July 18, 1997 in Nation/World

Freshmen Introduce Their Vision For Reform

Los Angeles Times
 

Despite discouragement from Republican and Democratic leaders, a bipartisan coalition of House freshmen introduced their own campaign reform legislation Thursday, expressing disgust at a system they said is awash in money.

The proposal, more than six months in the making, becomes one of nearly 70 pending bills that would change the nation’s election financing laws. As of now, none seem headed for passage. But reform supporters - such as the freshmen coalition - remain hopeful a critical mass can be reached that will force congressional action.

The new measure, offered as the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee continues its hearings about assorted abuses and manipulations of campaign money, would ban so-called “soft money” - unregulated contributions used by political parties for partisan purposes.

“When it passes, $100,000, $500,000 and $1 million contributions to the national parties will be history,” said Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, co-chair of the freshmen campaign reform task force.

“We believe in legislating, not just investigating,” he added, referring to the Senate hearings, as well as a probe scheduled for later in the year by a House committee.

But Allen and Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., the task force’s other co-chair, conceded the lack of momentum in Congress for enacting any kind of campaign finance reform.

“All we ask,” Allen said, “is a vote on the House floor.” Hutchinson said the group is committed to reach that end “even if that means ruffling a few feathers.”

In fact, the leadership of both parties in the House, joined occasionally by interest groups that also oppose reform, leaned hard on the freshmen not to put forward a reform proposal.

Faced with that pressure, some freshmen backed away from the effort, according to members of the bipartisan task force.

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