TIME: The Wake-Up Call (2/3/97)
What's Legal And Not In Non-U.S. Citizen Donations
Though Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole proposed campaign reform during his campaign, his proposal was never drafted as a bill, and, in fact, there is no major alternative legislative vehicle for campaign reform to McCain-Feingold. A number of voices (mostly Republican) are turning conventional wisdom on its head, saying that political campaigns don't cost too much but, in fact, are under-funded.
"We need a very profound overhaul of our political system," House Speaker Newt Gingrich testified before the House oversight Committee on Nov. 2, 1995. While he and other Republicans have signaled they would agree to limit PAC donations to $1,000, Gingrich maintains that "the political process, in fact, is not over-funded, but under-funded."
Gingrich and others reject the notion of spending limits, and propose raising the $1,000 limit on individual giving to $5,000 while requiring full disclosure for all donations. Such a reform, backers contend, would alleviate some of the pressure of fund-raising and allow candidates to communicate with the voters. They further point out that the $1,000 donation limit has been in place since 1974 with no allowance for inflation.
Cato Institute president Edward H. Crane, a leading voice against spending and contribution limits, also argued before congressional lawmakers that, "Money can only get a candidate's message out. There is no guarantee that people will like what they hear." Crane and others contend that spending limits amount to restrictions on individuals' First Amendment freedom of speech rights.
Advocates of higher contribution limits also point out that two of the highest spending Senate hopefuls in 1994 -- Republican Michael Huffington who spent $28 million of his own funds, and Republican Oliver North who raised and spent $21 million -- both lost. Some suggest North and Huffington may have lost, in part, because voters got to know the candidates well and weren't impressed.
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