As Soft Money Grows, So Does Controversy (11/19/96)
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Public Doubts Clinton's Commitment To Reform
Survey: Most people don't believe Clinton, Congress when it comes to campaign finance reform
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 9) -- One of the biggest obstacles faced by advocates of campaign finance reform may be the public's deep skepticism that President Clinton and Congress really want to change the system that got them elected.
While nearly 90 percent of people see the need for fundamental campaign finance reform, only 30 percent believe Clinton is serious about changing the system, and only 23 percent say that about Congress, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
In the new survey, people were asked, "Do you think President Clinton and Congress really want to change campaign finance laws, or do you think they want to keep campaign finance laws as they are now?
A full 89 percent of those surveyed said either fundamental changes (50 percent) or a complete overhaul (39 percent) are needed. Eight percent suggested only minor changes are needed.
The results were based on interviews April 2-5 with 1,347 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points.
Two separate groups are at work this spring trying to mobilize public support for a new campaign finance system. One is "Project Independence," which late last month began a national petition drive to collect 1,776,000 signatures by July 4 to try to pressure Congress to pass reform legislation.
Another is the new Public Campaign, which is trying to encourage state and local campaign reform first. "We need to give citizens a way to get engaged, take responsibility for the problem and solve it," the group's director, Ellen Miller, told The Associated Press. "And that works best at the local level."
The group favors a proposal called "clean money." Candidates who agreed to forgo private contributions would get public funds to run their campaigns. Candidates who wanted to raise private money or spend their own funds would get no public money, and their opponents could qualify for more public funds.
That system is due to go into effect in Maine in 2000, and other target states include Idaho, Arizona, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Massachusetts and Vermont.
Miller said the proposal is more likely to withstand a constitutional challenge because the rules are voluntary for candidates. The group also favors banning so-called "soft money," unrestricted donations to parties, and providing free or discounted TV advertising to candidates who abstain from accepting private donations.
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