A question from Shelly McMillian of Bangor, ME:
What do you see as your chances of getting the freshmen reform bill through the House? I have read that both the Democratic and Republican leaders have opposed the bill. What did the two congressmen hear from the leadership?
Rep. Allen responds:
Thank you for the great question, Shelly.
Let me start by explaining that Representative Shimkus and I were both
members of a Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Task Force established
by the freshman class, Republicans and Democrats, of the 105th Congress.
I co-chaired the task force with Republican Asa Hutchinson of
Arkansas. The other members of the task force were Representatives
Allen Boyd (D-FL), Merrill Cook (R-UT), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Rick Hill
(R-MT), Ron Kind (D-WI), Nick Lampson (D-Texas), Anne Northup (R-KY),
Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), and Ellen Tauscher (D-CA). I am indebted to them
all, especially Rep. Hutchinson, for their hard work and true
bipartisanship that made this initiative succeed.
The task force conducted two public forums. The first consisted of
academic experts, reform advocacy groups, and participants in the
current campaign system; the second featured Members testifying about
their campaign finance reform bills and testimony from the national
party chairs. As a result of these efforts, on July 17, Rep. Hutchinson
and I introduced H.R. 2183, The Bipartisan Campaign Integrity Act of
1997, co-sponsored by all of the task force members except Rep. Shimkus
and Rep. Northup. Over 30 other freshmen, Republican and Democrat, also
signed on as original co-sponsors.
The core of our bill is a ban on "soft money," as recommended recently
by Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. It also
incorporates the major points identified by former Vice President Walter
Mondale and Sen. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker as necessary for immediate
reform. It takes the biggest of the big money out of a corrupted
campaign finance system. If it were already law, the $100,000, $500,000
and $1 million contributions to the national parties - the major focus
of the current hearings - would have been prohibited. And, as Vice
President Mondale and Senator Kassebaum-Baker wisely advised, our bill
avoids "attempts to gain or maintain partisan advantage."
Yes, some Republican and Democratic leaders have expressed concerns
about our bill. Leadership on both sides of the aisle worry that any
campaign finance reform will put their party at a strategic
disadvantage. This concern is understandable. Some of our critics say
our bill goes too far. Others have criticized it because it is not as
comprehensive as other measures.
In a recent Washington Post column on our bill entitled "Freshmen's
Crusade," The News Hour's own Mark Shields noted "in legislation, as in
life, the perfect is the enemy of the good." Our bill is simple and
straightforward for a reason. We want this bill to pass this year. We
avoided the pitfalls that have become deal breakers for other reform
measures. Whatever the merits of more comprehensive reforms, they have
not succeeded in achieving broad, bipartisan support. They are
therefore unlikely to become law in this Congress. And we must act in
this Congress. Otherwise, we risk an increasingly alienated electorate.
There is an opportunity to pass campaign finance reform this year. We
have been promised a hearing for our bill before the House Oversight
Committee. We hope that our bill will make it to the House floor for a
vote this fall. The public's interest around this issue is a crucial
factor in whether or not we will succeed. I urge people to contact
their Representatives and ask them to support and sign on as a
co-sponsor to HR 2183, The Bipartisan Campaign Integrity Act of 1997.
Rep. Shimkus responds:
I remain optimistic that campaign finance reform will pass the House this year. One factor that seems to be slowing this reform is the complexity of the issue. Even among my fellow Republican colleagues in Congress there remains no consensus on how best to reform campaign financing. I support full disclosure of all contributions and campaign related expenditures to any political campaign. Only then will voters truly be able to objectively evaluate a candidate for office.
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