- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

Built-in loophole

Democratic members of Congress already are moving to take advantage of a special loophole written into the campaign-finance reform bill passed last week, the Hill newspaper reports.

The legislation allows members of Congress to raise unlimited funds in $20,000 increments for ostensibly nonpartisan outside groups.

"House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt has assured African-American members of his caucus that he will raise money for groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southwest Voter Project to pay for their voter registration and get-out-the-vote operations," reporter Alexander Bolton writes.

The NAACP, like many Democratic-backing groups, claims to be nonpartisan. However, the group makes little effort to hide its political allegiance. Chairman Julian Bond has compared Republicans to the Taliban, and former Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume, the group's CEO, led an all-out effort last year to elect Democrat Al Gore president, including the sponsorship of TV ads that suggested George W. Bush was a racist.

"Gephardt pledged to raise the funds for outside groups last week during a private meeting with Reps. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat; Bennie Thompson, Mississippi Democrat; Lacy Clay, Missouri Democrat; Earl Hilliard, Alabama Democrat; and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Michigan Democrat, who were wavering in the support for the Shays-Meehan legislation," the reporter said.

Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, told the reporter that members of Congress "can go to all the people that we know."

"There's no limit on nonprofit organizations," he said.

Not Armageddon

Despite House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's warning of "Armageddon" for the GOP, pundit Fred Barnes thinks the Shays-Meehan campaign-finance reform bill passed by the House will actually work to the advantage of Republicans.

"In truth, there's a better chance the measure will aid Republicans in winning the White House, Senate and House, rather than impede them," Mr. Barnes writes in the Wall Street Journal, pointing especially to the Republicans' longtime advantage in collecting "hard money" contributions to individual candidates.

The bill doubles the amount of cash contributors can give to candidates while banning "soft money" donations to the national parties.

"Why would Democrats support a measure that may hurt them politically and Republicans oppose a bill that may help?" Mr. Barnes asks.

"Ideology and the press play a role here. Democrats the liberals anyway believe a Washington free of the influence of corporations would be fertile ground for liberal governance. They think, John Podhoretz wrote in the New York Post, 'the reason their wonderful ideas for controlling and managing America do not become law is solely due to rich people and corporations. … Get the money out and wonderful new regulations will flow.' When the New York Times and Washington Post editorialize along these lines, they salute.

"Republicans don't. Their animus against campaign-finance reform stems from their view of government. Whatever can be done free of government control elections, say should be left in the hands of civil society or the private sector. What the media think leaves them cold. Shays-Meehan won't vindicate either. It won't change the campaign equation that much, but whatever impact it has should leave Republicans pleasantly surprised."

Veto bait

"President Bush is reportedly about to commit a cynical and opportunistic act unworthy of his young presidency: signing a disaster of a campaign-finance reform bill," the editors of National Review say in the magazine's latest issue, dated March 11.

"The bill, as it seems likely to emerge from Congress, is perfect veto bait for Bush: 1) He thinks it is unconstitutional; 2) it violates the principles for reform that he defended during his campaign and enunciated during last year's legislative debate; and 3) it will discourage exactly the sort of engaged citizenry that Bush devotes so much rhetoric to promoting. But Bush seems ready to ignore all of this and instead heed his own narrow political and financial interests, in a capitulation that will require double-backing on his commitments," the magazine said.

"The bill, of course, eliminates the unlimited corporate 'soft money' donations to political parties, which are supposed to be especially corrupting. But reformers never bother to explain how it is possible for both parties to be corrupted by soft money, when they advocate diametrically opposed positions on most issues. The implication is that the Republican Party's conservatism is bought and paid for, and so is the Democratic Party's liberalism. This is a pinched and cynical not to mention false way to view the world."

Mr. Bush's support for this legislation would be "not just a disappointment, but a betrayal," the magazine said.

The Senate wars

"Several new developments have occurred in the ongoing battle for control of the U.S. Senate," United Press International reports in its "Capital Comment" column.

"First, as Rob Schlesinger first reported in the Boston Globe, Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords, formerly a Republican who now caucuses with the Democrats as an independent, is scheduled to headline a major fund-raising dinner for Senate Democrats on Feb. 27.

"Jeffords also says he will hit the stump on behalf of Senate Democrats, including the 'party's more embattled incumbents' though he will not, as of now anyway, be campaigning against Republican incumbents," the wire service said.

"At the same time, Sens. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, have each launched attacks on the Club for Growth, a group that supports political candidates typically Republicans who in turn support tax cuts. Lieberman is particularly hacked off at ads the Club is running in South Dakota focused on the Senate's lead Democrat, Tom Daschle.

"Lieberman, who was his party's candidate for vice president in 2000, wants President Bush to ask the Club, an independent group, to stop running ads, which he called 'gutter attacks,' criticizing Daschle for opposing tax cuts, the economic stimulus package and limits on federal spending. …

"For his part, McCain attacked the Club [on Feb. 13], first on MSNBC, then on CNN, because the group generated support for Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, in the congressional primary in 2000. In his criticisms, McCain falsely alleged that the group did not disclose its donors, saying, 'What we're trying to do is stop organizations like a so-called Club for Growth that came into Arizona in a primary, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads. We had no idea who they were, where their money came from.'

"But the record shows that the Club was busily making headlines in their effort to oust New Jersey GOP Rep. Marge Roukema from her congressional seat in a primary and had been disclosing the names of all their donors after July 1, 2000, in accordance with the law passed by Congress earlier that year governing IRS section 527 political organizations."

The ad wars

The Republican Party of South Dakota, with assistance from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has released another ad against Sen. Tim Johnson, the South Dakota Democrat engaged in a tough re-election campaign this year.

The 30-second TV ad called "Where Does He Stand?" began airing yesterday and is expected to run statewide for about a week, an NRSC spokesman said.

Here is the text of the ad:

"Where does Tim Johnson stand when he's in Washington? Look at his record. Tim Johnson voted against President Bush's plan to cut taxes on middle-class Americans. He voted five times for higher gas taxes. And instead of strengthening our national security, the real Tim Johnson voted against the B-2 bomber and against national missile defense. That's where Tim Johnson stands when he's in Washington. Tell him to start supporting our values."

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