- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2001

Sen. John McCain says that if his campaign finance reform bill is defeated in the House, it will be the fault of leaders of his own party.
"I know opposition to it has strongly increased, but I'm guardedly optimistic," Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said yesterday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"Let's be clear. If this [bill] loses, it's because of the efforts of the House Republican leadership. I understand that. I respect that. And if they defeat it, then they can and will claim victory," he said.
The House begins debate on the thorny issue of campaign finance reform tomorrow. Republican House leaders oppose Mr. McCain's bill cosponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, and passed in the Senate in April which would ban "soft money" contributions.
Instead, they support a new compromise alternative sponsored by Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican that would limit, but not ban, large unregulated donations to political parties from labor unions, corporations and wealthy individuals.
Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus who formerly backed the McCain-Feingold bill, which is similar to the Shays-Meehan bill now before the House, have switched their support to the Ney bill, saying Shays-Meehan would hurt their "get-out-the-vote" efforts.
Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat and a member of the black caucus, is a co-sponsor of the Ney proposal.
Critics say that a provision in McCain-Feingold that prohibits issue advertising 60 days prior to an election violates constitutional protection of free speech.
"We're gaining steam every day, because the ACLU does not like the Shays-Meehan bill or McCain-Feingold," Mr. Ney, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition."
In addition, he said, "Labor doesn't like it. You've got groups from the right and the left. Minorities are concerned about the inability to register people to vote."
Mr. Ney called his bill, which would restrict soft money donations to national parties to $75,000 yearly but would impose no limits on such donations to state parties, "reasonable."
Under the Ney bill, national political parties would be prevented from using soft money to finance "issue ads" on television. However, soft money could be used to pay for voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote campaigns.
In the last few days, Mr. McCain has said the House Republican leadership is supporting the Ney bill as a way of avoiding genuine campaign finance reform.
"It's not a sham bill," said Mr. Ney, countering Mr. McCain's charges.
Asked about Republican efforts to woo black House Democrats away from Shays-Meehan and toward the Ney bill, Mr. McCain noted that influential blacks such as Reps. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, John Lewis of Georgia and Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee are still backing his version of campaign finance reform.
"I think the Congressional Black Caucus is split on this," Mr. McCain said.
Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, who appeared on several talk shows yesterday, was asked about the opposition of Mr. Wynn and some others in the Congressional Black Caucus to his bill.
"If you're asking me, do members get addicted to these unlimited sums from corporations and unions, yes. The parties have, as well," Mr. Shays said on ABC's "This Week."
Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat and co-sponsor of Shays-Meehan, charged on CNN that Republican leaders have submitted the Ney bill "in order to have this go to a [House-Senate] conference committee, which basically would kill campaign finance reform."
"There's not enough time to get … any kind of bill" out of a conference committee, Mr. Meehan said.
Mr. Shays said President Bush "has made it clear to our [Republican] leadership he'll sign the [Shays-Meehan] bill."
"That's why our leadership is trying so hard to defeat it, because they know he'll sign it," the Connecticut Republican added.
In another development, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, said on "Fox News Sunday" that it was "out of line" for Mr. McCain to have sent letters to House Republican freshmen for whom he campaigned, telling them they "owe him their vote" on campaign finance reform.
On CBS, Mr. McCain said that he is "stunned" by the criticism he's receiving from the party's leadership for "writing letters to people I supported, asking for their support."
"I don't think it was inappropriate," he said of his letter-writing.

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