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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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Campaign finance riders corrupt useful bills

No government official wants to be associated with the type of politicking that lead to the Enron debacle, where the large corporation essentially bought its way – donating to nearly every politician’s campaign – around regulations designed to prevent the chain of events that eventually led to its destruction. It was the fear of looking bad in the aftermath of this calamity that helped the McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meeham campaign finance reform bill pass – if just barely – through Congress.

However, now politicians are taking another shot at keeping alive the so-called soft money, which the campaign finance reform bill seeks to minimize, given to politicians’ campaigns and often associated with scandals like Enron. But those who would most miss the millions of dollars soft money brings to their campaigns are threatening to clandestinely tack riders onto other bills whose original design and effect are desirable for Americans.

Take, for instance, the widely praised tax bill, known as the Tax Payer Protection and IRS Accountability Act, that just last Friday was struck down because a non-related provision was added to it that would have allowed soft money contributions to nonprofit political organizations go unregulated. Currently these organizations must file with the IRS their records of contributors. These organizations, known as 527s for their tax code, often are behind the TV commercials that unscrupulously attack a candidate just days before an election. The New York Times reported on one such group, Republicans for Clean Air. The group ran advertisements critical of John McCain in the days preceding the Super Tuesday primaries where President George W. Bush defeated him. A Texas businessman established the group as a 527. He was a big contributor to the Bush campaign. Americans will be worse off for losing bills like the tax bill due to these subversive attempts by politicians to re-establish soft money. The tax bill heavily favored taxpayers and would have allowed the government to waive fees for people who unintentionally make minor changes in their taxes. Also, if the IRS mistakenly sent refund checks, the receivers would have been less liable for the interest and penalties they are currently subjected to.

Yet, despite these favorable proposed changes, the bill was voted down 219-205 due to the soft money rider. “Have no illusions about what’s going to be attempted in the United States House of Representatives,” said Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz., according to The New York Times. “It will be one of the first of many, many attempts to water down campaign finance reform, so that huge amounts of soft money can get back into American political campaigns.”

Politicians disagree. That is a central function of their job. But they need to resolve these differences openly. Their clandestine attempts to outwit each other are negatively affecting Americans and should be stopped.

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