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Gop Sees Threat To Rights In Campaign Spending Bill

While President Clinton called for campaign finance reform as a way to strengthen democracy by cleansing the political system, a Republican senator said Saturday the measures are really an assault on the Constitution.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, delivering the GOP’s weekly radio address, said the assault is being “cloaked in the guise of reform” through the measure sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis.

“Be it bumper stickers on your car, yard signs on your lawn, a letter to your local newspaper or member of Congress, the Internet or a voluntary contribution of your own hard-earned money to the candidates or party of your choosing - these are all constitutionally protected means of participation in our democracy,” McConnell said.

“These core constitutional freedoms are imperiled by the McCain-Feingold bill which the Senate will vote on in the coming days.”

Also Saturday, Clinton sent a letter to all senators asking for a “yes” vote on the legislation “that will make our democracy work better for all Americans” by curtailing large, unlimited and sometimes unseemly donations. “Make no mistake,” Clinton wrote, “a vote against McCain-Feingold is a vote for soft money, unlimited backdoor campaign expenditures, for the status quo.”

The president also warned against any amendments that either Democrats or Republicans have already said would be deal-breakers.

McConnell made a pitch for an alternative to the measure: the “paycheck protection” bill. The legislation would require labor unions to obtain the written consent of their members before spending union dues on political campaigns.