- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

Some key House Republicans say their leaders have yet to lobby them on the upcoming campaign finance bill that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert describes as "Armageddon" for the party.

"That's the part that's cracking me up is nobody's visited me," said Rep. Doug Ose, a California Republican who supports campaign finance reform in principle but will make a final decision after the bill is amended.

Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, met with President Bush yesterday and according to sources wanted to ask the president to help Republicans approve amendments to make the bill more acceptable to party members. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer confirmed that the two discussed campaign finance reform. "Beyond that, it was a private meeting," he said.

A vote is scheduled for Wednesday on a bill sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, that would ban "soft money," the uncapped contributions to political parties that are spent on issue ads and organization activities. It also would limit the way interest groups are able to run issue ads.

Several Republican representatives said they have made their support for the bill so clear that they don't expect to be lobbied. But others, like Mr. Ose and Rep. John M. McHugh, New York Republican, were surprised they haven't been approached yet by House Republican leaders.

Asked about lobbying efforts, John Feehery, a spokesman for the speaker, said Mr. Hastert has "let members know on several occasions he's not happy with the Shays-Meehan bill." A House Republican leadership aide said Republican leaders are not directly lobbying Republicans, relying instead on rank-and-file House Republicans to exert peer pressure on their colleagues.

Stuart Roy, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas said Republicans are exploring several strategies.

"There are people that we're touching base with, but a lobbying effort or a whip-count effort will be based on a specific proposal that you're going to try to attach to the bill or specific changes that are going to be made," he said.

Mr. Fleischer reiterated that Mr. Bush wants to sign campaign finance reform, but that the president has concerns about the specifics of the Shays-Meehan bill.

Campaign finance reform legislation has passed the House twice before in 1998 and 1999 only to die in the Senate. In both of those years, Democrats provided about 195 of the votes for passage, with Republicans providing the rest.

This year, with a bill having cleared the Senate and the pressure on the House, Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, and newly installed whip Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, are working to deliver those same Democrats again.

Mr. Gephardt and Mrs. Pelosi are particularly focused on undecided members of the Congressional Black Caucus, talking with them about creating get-out-the-vote funds for them to make voting for the bill more palatable.

"We're trying to get their votes," said a top House Democratic leadership aide. "We're talking to people, trying to figure out what we can do about them. There are still members [of the black caucus] who are still wanting to talk with the leader about the situation."

Some black Democrats believe that the proposed fund-raising limits of Shays-Meehan would especially hinder minority candidates, because they tend to receive fewer donations from outside their districts. Get-out-the-vote funds would be used to encourage Democratic turnout on Election Day, although the method of funneling those dollars to various races has not been determined.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat and a member of the black caucus who opposes the Shays-Meehan bill, said about half of the caucus' 38 members are still undecided.

A House Republican leadership aide said Mr. Gephardt needs to win over some of the undecided black caucus members to win next week's vote.


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