Going Nowhere on Campaign Finance Reform

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: When Bill Clinton in his State of the Union address called on Congress to produce a campaign finance reform bill by July 4, it was the kind of statement that no one, perhaps not even the President himself, took very seriously. Not with both parties addicted to the big money needed to run modern campaigns and especially not with Republicans, who are far more successful at raising the soft money contributions that are the source of much of the abuses, in charge of Congress. Still, the President has remained curiously silent on the matter, barely mentioning it since the February speech until making reforms the subject of last Saturday's radio address: "Let's not let them get away with it. ... Congress has made little progress toward reform since that time, and it's clear that the legislation will not pass - will not even be voted on - by Independence Day." A few days later, Clinton attended fundraisers in New York and Boston that rounded up another $2.5 million in campaign contributions for Democrats. Meanwhile, a reform bill remains stalled in Congress with no real incentive to move it towards a vote. One could come out of Fred Thompson's Senate hearings on the campaign finance scandal that begins next Tuesday. The hearings will of course be partisan -- the committee will subpoena 442 Democratic targets and only 34 Republican targets. But just as no one could have predicted that the Watergate hearings would uncover the tapes that eventually sank the Nixon Presidency, these hearings could produce enough evidence that even Congress won't be able to ignore the calls for meaningful reform.