And a Date With Reform

It's not inconceivable that early next year a political juggernaut could be set in motion by, yes, campaign finance reform.

Consider:

By the end of January, the Senate Government Affairs Committee is scheduled to release its reports (one from each side of the aisle) from this year's investigation of 1996 campaign infractions. The Republicans and the Democrats are competing to have the most newsworthy material.

House Republican moderates, fed up with their leadership's foot-dragging on reform, have pushed Gingrich & Co. to come up with a plan for addressing the subject. It reportedly includes such questions as: "How can we prevent 'soft money' from corporations, unions, and individuals from obliterating the $1,000 limit on individual contributions?" That's on target, and we can only hope such questions stir floor action in the House.

Next year will be campaign-oriented from the get-go. All representatives and many senators will be trying to retain their seats. Their constituents have had an earful about campaign-funding scandals, and they'll be looking for someone committed to doing something about it. Challengers will certainly use the issue against incumbents.

Attorney General Janet Reno has opted not to appoint an independent counsel to look into the campaign-finance practices of President Clinton and Vice President Gore. But the Justice Department task force will stay at work, regardless, and indictments of party officials - from both camps - are still possible.

The stage is interestingly set. Americans may yet get some needed reform and be spared an even more distasteful display of political money-grubbing when the next presidential race revs up.

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