- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

The White House is refusing to say whether President Bush will sign the Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill, insisting he will wait until it reaches his desk, weigh competing arguments from advisers and then make a decision.
Some Republicans close to the administration have resigned themselves to the likelihood that Mr. Bush will sign the legislation, which the House passed Wednesday and the Senate will take up soon. They have concluded a veto of the bill would be too politically damaging to the president.
But a senior White House official would not rule out a veto late yesterday.
"We don't know what's going to arrive on our desk yet," the official said. "We'll wait until it gets through the process and look at it then."
The official said that while some within the White House have concerns about the bill's constitutionality, there is not a major split over whether to sign the bill and let the courts strike it down.
However, if and when the bill makes it to the president's desk, Mr. Bush will listen to competing voices within his administration.
"I'm sure he will," the official said. "I mean, there's always going to be an open discussion. But he's going to make the decision in the end."
A conservative close to the White House predicted that Mr. Bush would not face much of a backlash from Republicans if he signs the bill. The source noted that campaign finance is an issue that consistently ranks dead last as a topic in which Americans are interested.
Furthermore, some Republicans are convinced their party would benefit from the bill's ban on "soft money" donations because those are the types of gifts that currently favor Democrats. The Republican Party has the edge on the smaller, more tightly regulated "hard money" gifts.
In addition, members of both parties are confident that loopholes will emerge allowing them to collect as much campaign money as they need. Republicans, for example, would downsize national Republican organizations and shift some of the fund-raising emphasis to the states.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said yesterday the president's desire to sign legislation that would "improve the system" remains unchanged. But the spokesman criticized Common Cause, a campaign finance reform advocacy group committed to banning soft money, for writing a section of the Shays-Meehan bill that was later deleted.
"Common Cause wrote a section of the campaign finance bill," Mr. Fleischer said. "If you reversed the roles and if Common Cause ever heard that the National Rifle Association or the Right to Life or any other outside groups wrote a piece of legislation, they would be the first to complain, and complain loudly, that Congress should not allow people who are not congressmen and senators to write legislation.
"They would be the first to decry the practice of lobbyists writing legislation," he said. "Yet they themselves have engaged in the very act that they decry."
He added: "It does seem to me to be the height of hypocrisy for Common Cause to have written a section of a bill that obviously was so controversial that it was pulled at the last minute, if they decry that practice for others."

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