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E-mail From Washington

From: Eileen O'Connor/CNN
In: Washington, D.C.
Posted: 6-4-97

Subject: President Clinton To Ask The FEC To Ban Soft Money

The White House confirms that President Bill Clinton will send a letter to the Federal Election Commission petitioning the agency to outlaw the large contributions from wealthy donors, corporations and labor unions known as soft money. The timing will be in the "next day or two."

Large donations from these organizations were allowed under federal guidelines set forth by the FEC, but only if given to the Republican and Democratic party committees for "party-building" purposes. But the interpretation of "party-building activities" has been stretched to include massive television advertising and other activities that have directly helped elect specific candidates.

Soft money is at the core of the accusations over improper campaign finance, as it may have been used to shield donations from non-U.S. citizens, which are illegal.

During the 1995-96 election cycle, the two parties collectively raised $262 million in soft money.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) calls the President's move partisan, because it does not address expenditures by labor, which largely benefit Democrats.

The White House says it has been in constant touch with Congress and held off from sending this petition a couple of months ago, at McCain's request.

Aides say when there was no movement on the campaign finance legislation sponsored by McCain and his colleague, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the White House decided to act.

Clinton had pushed Congress for campaign finance reform by July 4th. The White House insists this is not meant to substitute for the McCain-Feingold legislation, but is meant as a supplement and as a "prod."

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