. She also might have seen an "issue ad" that showed my picture and included an unflattering discussion of my record. The ad asked viewers to "call" Lois Capps and listed my phone number, but the intent was to affect the election.
Under our laws, groups or candidates that broadcast ads using the magic words "elect," "vote for," "defeat," etc., must raise funding in limited amounts and disclose their contributors and spending. But the laws don't apply to "issue ads" that don't use those words, even though the ads clearly are designed to sway voters.
Fixing this loophole won't take away anyone's free speech. It probably won't decrease election spending. But it would be an important step toward restoring the faith of the American people in our political process.
U.S. Representative (D-Calif.)
Elizabeth Dole's withdrawal from the Republican presidential race [front page, Oct. 21] has me rethinking my opposition to campaign finance reform. Although I was not a supporter of Mrs. Dole, I am concerned that the Republican nomination is being decided without the voice of anyone with less than $1,000 to spare on a campaign contribution. Five people have dropped out of the race before a vote has been cast.
The Democratic process is little better. Aside from Bill Bradley, its potential candidates decided not even to enter the race because of the fund-raising advantages of one person.
The drafters of the Constitution were familiar with the role of money in politics, yet there is no evidence that they anticipated that the First Amendment would be applied to campaign donations. The people who are elected under the politics of big money will be beholden to the fat cats who supported them, while remaining out of touch with most Americans. Worse, Americans' frustrations with their lack of influence in the nominating process will lead to further alienation from the political process.