With Senate GOP leaders moving tentatively toward a vote on campaign finance reform, President Clinton called this fall “a time of testing” and tried Saturday to prime the nation for backlash should reforms die again.
“The special interests and their allies in Congress are poised to strike again, waiting to quietly smother reform,” the president said in his weekly radio broadcast.
“But this year they won’t get away with it - at least quietly.”
Clinton’s stern admonition, echoing his comments at two big-money Democratic party fund-raisers last week, came on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s suggestion Friday that campaign finance reform could get a vote this year, even before completion of hearings on potential 1996 fund-raising abuses.
Lott, R-Miss., had earlier indicated the Senate would wait until after the hearings so lawmakers would know if existing laws were broken.
“This is a time of testing for members of the United States Senate,” Clinton said. Legislation overhauling campaign finance has been annually blocked by a Senate filibuster, the threat of endless debate.
“Let’s be clear: A vote to filibuster … is a vote to keep special-interest money and kill reform,” Clinton said. “That vote will be hard to explain to the American people.”
Public opinion polls regularly find that Americans rank campaign finance reform as a low priority when compared with issues such as education and health care.
The bipartisan legislation at issue would ban so-called soft money - unlimited funds raised for partywide activities like voter turnout efforts. It also would restrict donations by political action committees and offer free or reduced-cost television advertising time to candidates who voluntarily limit spending.