Monitor Breakfast: Chris Shays and Marty Meehan

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On how voters can tell if what passes the House is real reform or a sham:

Shays: "If we ban corporate treasury money and union dues money and large individual contributions to political parties that will be reform. If have loopholes that allow members of congress to raise hard money contributions on the federal and state level I don't think that would be reform."

Meehan: "Real reform is not a bill that would end up dying in a conference committee. We have an historic opportunity in the Congress to pass a bill that the Senate can accept that would actually get to the president's desk. Congress has had an opportunity basically to play games over a period of years and one party blaming another party, dying in conference committee, sending the president a bill if he says he is going to veto it. If the president says he is not gong to veto it, then it becomes real.

Well, the debate in the House is real this time. The Senate has passed the bill and we have an opportunity to pass a bill that is very close to the senate bill, exactly the same as the senate bill. It could avoid a conference committee and go to the president's desk and I believe the president will sign it. Real reform is something where the architects of the bill, the drafters of the bill really want it to pass. And I think you can tell the difference between a bill that is intended to pass and a bill that is intended to gum up the works."

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On the impact of the Enron scandal on the push for campaign finance reform legislation:

Meehan: "...I cant imagine any president would veto a campaign finance reform bill after looking at the fact that since 1995 70 percent of all the money Enron has contributed has been soft money - $4 million over the last decade from Enron, $2 million in the last election cycle from Enron.

I don't think any president would veto a bill in the present environment. I think the president understands that you can't always get everything you want in a bill. He made compromises on the education bill. He didn't get all he wanted in the education bill but he was willing to work with democrats and come up with a product that met his principles but wasn't exactly what he was looking for. I think the same is true for campaign-finance reform. We feel very confident the president will sign this bill."

On the political impact if reform legislation passes:

Shays: "The incredible pressure on us to raise vast sums of money from corporations and unions basically disappears. ...Both sides think it is going to hurt their party.... Republican Party will have to learn to build a grass roots support that is going to be doing and which Democrats do better. Democrats are going to learn how to raise individual contributions. We Republicans have an advantage in hard money - you are going to see that close. Democrats are going to learn how to raise more hard money. And Democrats have an advantage on getting unions out on Election Day. Republicans are going to do something they have not done in a long time. They are going to rebuild their organizations.... You are gong to see a very energetic political party process because they just can't depend on these large unbelievably large soft money donations to by advertising."

On imperfections in the reform legislation they have proposed:

Shays: "The only persons who have a legitimate grievance against this bill in my judgement are people who run against millionaires. They are the one answer we don't have in this bill..."

Meehan: "The base intent of our bill is to eliminate members of congress from soliciting corporations, wealthy individuals and unions for unlimited amounts of money and we think that is critical. But it is not a perfect solution. There still would be voluntary limits on congressional campaigns. The cost of running campaigns will continue to escalate. There is going to be a need down the road to look at the system and make adjustments over a period of time... What we have done in this legislation is try to take the most egregious abuses, offensive parts of the campaign-finance system and correct them."

On the price they have paid for pushing unpopular reform legislation:

Shays: "I had always felt that even though I am in a minority among the majority, that my seniority and merit matter.... The Speaker has said there will no retribution. There are rank and file members who say if you don't discipline, you don't have a conference. So those are the kind of things that are in play."

Meehan: "I don't think my district gets less at all. In fact, I am as passionate and as aggressive about producing for my district as I am for campaign-finance reform. The administration just announced a new renewal communities initiative where 28 urban areas are designated - two of them are in my district. I don't think it has hurt my district at all. And people in my district know that I feel passionately about campaign finance reform because of that fact I think the reason we can't get a patients bill of rights, the reason we cant get prescription drug coverage for seniors is because of this soft money system. So they think if we pass campaign-finance reform, people in my district will be better off because many of the initiatives they believe the Congress should be passing will have a better chance of getting passed."

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