- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2001

Rep. Bob Ney will introduce a new campaign finance reform bill today that would allow interest groups to run issue ads and would allow parties to collect "soft money" for party-building activities.
The Ney bill is an effort to siphon support away from the McCain-Feingold bill pending in the Senate.
Soft money is banned entirely and interest groups are restricted in the way they can run ads within 60 days of a federal election under the McCain-Feingold bill and in the Shays-Meehan bill, which is the House equivalent.
But Republican opponents of the bills saw an opening when black and Hispanic representatives showed reluctance to support a bill that could hamper parties' and interest groups' efforts to get out their voters.
Mr. Ney, an Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Administration Committee, crafted this bill with an eye to winning their support. His bill would:
Cap donations of soft money unregulated big-dollar donations to parties at $75,000.
Leave the cap on "hard-money" contributions that go directly to candidates at $1,000, rather than raising it to $2,000 as McCain-Feingold does.
Allow parties to spend soft money on "get-out-the-vote" and registration efforts.
Allow interest groups to run issue ads anytime, but would require groups that spend more than $50,000 within 120 days of a federal election to disclose the group's officers and the amount of money they spent.
"It is a compatible bill with the Constitution," said Jim Forbes, a spokesman for Mr. Ney. "It does not destroy the ability of political parties to increase political participation and it does not gag political speech."
Mr. Ney scheduled a hearing on the bills for today, and was scheduled to meet last night with Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, who along with Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, is the chief sponsor of the House companion to the McCain-Feingold bill.
The House has passed bills similar to McCain-Feingold four times in the last decade, only to have them fail in the Senate. But this April the Senate passed the bill 59-41.
Supporters of the Senate bill sponsored by Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat desperately want to avoid having a bill dissimilar to McCain-Feingold pass in the House because it would end up in a conference between the two chambers. There, supporters fear, the result would be either an empty shell or would contain a "poison pill" provision that would make it unacceptable to majorities in one house or the other.
Advocates of McCain-Feingold called the Ney bill a "sham."
"We think the Ney bill represents [House Majority Whip and Texas Republican] Tom DeLay's attempt at introducing sham reform into the House in order to kill what we believe to be real reform in the Shays-Meehan bill," said Matt Keller, a lobbyist for campaign finance reform advocates at Common Cause, whose president sent a letter to Mr. Ney yesterday criticizing the bill.
Republican leaders' strategy is clear, though. In several hearings on the bills, interest groups on both sides of the political spectrum, as well as black and Hispanic lawmakers, expressed concern that McCain-Feingold restrictions could hurt "get-out-the-vote" efforts and hurt interest groups' abilities to spread their messages.
Mr. Ney hopes that by keeping the contribution limit for hard money at $1,000, instead of the $2,000 called for in McCain-Feingold, his bill may entice support from Democrats who want some reform but fear Republicans' advantage in hard money.

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