Thursday, March 15, 2001

'Blue Dogs' push for reform

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Conservative Blue Dog Democrats on Wednesday urged others in their party not to backtrack on campaign finance reform now that there is a chance for passage.

        Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky., the chairman of a Blue Dog task force on the issue, said Congress has an opportunity to limit the amount of money corporations, labor unions and interest groups spend to influence political campaigns.

        “Let's give the electoral process back to the people we represent,” Mr. Lucas said.

        The Blue Dogs endorsed campaign finance reform legislation sponsored by Reps. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., and Christopher Shays, R-Conn., in the House, and by John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., in the Senate.

        The bills would ban so-called “soft money,” the unlimited donations from individuals and interest groups to political parties for party-building activities. Similar versions of the bills have passed the House but have not made it through the Senate.

        Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been the most visible critic of the campaign finance bills, but other influential lawmakers are also opposed. Mr. McConnell argues that campaign contributions are a form of political speech that should be fully disclosed but protected under the Constitution.

        The Senate is expected to debate the issue next week. One Democrat, Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, has dropped his support for McCain-Feingold. Many lawmakers predict Congress will approve some type of campaign finance legislation this year.


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