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Feingold appeals for 'common ground'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Democratic co-author of campaign finance reform legislation appealed Saturday for the two major parties to "find common ground on this issue" and pass legislation he helped write in order to restore American's faith in government.

This week, the Senate began debate on the role of money in the political system. Legislation crafted by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, and John McCain, R-Arizona, would outlaw "soft money" contributions to parties and "sham-issue" ads.

Unlike contributions to individual political candidates, contributions to parties are not regulated. "Soft money has compromised the integrity of the Congress for far too long," Feingold said Saturday in the Democrats' radio address.

"And our bill goes after those ads we see on TV that are clearly promoting or attacking a candidate, but avoid using certain words so they can get around current election law," he said. "These ads are just another way for wealthy interests to use a loophole in the law to influence elections and get their way on legislation."

Despite support from most Democrats and "a hardy group of Republicans who have broken with their leadership," passage of campaign finance reform is by no means assured.

President Bush has said he favors campaign finance reform, but not the McCain-Feingold bill.

He has expressed interest in a rival bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, that would cap, but not eliminate, soft money.

And Bush has supported a "paycheck protection amendment" that, if included in the final version of McCain-Feingold, is expected to erode Democratic support. Paycheck protection would require unions to get permission from members before using their dues for political activity.

"The road before us won't be easy -- real change never is," Feingold said. "But we have to find common ground on this issue. The way we finance campaigns today has a direct impact on your faith in government, and it has a real impact on people's lives. We need a government that stands up for all Americans, without regard to how much money they have."



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