- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Advocates of overhauling campaign-finance rules will introduce a Senate measure today to try to overturn the Federal Election Commission's new campaign-finance regulations.

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was the driving force behind the campaign-finance law Congress passed earlier this year, is displeased with the rules the FEC has written to implement his legislation and he will seek to kill them.

Mr. McCain will introduce a resolution that would invoke Congress' powers under the Congressional Review Act to overturn a federal agency's regulations, said Matt Keller, legislative director at Common Cause, one Mr. McCain's allies in the fight to revamp campaign-finance laws.

Mr. Keller acknowledged a bill is unlikely to pass this year even if it cleared the Senate, it would have a difficult time getting through the House before adjournment but he said introducing the resolution now is important.

"It's a signal of our intention. It is to let people know we are not letting this go without notice, or without a fight. Whether it gets done this session or next Congress, it doesn't matter to us. But it will get done," he said. Roll Call first reported on Mr. McCain's resolution yesterday.

The campaign-finance law, which President Bush signed into law in March, generally called for a ban on "soft money," the large contributions to political parties that are usually spent on organizational activities and issue advertisements. The law is currently being challenged in court, but, the FEC has been writing regulations to implement the law.

The six commissioners are close to finalizing some of the rules, and those who pushed for the law say the FEC is allowing too many loopholes for elected federal officials to raise soft money for state and local parties.

The commission is always split between Republican- and Democrat-backed appointees, but one of the Democrat-backed commissioners has sided with the Republican-backed ones in pushing for looser rules than reform advocates want.

"The real question is should they be allowed to do that when it runs counter to the black letter of the law, and our answer is no, they shouldn't be allowed to do that," Mr. Keller said.

Once Congress adjourns, a new Democrat-backed appointee is expected to replace the Democrat who has sided with the Republicans.

The last successful move to overturn an agency's regulations was last year, when Congress and Mr. Bush junked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ergonomics rules issued during the Clinton administration.

Republican leaders in the House, most of whom opposed the initial bill during the debate this year, aren't likely to push the resolution through before the end of the term, for several reasons.

"One is time, and the second problem is quite simply the complexity of the bill," said Greg Crist, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "Dick Armey and others clearly saw the perils and folly of trying to craft a bill where members were even voting against provisions they at one time supported."

The bill would first go through the House Administration Committee, and Democrats on the panel don't believe they will act on the bill before adjournment.

Stacey Farnen, a spokesman for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said it's a simple matter of math: "There are six Republicans and three Democrats on the committee."

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