Campaign finance showdown Tuesday votes: Republican moderates hold the key to breaking Senate deadlock.


TOMORROW COULD PROVE pivotal for campaign finance reform. Unless Republican moderates back a watered-down bipartisan bill to ban unregulated "soft money" to political parties, a deadlocked Senate could shelve the matter indefinitely.

The vote will be close. All 45 Senate Democrats support the McCain-Feingold bill along with four Republicans. That leaves them one vote shy of the 50 votes they need to enable Vice President Al Gore to break a tie.

But before this vote is taken, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has mischievously put forth another amendment designed to torpedo the bill. If that amendment, aimed at crippling labor unions' efforts to spend money on political campaigns, is approved, some Democrats will abandon the bill and launch a filibuster. If Mr. Lott's transparent ploy fails, his Republican co-conspirator, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is ready with his own filibuster.

Hypocrisy abounds. Vice President Gore, the potential tie-breaker on behalf of campaign reform, is under investigation NTC by the Justice Department for making fund-raising calls from his office in the White House. A Senate hearing has amply documented the Democratic Party's fund-raising abuses linked to Mr. Gore and President Clinton.

The biggest forked-tongue senator, Mr. McConnell, four years ago demanded an overhaul of campaign financing. "The truth is that Republicans support a ban on all soft money, regardless of whether it benefits Republicans or Democrats," he wrote. He pledged to enact "a real campaign finance reform bill. . ."

Now he has developed selective amnesia. As GOP campaign chairman in the Senate, Mr. McConnell won't abide by party fund-raising limits. He doesn't seem to realize how bad he makes his party look to folks far removed from Capitol Hill.

Nor does Senator Lott. The McCain-Feingold bill only makes a dent in reining-in campaign abuses. It is a very modest step. If Mr. Lott and Mr. McConnell insist on wearing their black hats, they may be doing their party considerable harm as the public watches this tawdry spectacle just a year before the next round of congressional elections.

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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