Common Cause renews its push to tighten campaign financing laws

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Ending the sometimes corruptive influence of political campaign contributions will be pursued with increased vigor by Common Cause, pledges its new chairman Archibald Cox.

The former Watergate prosecutor and Harvard Law School professor says tighter controls on both the amounts and sources of donations to those seeking office are the top goals of his two-year term as leader of the national citizens activist group.

The former US solicitor general under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson says that a candidate's dependence on private money should be eliminated. The pressure to raise campaign funds leads to "impliedly promising contributors the receipt of 'goodies' if the candidate is successful," he suggests.

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Common Cause's immediate concern is winning Senate passage of legislation -- already approved in the House -- restricting campaign funding by political action committees (PACs), the means by which business and labor groups are allowed to chip in money toward a candidate's campaign.

Currently there is no limit on how much a candidate can receive from such groups, as long as no more than $10,000 comes from any one of them. The Common Cause-backed legislation would place a $70,000 ceiling on total PAC donations to an office-seeker and also would reduce the maximum contribution from a single PAC.

In discussing the various Common Cause- backed political financing reforms, Professor Cox asserts that "the challenge is to reshape the machinery of self-government so that the long-run progress of the whole enterprise is of central attention, so that every citizen knows that he or she can participate and that his or her participation counts" in the decision- making process.

In affirming his commitment to wiping out corruptive influences and promoting greater efficiency in both federal and state operations, Mr. Cox hopes his organization will back a proposal for a special commission to study how Congress is run and what relations exist between the nation's executive and legislative branches.

Reforming the congressional budget process to give the full membership more control is another goal the decade-old "citizens lobby" established by former US Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary John Gardner.

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