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Hillary Clinton renounces some soft money ads

NEW YORK (CNN) -- First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton accepted part of a challenge from her Republican opponent to swear off unregulated "soft money" in her New York Senate campaign Friday and urged Rep. Rick Lazio to follow through.

Clinton
The senate campaign of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has benefited from about $4 million in soft money spending  

Speaking to about 1,000 well-heeled suburban women, Clinton said she would ask the Democratic Party not to buy any more radio and television ads on her behalf -- meeting at least part of the challenge Lazio issued in their debate in Buffalo on September 13. She urged Lazio to ask groups linked to the state Republican and Conservative parties to agree to the ban.

"All it will take to do this is one word from Mr. Lazio: Okay," Clinton said. "So, how about it, Mr. Lazio? Okay?"

Soft money -- the unregulated contributions collected by political parties -- has been a boon to Clinton's bid to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Her campaign has benefited from about $4 million in soft money spending, while soft money donors have aided Lazio's campaign to the tune of about half a million dollars.

But a sticking point remains: Lazio has insisted on a total ban on radio and television commercials funded with soft money -- including spending by labor unions, traditional Democratic allies.

Clinton said it was her understanding that the two campaigns had agreed in a closed-door meeting Thursday that the ban would not extend to "truly independent entities" like the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League -- all of which support her campaign.

Lazio said Clinton should pull the soft money adds now being aired as a sign of good faith. But he added, "I am really excited about this, because I think that it demonstrates that New Yorkers can lead America -- we don't have to wait for a law, we can do the right thing with out having a law in place. It's a major step forward in terms of enacting campaign finance reform."

Only once before -- in the 1998 Senate campaign of Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, the co-author of national campaign finance reform legislation -- has a candidate renounced soft money. Feingold's opponent did not: Feingold won anyway.

"I think the effect it would have would be a longer term effect, a more positive effect on other campaigns," Common Cause spokesman Matt Keller said. He said candidates in other states could then point to the Clinton-Lazio race and say, "They did it in New York, why can't we do it in Nebraska?"

 
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Friday, September 22, 2000


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