- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

The Senate yesterday defeated so-called "paycheck protection" for union workers after supporters of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance-reform legislation dubbed it "a poison pill."
"It's directed against union activity, it's very clear," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, who led the attack against the provision.
It would require unions and companies to get permission from union members and individual shareholders before using dues or corporate investments for political activity.
The proposal by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, was rejected 69-31. Mr. Hatch stressed that his campaign-finance provision was aimed at both unions and corporations.
President Bush has indicated he would veto a campaign-finance-reform bill that did not have a paycheck-protection provision.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi last week, Mr. Bush said "no one should be forced to support a candidate or cause against his or her will."
"Both corporations and unions should have to obtain permission from their stockholders or dues-paying workers before spending treasury funds or dues on politics," the president said.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said that the purpose of the Hatch proposal was to torpedo the McCain-Feingold bill and had nothing to do with campaign-finance reform. "That is the purpose, plain and simple, to kill the bill," he said.
"It's a very, very poor attempt to get parity" between corporate and union funding of political candidates and get-out-the-vote drives by state and national parties, Mr. Kennedy said in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor. "It's poorly constructed, poorly drafted, and it doesn't do the job its proponents want it to do."
Mr. Hatch responded indignantly, saying, "I don't need a lecture from the distinguished senator from Massachusetts on how to write legislation… . We all know what's going on here."
"Forty percent of union people are Republican but virtually 100 percent of union money goes to support Democrats," he said. "They will fight to the death to make sure that those 40 percent of Republicans have nothing to say about how their money is spent."
Then, pointing his finger at Mr. Kennedy, who walked toward him as he spoke, Mr. Hatch continued: "He speaks for every liberal special interest in the country, and every Democrat better listen to him or you'll have a primary opponent… . Everyone's almost positive he's going to blow a fuse before he's through."
However, he added: "I love the senator from Massachusetts. I admire the way he supports his special interests. We don't have anyone on our side who can do it as well."
The Senate chamber was hushed as the two senators, known to be close friends, attacked each other in the first spirited exchange in three days of debate over the McCain-Feingold bill. The bill would ban unrestricted "soft money" contributions to political parties and restrict advertising on political issues by independent advocacy groups during federal election campaigns.
Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hatch are called "the odd couple" by Senate colleagues because of their long-standing friendship despite strong ideological differences.
The two senators shook hands and embraced after their exchange. "That brought tears to my eyes," Mr. Hatch said.
Earlier yesterday, senators voted 70-30 to require television networks and stations throughout the country to provide year-round advertising time for federal political candidates at the lowest available rates.
The amendment offered by Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, prohibits TV stations and networks from bumping political candidates in favor of advertisers willing to pay higher rates.
Mr. Torricelli accused TV networks of "price gouging," saying political candidates were extorted for higher rates during peak campaign weeks before elections. "It is a major form of network profits," amounting to $770 million in the 1999-2000 election cycle, a 76 percent increase over 1996, he said.
The law currently requires political candidates to be given the "lowest unit rate" for TV ads, but in the New York market just 15 percent of political ads got that rate and 78 percent were being charged higher commercial rates to avoid being shown past prime-time evening viewing hours, Mr. Torricelli said.
Mr. Torricelli criticized the "almost unbelievable hypocrisy" of networks that criticize politicians for their campaign spending, saying they were part of the problem of the need for big money in the political process. "They want change, they just don't want to be a part of it," he said.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said TV networks "are paying no attention whatsoever to elections and campaigns unless the candidates show up with money in hand and are prepared to pay the outrageous charges that have been leveled against them."
TV executives, however, have blamed politicians for paying high advertising rates. "We don't charge above the lowest unit rate politicians choose to pay more," to get prime-time slots, Tom Griesdorn, vice president and general manager of WBNS in Columbus, Ohio, told the Associated Press. WBNS was one station cited by Mr. Torricelli for its high rates.
Mr. Griesdorn said candidates were willing to pay top dollar to show ads in more heavily watched time slots.
Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican and one of only three senators to speak against the amendment, said requiring lower ad rates was "a $1 million gift to senators… . I just question the wisdom of doing this."
Also yesterday, the Senate rejected, 64-36, a proposal by Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat, to allow states to set up systems of public financing for federal congressional candidates.
Mr. Wellstone said the federal government should "let the states be the laboratory of reform." But Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said public financing of elections "is not an idea widely applauded by the American people. In fact, they hate it."

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