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AllPolitics E-Wire -- September 29, 1997

A weekly briefing on U.S. politics:

This Week In Congress

Senators began arguing about campaign finance reform last week, with Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) opening the debate Friday. This week, the chamber will look specifically at campaign-finance overhaul legislation, authored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), whose centerpiece is a ban on so-called "soft-money" donations. Though President Bill Clinton and all Senate Democrats support the bill, all but four Republicans in the Senate oppose it. Eleven more Republicans must come out in support of the bill to override a promised filibuster by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who could kill any chances for a vote.

Fund-Raising Hearings Wrap

The Senate's campaign fund-raising hearings took off in a new direction, as their focus shifted from legal violations to soft money and campaign-finance reform proposals. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will reconvene Tuesday at 10 a.m. EDT, and will hear from former Democratic Vice President Walter F. Mondale and former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R-Kan).

Meanwhile, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's fund-raising hearings took steps towards getting back on track last week, after Democrats on the investigating panel joined Republicans to approve immunity for three lead-off witnesses.

Check our our fund-raising hearings special report at http://allpolitics.com/gaveltogavel

The 'Little Rock Nine'

President Bill Clinton traveled home last week to mark the 40th anniversary of the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. In his speech, Clinton honored the "Little Rock Nine." They're the nine black students who had to be escorted into the school by armed paratroopers 40 years ago, but Thursday they walked through doors held open by the president. Three months after kicking off his year-long dialogue on race, Clinton also used the civil-rights milestone to try to reinvigorate efforts to bridge the racial divide in America.

Over the weekend, the president attended his high school reunion in Hot Springs, Ark., where he was feted as a "hometown hero."

Read the full story at http://allpolitics.com/1997/09/25/clinton.littlerock/

Auditing The IRS

The Senate Finance Committee held oversight hearings on the Internal Revenue Service last week, with a parade of taxpayers along with past and present employees telling nightmarish stories of a tax agency out of control. Acknowledging "dysfunctional" practices at his agency, Acting IRS Commissioner Michael P. Dolan, appearing on the final day of testimony, promised swift action on all taxpayer grievances. He also said laws banning collection quotas would be strictly enforced.

Read the full story at http://allpolitics.com/1997/09/25/irs.hearings/

Decision Day

This Friday is the deadline for Attorney General Janet Reno to decide whether to expand her department's probe of Vice President Al Gore's fund-raising activities by launching a 90-day FBI investigation, the next step toward the possible naming of an independent counsel. With the clock ticking toward decision day, Justice Department lawyers are still involved in an intense debate over some critical legal questions about the 114-year-old law that bars fund-raising on federal property, including whether the president and the vice president are exempt from the law.

Poll Numbers

Most Americans want campaign-finance reforms passed by the end of the year, and the public has more confidence in Republicans in Congress than in President Bill Clinton when it comes to making those reforms, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. But the country thinks neither Clinton nor the Republicans are genuinely committed to campaign-finance reform. The public also continues to favor the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the Democratic Party's 1996 fund-raising activities.

How do they feel about the two principal targets of a possible independent counsel -- Clinton and Vice President Al Gore? Clinton's standing with the public remains high. Six in ten have a favorable view of him, essentially unchanged from June. Gore's favorable rating, however, has slowly eroded from 57 percent in June to its current level, 51 percent. This survey of 1,006 adult Americans was conducted September 26-28, 1997 and has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Read the full story at http://allpolitics.com/1997/09/29/poll/

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