Sunday, May 21, 2000

Campaign reform: In their own words

        WASHINGTON — What Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush have said about campaign finance reform:

        Mr. Gore, on what he would do if elected president:

        “The McCain-Feingold bill (that would ban so-called unlimited “soft money” donations to political parties) will be the first domestic legislation I send to the Congress — on my first day in office. I will fight as long as I have to, and as hard as I have to, to pass the bill.”

        Mr. Bush, on why he differs with fellow Republican John McCain, and wants to ban soft-money donations from corporations and unions, but not from individuals:

        “The difference between John and me is the difference between individuals being able to contribute. Where I come down on the soft-money issue is that these people who are spending soft money in corporate America don't have shareholder approval, just like the labor unions don't have shareholder approval, so to speak. I think if a man controls or a woman controls their own money, then I believe in America you ought to be able to use it” to make large donations to political parties.

        Mr. Gore, suggesting he was pushed into campaign finance abuses in 1996 because the stakes of the election were so high:

        “We all know that the entire system needs reform. But we also know that there are millions of people who depend upon those who care about the public interest to fight for them, and who would be the ones hurt most if advocates for the public interest unilaterally disarmed, and left the field of battle to those who oppose both the public interest and campaign finance laws. That was the choice I felt I faced in 1996. ... But that year, in fighting for what we believed in, Democrats, along with Republicans, engaged in fund raising that pushed the system to the breaking point and fueled further cynicism, which over time undermines the very things we're fighting for.”

        Mr. Bush, arguing he was just as badly hurt as Mr. McCain by independent ads run on his behalf in New York. The ads were bankrolled by Bush friend and donor Sam Wyly:

        “All it did was give McCain an issue coming down the pike, so I wasn't real thrilled about it.”


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