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JUNE 21, 1999  5:16 PM
Common Cause
House GOP Leadership Answers Call For Campaign Finance Reform With Phony Reform Hearings, Phony Reform Proposals, & A $25 Million Off-the-books Fundraising Scheme
WASHINGTON - June 21 - The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives continues to delay a vote on the bipartisan campaign finance reform bill introduced by Representatives Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Martin Meehan (D-MA), according to reform proponents, and has instead decided to hold a series of campaign finance reform hearings described by Common Cause as "an effort to distract and an effort to stall."

The House Administration Committee, chaired by Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA), last week held the first in what is expected to be a series of hearings on campaign finance reform extending until the August recess. "Chairman Thomas' claim that these hearings are part of a 'constructive debate' on campaign finance reform is absurd on its face," Common Cause Acting President Donald J. Simon said. "These hearings have one purpose and one purpose only - to delay and do little on reform for as long as possible."

According to Common Cause, the House has held at least 11 hearings on campaign finance reform since 1995, and debated the issue on the floor for more than 50 hours over 14 days when the full House considered Shays-Meehan and other proposals last August. At the end of the debate, the House passed the Shays-Meehan bill on a bipartisan 252-179 vote which included one-fourth of House Republicans. "The House has already expressed its will on the matter, but Chairman Thomas wants to go back and study it some more," Simon said. "No Member lacks information on this issue."

The hearings are part of a strategy led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and the House Republican leadership to delay action on Shays-Meehan, according to Common Cause, and to push consideration of reform into an election year when the issue can become mired in partisan politics.

In addition to holding hearings, the House Republican leadership, led by Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), is offering up phony bills designed to resemble reform legislation, but which would actually make matters much worse, according to reform supporters.

In May, Representative Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) reintroduced legislation which purports to include a ban on soft money, but which would leave a gaping loophole that would allow soft money to be funneled into federal elections through state party committees, rather than national party committees. In the last Congress, the Republican leadership used the Hutchinson bill, with its fatally flawed soft money provision, to try to siphon votes from the Shays-Meehan bill, but in the end, it fell far short of a majority, while Shays-Meehan passed.

Also in May, Representative DeLay and Representative John Doolittle (R-CA) introduced a campaign finance bill to repeal all existing federal limits on how much money individuals or parties can contribute to candidates, and to establish a campaign finance system that relies solely on disclosure of big money.

"The aptly named Doolittle-DeLay legislation not only fails the test of reform, it's anti-reform," Simon said. "It shamelessly increases the role of big money in federal elections, and serves as a sideshow that seeks to distract the country and the Congress from passing real reform. By abolishing all limits on money in federal campaigns, it does away with the distinction between hard and soft money, thereby allowing federal candidates to inject any amount of money from any source directly into their campaigns."

While Majority Whip DeLay has often sung the praises of full disclosure as the only kind of law that is needed to regulate money in politics, his recent actions cast doubt on the sincerity of his commitment to disclosure, says Common Cause. According to The Washington Post, DeLay recently shifted the registration one of one of his leadership PACs out of the state of Virginia in order to escape the state's campaign finance disclosure requirements. By incorporating his leadership PAC under Virginia state law instead of federal law, DeLay had been able to raise unlimited amounts of money while avoiding federal disclosure requirements. "But apparently, even Virginia's rather meek disclosure requirements were too much for Mr. DeLay," said Simon.

In addition, Majority Whip DeLay is spearheading a controversial new effort to elect more Republicans to Congress while avoiding federal contribution limits and disclosure requirements. According to published reports, the goal of the Republican Majority Issues Campaign, organized under Section 527 of the tax code and affiliated with Representative DeLay, is to raise $25 million in unlimited - and undisclosed - soft money from corporations and individuals during the 2000 election cycle. Because the group is organized under Section 527 of the tax code but not registered as a political committee with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the group is not disclosing its donors to the FEC or the public, even though its acknowledged purpose is to support or oppose candidates.

According to Common Cause, these new fundraising schemes - leadership PACs which raise soft money and Section 527 organizations which use unregulated and undisclosed funds to affect federal elections - represent an alarming new trend which threatens to undermine any remaining constraints on the role of special-interest money in elections. "Majority Whip DeLay and the Republican leadership talk about the importance of full disclosure on the one hand, but then leap through loopholes to avoid disclosing their donors on the other," said Simon. "These schemes are nothing more than new vehicles for special interests to pour ever increasing amounts of soft money into federal campaigns and now to do it without even any disclosure." The bipartisan Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill would shut down these vehicles. The bill bans soft money - the unregulated, unlimited contributions from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals - and deals effectively with the problem of campaign ads masquerading as issue discussion. The bill also provides for greater public disclosure by requiring electronic filing of federal campaign finance reports which would then be made available on the Internet.

In order to force the House leadership to schedule debate on Shays-Meehan before next fall, congressional reform leaders have been collecting signatures on a discharge petition introduced by conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats, repeating a strategy which last year forced then-Speaker Newt Gingrich to schedule consideration of Shays-Meehan. Reformers currently have 202 of the 218 signatures required to extract the bill from committee and get a fair and timely vote on the House floor. This total includes 195 Democrats, one Independent, and six Republicans: Representatives Chris Shays (CT), Mike Castle (DE), Mike Forbes (NY), Greg Ganske (IA), Nancy Johnson (CT), and Connie Morella (MD).

However, because of the arcane rules that govern discharge petitions, time is running out on the Blue Dog petition. To have any realistic prospect of forcing a vote on Shays-Meehan in the House this summer, the petition would have to reach the 218 mark by the July 4th congressional recess.

Reform supporters had hoped for House consideration of Shays-Meehan prior to action by the Senate. But given the House Republican leadership's plan to delay floor consideration until September at the earliest, reform supporters have begun discussions with Senate reform leaders John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), who have indicated they are ready to jump-start the fight in the Senate prior to the August recess if needed. "The House Republican leadership's strategy is to kill reform by running out the clock so that reform is pushed into an election year when it becomes more vulnerable to partisan posturing," Simon said. "Reform supporters inside and outside of Congress will fight back and continue to press for congressional action as early as possible this year."

Attached is the list of 26 Republican Members of the House who are cosponsors of the Shays-Meehan bill, but have not signed the discharge petition, and the list of all Democrats who have not signed the discharge petition. For more information, contact the Common Cause Press Office at 202/736-5770.

Republican Cosponsors of Shays-Meehan Who Have Not Signed the Discharge Petition

Steve Horn (R-CA)
Elton Gallegly (R-CA)
Tom Campbell (R-CA)
Brian Bilbray (R-CA)
John Porter (R-IL)
Jim Leach (R-IA)
Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)
Jim Ramstad (R-MN)
Bill Barrett (R-NE)
Charles Bass (R-NH)
Marge Roukema (R-NJ)
Bob Franks (R-NJ)
Jim Saxton (R-NJ)
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
Amo Houghton (R-NY)
James Walsh (R-NY)
Sue Kelly (R-NY)
Benjamin Gilman (R-NY)
Paul Gillmor (R-OH)
Jim Greenwood (R-PA)
Mark Sanford (R-SC) Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Zach Wamp (R-TN)
Jack Metcalf (R-WA)

House Democrats Who Have Not Signed The Discharge Petition

Earl Hilliard (D-AL)
Peter Visclosky (D-IN)
Ken Lucas (D-KY)
Richard Neal (D-MA)
Joe Moakley (D-MA)
James Barcia (D-MI)
Collin Peterson (D-MN)
James Oberstar (D-MN)
Gene Taylor (D-MS)
James Traficant (D-OH)
John Murtha (D-PA)
Ralph Hall (D-TX)
Virgil Goode (D-VA)
David Obey (D-WI)
Alan Mollohan (D-WV)
Nick Rahall (D-WV)



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