Canton Repository

May 2, 2001

Debate rages on campaign finance plans 

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Rejecting accusations that he is trying to stall campaign finance reform, U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, predicted Tuesday his committee will send a bill to the full house by the end of June.

“I’m not trying to be the undertaker for this bill,” said Ney, chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over campaign finance reform in the House.

Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause and a proponent of far-reaching campaign-finance reform, said the committee’s hearings are a “strategy to put off action ... as far into the future as possible.”

But Ney said two months is a reasonable amount of time for committee members to debate campaign finance reform before crafting a bill and sending it to the floor. 

During the second of the committee’s hearings on the topic Tuesday, supporters of reform, including House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., urged the panel to send out a bill by the end of May. The committee’s first hearing was held in Phoenix in March.

The panel is considering the high profile bill authored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., which passed the Senate on April 2. It went to the House and was assigned to the Administration Committee. 

McCain-Feingold would ban unregulated contributions to political parties, called soft money. It would increase the amount of regulated money that could be given to candidates, and ban corporations, unions and other interest groups from running broadcast ads that name or show a candidate for federal office 60 days before an election.

The committee also is looking at similar legislation introduced in the House by Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Marty Meehan, D-Mass. An earlier version of the Shays-Meehan bill passed the House in 1999.

Ney has opposed campaign finance reform in the past. He opposes most of McCain-Feingold, including the ban on soft money, prohibition of broadcast ads, and limits on how much state political parties may spend on voter registration drives during elections that included candidates for federal office.

Elements of the proposal he supports include requiring fuller disclosure of campaign donations, an increase in the amount that can be donated to candidates and tighter restrictions to prevent illegal foreign campaign donations. He also likes a “millionaire” provision, which would waive some fund-raising restrictions for candidates running against wealthy individuals who can finance their own campaigns.

Whatever bill emerges from committee will be different than current proposals, he indicated.

“I think there will be parts of it that will be similar,” he said. “On this bill we’re going to have a free-floating amendment process. I’m not dictating a personal desire on this bill that I’m going to hold anybody’s feet to the fire for exactly what I want.”

Ney anticipates the committee will hold three or four more hearings, including a two-day “marathon session” in which lawmakers can debate the legislation.