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Seeking Momentum, Campaign Reform Advocates Gather Signatures

The goal is public pressure from beyond the Beltway

mccain

BOSTON (AllPolitics, March 26) -- Seeking a symbolic 1,776,000 signatures by July 4th, campaign finance reform advocates have kicked off a petition drive aimed at reducing the role of big money in U.S. politics.

At a rally outside historic Faneuil Hall, leaders of a group called "Project Independence" said they realize Congress is unlikely to reform itself without citizen pressure from outside of Washington, D.C. It was the first stop in a grassroots road trip, beyond the clubby confines of Capitol Hill.

"We know that campaign finance reform is not going to be won in Washington," said Ann McBride, president of Common Cause. "It's only going to be won here in Boston and New York and Louisiana and California, where millions of citizens join together to change the system."

The stars of Tuesday's rally were U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), co-sponsors of legislation that would ban large and unregulated "soft money" donations to the parties, halt political action committee donations to candidates and provide free or reduced rate TV time to candidates who voluntarily limit their spending.

feingold

The chairman of "Project Independence" is Bill Bradley, the former Democratic senator from New Jersey. The group claims 7,500 volunteers nationwide, working on the petition drive.

By all accounts, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance measure faces an uphill battle, both in Congress and the courts. Its opponents say it would restrict free speech rights, by limiting people's ability to contribute to the candidates of their choice.

But scandals often drive reforms, and the residue of last year's big money presidential campaign and the investigations underway, could boost the legislation. President Bill Clinton has promised to sign McCain-Feingold if it reaches his desk, and is encouraging the Federal Election Commission to ban soft money unilaterally.

The road show moves to Philadelphia today.


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