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Campaign-finance reform to House floor - Broadcasting & Cable

Campaign-finance reform to House floor

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Campaign-finance reform is coming to the House floor next Tuesday and
Wednesday under an agreement between House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and
Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Miss.).

This leaves broadcasters scrambling to rid themselves of an amendment in the
House's main version of campaign-finance reform that would force them to sell
advertisements to politicians at the cheapest possible rate.

That amendment was inserted into the Senate version of campaign-finance
reform last summer by Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.).

According to the rules of the 'discharge petition' -- a document that forces
a full House vote if a majority of members sign -- the House will vote on three
versions of campaign-finance reform.

Each of those will be subject to nine correcting amendments -- three from
Republican leadership, three from Democratic leadership and three from the
bill's authors.

Broadcasters hope one of those amendments goes toward stripping the main bill
-- known as Shays-Meehan, after its House sponsors -- of the Torricelli
amendment.

Once the House selects a bill to work with, broadcasters will have another
chance to rid themselves of the Torricelli provision because members will be
able to offer another 20 amendments before the final vote.

If the final version of campaign-finance reform passed by the House is
similar enough to the Senate's version, the bill could go to the president
without being reconciled by the House and the Senate.

Opponents of campaign-finance reform don't want that to happen, however,
because they would lose another chance to shape the bill more to their
liking.

President Bush has said he is unlikely to veto a soft-money ban, particularly
in the wake of the Enron Corp. scandals.

Should a soft-money ban pass Congress, opponents are expected to take it to
court on the grounds that it is an unconstitutional ban on free
speech.

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