In American politics, the bill stops ... where?

Regarding your continuing praise for campaign-finance reform ("Smoking out reformers," Aug. 10, editorial): I suggest that the real problem is not too much money in American politics, but too little. The average American spends far more on pizza, Big Macs, movies, cosmetics, and magazines than on political candidates. If every four years, half the US population contributed $10 to a presidential candidate, the collective donations would overwhelm the amount currently spent by much-feared big-campaign contributors.

I am one of many Americans not afraid of citizens' political involvement via monetary donations. Instead of trying to limit and incriminate those who care enough about the political process to contribute, more of us should get involved.

The right to free speech most assuredly protects political speech, and the way we communicate in elections these days requires money. I hope to see increasing campaign contributions in coming elections -donations that represent political involvement by interested citizens.

Blair Lindsay Kirkwood, Mo.

Tip O'Neill once said that all politics is local, but it now appears that all politics are governed by campaign donations, as money has become a controlling factor in our democracy. The costs of television, radio, direct mail, and polling have gone out of sight, and that means candidates must either be wealthy or constantly begging for campaign contributions. Incumbents - who can generally raise enormous amounts - have been able to crush their challengers at the polls.

Without serious campaign-finance reform, reasonable term limits, and perhaps some government restructuring, our democracy will continue to be a rich men's club - and that's not good for America.

George A. Dean Edgartown, Mass.

Stem-cell research: stem or step up?

The greatest sticking point about stem- cell research has been the matter of using cells from immature embryos. To press the government into funding stem-cell research, both what is called the "scientific community" and the media have engaged in a campaign of coercion. The media has run article after article depicting stem cells almost as a cure-all - a strategy that characterizes much of the presentation by pro-embryonic stem-cell researchers, as advocates make potential cures sound all but guaranteed.

All that is overlaid by a procession of victims, bemoaning their situations and accusing the president of trying to rob them of their chance to get well. Greed and self-involvement may be in great supply among these individuals and among advocates of stem-cell research - but sense and principle are not.

Julian Penrod West Caldwell, N.J.

While President Bush did mention moral issues involved in embryonic research, he left the door open to commercial exploitation of embryos. Federal funding of all stem-cell research would at least provide for sharing results with geneticists worldwide. By funding further research on only 60 lines of stem cells, Mr. Bush has in effect privatized all future stem-cell research, since he did not prohibit the use of embryos by private research companies. If this policy goes forward, we might see commercial embryos with DNA the property of genetic laboratories.

In the final analysis, it is a woman's right to choose that should guide our policy, and leave the moral issues of embryonic research up to each family. If her choice will restore the health of a family member, she should have that option.

Dean Steele Atlanta

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