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Special Event

Campaign Finance Reform Bill Sponsor Russ Feingold Speaks on Senate Floor

Aired March 19, 2001 - 2:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: It's campaign finance reform day in the Senate. Those passionately involved in reform are on the Senate floor making their case.

Here is Jeanne Meserve in Washington with more about that.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, the question is the role of money in the political process and whether that role should be changed. Right now, Russ Feingold, who is one of the sponsors of the McCain-Feingold legislation, which would ban soft money contributions, is speaking on the Senate floor. Let's listen to his speech.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. RUSSELL FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: ... open debate on campaign finance reform in many years. We are no longer limited to just a few days of speeches or parliamentary wrangling and a cloture vote or two.

Instead, we are going to have an open amending process, a vigorous debate and in the end, I think we can pass a bill that this body and the country can be proud of. We have a rare opportunity before us, Mr. President. We also face a great test.

The opportunity is clear. In the next few weeks, we can take a major step toward closing the loopholes that have really made a mockery of our campaign finance reform laws. We have the power to close these loopholes and we have the duty to close them.

The American people will be watching on this floor over the coming days and weeks. They want to know whether we can finally do what is right. Can we finally close the door on the soft money system that leaves us so vulnerable to the appearance of corruption? The senator from Kentucky was happy that so far in the debate the word corruption hadn't been mentioned.

Well, I'm sorry but the choice of the word corruption isn't my choice, it's the standard that the United States Supreme Court has said we have to deal with if we're going to legislate in this area. It's not John McCain's word. It's not my word. It is the word of the court.

The court said in Nixon versus Shrink Missouri Government PAC last year: "Buckley that the dangers of large, corrupt contributions and the suspicion that large contributions are corrupt are neither novel nor implausible. The opinion noted that the deeply disturbing examples surfacing after the 1972 election demonstrate that the problem of corruption is not an illusory one."

So, I'm sorry that the senator from Kentucky doesn't want us to talk about it, but the court says we can't do a bill about it unless we do talk about it. So, we're going to talk about it. We're going to talk about corruption, but more importantly what is more obvious and much more relevant. It's the appearance of corruption.

MESERVE: There are many amendments being proposed to McCain- Feingold. We don't have an exact number, but we do know that the first will be up for debate in about 45 minutes, sponsored by Senator Pete Domenici. It would be about leveling the playing field for candidates running against wealthy, self-financed candidates. And the debate continues.

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