- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert hopes to derail the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform bill but admits he cannot predict whether that measure or a version he supports will pass the chamber of Congress he leads.
"Right now, I don't have a down-to-the-point whip count on it. But it's too close to call right now," the Illinois Republican said yesterday on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields" as the House prepares to take up the issue Tuesday.
In the televised interview, the speaker refused to back away from a charge he made last week when he accused Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, of trying to "bully" Republican House members into supporting his bill.
"Sen. McCain put out a letter to all our freshmen he campaigned for," Mr. Hastert said. "He said, 'If you don't support my bill, I'm going to do thus and so,' and I think write to all the other people who ran against these members."
Mr. Hastert added: "I think that's a threat, and I don't think he should threaten. Whether you're going to call it a threat or a bully or whatever…I think that was wrong. And I wrote him a letter and told him so."
As for the campaign finance reform bill Mr. McCain is sponsoring, the speaker charged that McCain-Feingold "would destroy the party system" as it now exists in this country and also would not pass constitutional muster.
Mr. Hastert called an alternative measure sponsored by Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Administration Committee, a "good bill" that the speaker believes is constitutional.
But Mr. McCain told the Boston Herald in an interview yesterday that the Ney bill is a "sham" that Republican leaders are pushing to kill campaign-finance reform.
Unlike McCain-Feingold, which is known as Shays-Meehan in the House, the Ney bill would limit but not ban "soft money" — the large, unregulated contributions to political parties from unions, corporations and rich donors.
Currently, there is no limit on soft-money donations. But the Ney bill, introduced last week, would restrict soft-money contributions to $75,000 per year for national parties.
It would impose no such limits on such donations to state parties.
McCain-Feingold is co-sponsored by Mr. McCain and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat. Shays-Meehan, which has been modified slightly, is the work of Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat.

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