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Big Money Keeps Rolling In

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 21) -- The big money just keeps rolling in. While both GOP nominee Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton call for campaign finance reform, the political parties they lead continue the most massive campaign money orgy in American history.

soft/party money

The latest reports filed at the Federal Election Commission show big upsurges. The Democratic National Committee has taken in nearly $176.8 million since January 1995, an increase of 147 percent from four years earlier.

The Republican National Committee has raised even more: $239.1 million, up 141 percent.

Those totals include an even faster rise in so-called "soft money" from corporations, labor unions and rich individuals. The DNC increased its soft-money intake by more than 270 percent, to $84 million. Nearly half the DNC's money is now soft money. RNC soft money increased 181 percent, to $87.2 million. That's more than one dollar in every three.

DNC donors

The biggest soft-money donor to the DNC in the last three months was the communications workers' union, which gave $400,000. Other big donors included Miramax Films, $232,000; Integrated Health, a Maryland home health-care company, $220,000, the letter carriers union, $200,000; and California computer executive Chong-Moon Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen, $150,000.

The most generous recent soft-money donor for the Republicans was Mariam Hayes, the mother of North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Robin Hayes. She gave $500,000. Other donors include General Motors and Donald Trump's casinos, which each gave $250,000, and Stephens, Inc., the investment banking house headquartered in Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas, which gave $100,000.

The soft-money explosion has become a campaign issue because of Democratic party aide John Huang, who raised millions from Asian Americans. The party suspended his fund-raising last week after several hundred thousand dollars were found to be illegal or questionable.

RNC donors

Dole now calls for reform, including outlawing all soft money. "Abolish all this soft money that goes to the Republican party, the Democratic party and sometimes other places," Dole said.

Both parties say they want to change the system. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), responding to Dole, said, "I agree with him. I'm a co-sponsor of the bill. I've been a sponsor of campaign finance reform for 20 years."

Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich even shook hands on it last year, but nothing came of that.

Instead, what followed that agreement to change the system was a record-setting race to exploit it. And we've not seen the end of it yet. The parties are still raising more soft money with two weeks to go before Election Day. What could happen next year is a major investigation, either by Congress or a special prosecutor.

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