Campaign-Finance Loopholes Widen
Critics say questionable fund-raising tactics threaten America's entire system of regulation
(Page 2 of 2)
Party officials defend the practice of accepting and using the funds. US Supreme Court decisions, they say, establish that political parties have a First Amendment right to spend their money supporting the candidate of their choice.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Campaign finance experts say soft money and other loophole techniques are making a mockery of the spirit of federal election laws.
"We have a de facto deregulated system because the parties, the candidates, and the economic interests that finance the candidates have just blown by all the restrictions, and no one seems to have the will to stop them," says Ms. Miller. "It is all done with a wink and a nod."
The comments come as President Clinton and Democratic Party fund-raisers are under attack for accepting $452,000 in soft-money contributions to the Democratic Party from an Indonesian couple with ties to wealthy Asian financiers. Party contributions from foreign sources are illegal, but Democratic officials say the couple were residents of the US at the time the contributions were made.
Total contributions linked to the Lippo Group, an Indonesian-based conglomerate with interests throughout Asia in real estate, banking, securities, and insurance, have been estimated at $1 million.
Advocates of campaign finance reform say no candidate or party should accept such a large contribution from any single source, regardless of whether the source is foreign or American.
Sensing a possible campaign issue, Republicans are calling for an investigation by an independent counsel regarding alleged foreign contributions to the Clinton campaign.
Meanwhile, Common Cause is calling for an independent-counsel investigation of alleged campaign finance violations of both the Clinton and Dole campaigns during the presidential primary season.
The group says both campaigns participated in "the most massive violations of the campaign finance laws since the Watergate scandal."
In a 41-page letter to US Attorney General Janet Reno, Common Cause President Ann McBride detailed what she said were efforts by both campaigns to circumvent campaign-spending limits by shifting millions of dollars in excess of their campaign caps through national party committees rather than through their campaign committees.
The soft money - $22 million by the Clinton campaign and $9 million by Dole's campaign - was used to pay for political advertisements on TV during the presidential primary campaign, the group says.
"What you've got is a truly dramatic escalation in the amount of money that is being brought to bear on campaigns," says Common Cause's Simon. He says the list of suggested reforms is long, but members of Congress lack the political will to enact those reforms. "It is not so much a question of what do we do, as how do we get Congress to do it," Simon says.
Mr. Sabato, author of "Dirty Little Secrets," a book about campaign finance, suggests lifting all fund-raising bans. In return, candidates and parties should be required to disclose in detail the amounts and sources of all campaign funds, he says.