Just like the miscreant who on a technicality walks out of court a free man, the Republican House leadership has managed to squirm out of bringing the campaign finance reform bill to a vote. Despite the considerable public support for the measure -- almost identical to the McCain-Feingold Bill passed by Senate earlier this year -- Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., wasn't about to give in. No one should be surprised that the House would not authorize biting hard on the hands that feed it.
The House was supposed to have begun debate on the Shays-Meehan Bill last Thursday, but late the night before, the House Rules Committee set guidelines for the debate that would have forced lengthy separate floor votes on each of 19 amendments to the bill which is opposed by the GOP leadership.
Traficant on GOP side: When the House rejected the procedural resolution 228-203 -- with 18 Republicans joining the Democrats and our own Jim Traficant, the only Democrat voting with the Republican leadership -- Hastert made it clear that the bill was on the shelf. Rather than sending the bill back to committee for guidelines the House would approve, Hastert said, & quot;Right now I have no plan to bring this up. & quot;
Despite the bill's having been passed in the House twice before, in 1998 and 1999 when the Senate version was rejected, GOP leaders are still intent on scuttling the measure that would for the most part ban unregulated soft-money donations to the major parties.
Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and their colleagues argue that as long as corporations and special interests are allowed to donate millions in soft money, the contributors will be able to exert undue influence on important pieces of legislation.
Strange bedfellows: Those lobbying for passage of campaign finance reform measures include the Sierra Club, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. Opposing reform are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association, the Christian Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and National Right to Life.
This newspaper is on record opposing measures that would abridge Americans' right to free speech. We would rather see speedier and full disclosure of all campaign donors. But that said, we believe that the issue must be decided on its merits not by political gamesmanship.