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Campaign Finance Reform Blasted Senator Accuses White House Of Of Using It To Divert Attention From Its Own Scandal

Sun., Oct. 5, 1997, midnight

A leading Republican opponent of campaign finance legislation backed by President Clinton accused the White House of trying to divert attention from its own fund-raising scandals.

“Bill Clinton and Al Gore advocating campaign finance reform is like Bonnie and Clyde endorsing banking reform,” Sen. Mitch McConnell said Saturday in the weekly Republican radio address.

In an unusual move, the White House made available to radio stations a response to McConnell’s address that Clinton taped after delivering his own weekly radio address.

“For five years now, we have watched the bipartisan effort to reform our campaign finance laws die at the hands of a filibuster in the United States Senate,” Clinton said. “I hope this year will be different.”

Clinton urged the Senate to pass legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., calling it “a strong bill that would curb the power of special interests and increase the confidence of the American people in our campaign finance system.” The bill is supported by all 45 Democrats but only four Republicans in the 100-member Senate.

McConnell reiterated the GOP position that McCain-Feingold, which would ban unlimited contributions to national parties and regulate campaign activities by utside groups, is “blatantly unconstitutional.”

“The McCain-Feingold bill is the most dangerous assault on core constitutional freedom in American history,” the Kentucky Republican said.

“Beset by a fund-raising scandal of its own making, the White House has busied itself in trying to change the subject, away from its own malfeasance, and that of the Democratic Party, to systemic reform which has nothing to do with the real problems,” McConnell said.

Senate Republicans are offering an amendment to the bill Tuesday that would prevent unions from using members’ dues for political purposes without members’ approval.

Calling the union measure “real reform,” McConnell said it “would ensure that all employees - union and nonunion - were safeguarded from the tyranny of having their hard-earned money extracted for political purposes.”

Democrats describe the GOP amendment as a “poison pill” that would kill the McCain-Feingold measure, and with it campaign finance reform.

“Make no mistake,” Clinton said Saturday: “A vote for this killer amendment is a vote to block meaningful reform.”


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