WASHINGTON – Common Cause of Maryland will try to collect 32,000 signatures as part of a national effort to convince more than 1.7 million people to pressure Congress to pass a campaign reform bill.
“I think it’s a very ambitious goal,” Deborah Povich, executive director of the Maryland citizens’ lobbying group, said Wednesday.
The announcement of the petition effort followed a meeting Tuesday between President Clinton and congressional leaders, in which five legislative priorities were set for coming months. The list excluded campaign finance reform.
Povich said Common Cause of Maryland hopes to get most of its 8,000 members to sign the petition. And she wants to form coalitions with local branches of the League of Women Voters, the Reform Party, the Sierra Club and the Maryland Public Interest Research Group to solicit more signatures. Those groups sometimes include Common Cause flyers in their handouts.
On the national level, Campaign for America, a nonprofit campaign finance reform organization in Washington, will help Common Cause gather petitions.
By signing the petitions, citizens would agree that the bill cosponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D- Wisc., “provides the framework for effective campaign finance reform.”
Feingold said at Wednesday’s press conference that support from Clinton and the public are key to passing reform. Clinton had earlier said he supports the measure, urging passage of it by July 4.
“We’ve got the president engaged,” Feingold said. “This is about the drip, drip, drip of public pressure.”
The bill is expected to face strong opposition in Congress because many members don’t want to change a system that benefits them, McCain said.
“It is outside pressures that will cause this dam to break,” he said.
The McCain-Feingold bill, and a similar House version, would ban special-interest contributions and the use of mass mailings by incumbents during election years.
Both bills also would restrict soft money – the unregulated donations to political parties that are funneled into generic party-building activities – and bundling. Bundling occurs when employers collect donations from workers and hand them over to a candidate en masse, magnifying their impact.
The bills also would establish voluntary spending limits for candidates and limit contributions from foreign nationals – people from other countries who live in the United States and do not hold green cards. Other bills are pending in Congress to reform the way federal officials raise money for campaigns. -30-