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Defensive Democrats Seek Urgent Campaign Reforms

Congressional Democrats, on the defensive over accusations of party fund-raising misdeeds, recommended Wednesday an urgent move to reform the campaign money system early next year.

Ninety House Democrats and two Republicans signed a letter to Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., requesting passage of “comprehensive and meaningful campaign finance reform” within the first 100 days of the congressional session that begins Jan. 7.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he hopes the chamber will take up the matter within its first 60 days and urged Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., to make it a priority.

“Nothing would send a stronger message to the American people that on a bipartisan basis, we’re going to clean up the system,” Daschle told reporters.

Gingrich did not mention the issue Wednesday in a speech to House Republicans. The House schedule for early next year allows little time for floor consideration of legislation.

Democrats are on the defensive because of questionable money-raising activities by the Democratic National Committee in the just-ended campaign season, including apparent solicitation from prohibited foreign sources.

Daschle said he believes the issue, which has resisted solution for more than a decade, may be more approachable now because of the perception that rules regulating campaign fund-raising have collapsed.

“I think this experience and all of the tremendous influx of … money in federal campaigns has changed the dynamics greater than at any time …”

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