Campaign finance debate commences

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The debate over campaign finance started up in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, with the House Administration Committee holding a hearing on a bill sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.).

That bill, referred to as Shays-Meehan (H.R. 380), has passed the House twice in previous sessions of Congress but has never made any headway in the Senate. Shays-Meehan prohibits political parties from soliciting soft or unregulated money from corporate donors, but so far contains nothing that broadcasters might object to, such as free- or reduced-rate airtime requirements.

Observers report that House Republican leadership objects to the Senate-passed version of campaign finance reform and would like to stall the bill's progress through the House, starting by allowing the House Administration Committee to hold five hearings, of which Tuesday's is the second. The committee in March held a field hearing in Phoenix on campaign finance reform before the Senate passed its bill.

Witnesses at Tuesday afternoon's hearing are all lawmakers, including Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), sponsor of the campaign finance reform bill the Senate passed last month. Senate opponents Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) will testify, as will House sponsors Shays and Meehan, and House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Texas) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.). Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) declined to appear, citing a previous engagement. - Paige Albiniak

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