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President Bush signs campaign finance bill

Court challenge to law already filed

From Kelly Wallace
CNN White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Without any fanfare, U.S. President George W. Bush signed the campaign finance overhaul bill into law in the Oval Office Wednesday morning before heading off for fund-raising events in South Carolina and Georgia, the White House announced.

A court challenge was immediately filed by opponents.

A written statement from the president said: "Taken as a whole, this bill improves the current system of financing for federal campaigns and therefore I have signed it into law."


"The president believes the legislation, while far from perfect, will improve our current finance system," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.

As expected, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

McConnell's legal team, led by former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams, plans to argue that the new law violates the First Amendment's protection of free speech and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment because it restricts the political speech of political parties and interest groups, but not the news media.

Bush also has reservations

In his written statement, President Bush praised provisions in the measure that ban unions and corporations from making unregulated contributions to political parties and the provisions raising the decade-old limit on individual giving.

The Bush statement also says that while the bill goes "a long way toward fixing some of the most pressing problems in campaign finance," the measure also has flaws.

In particular, the president wrote that he continues to object to the ban on unlimited contributions by individuals to political parties in connection with federal elections.

"The president believes the individual freedom to participate in elections should be expanded, not diminished," Fleischer said.

He said the president also has reservations about the limitations on issue advertising. The bill bans unions and corporations from using "soft money" to broadcast what are known as "issue ads" that mention a federal candidate within 60 days of a general election and 30 days of a primary. Hard-money issue ads may run up to the election.

Fleischer said because of his concerns, Bush chose to sign the bill privately in the Oval Office as opposed to hosting a public signing ceremony at the White House.

Fleischer said it was the president's view that a South Lawn ceremony "would not have the aura of consistency...befitting with his beliefs in the bill in its totality."




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