Campaign Reform Gets a New Angel : Clinton's deprioritization of the issue leave a huge hole for Perot to fill

Bill Clinton is about to be decked by Ross Perot. Clinton's coalition consisted of his own Democratic voters and a crucial contingent of Perot voters who crossed over to vote for him. What those voters want, above all, is governmental reform. Clinton hasn't delivered it, and Perot is about to offer it, returning to political action later this month in a spectacular way.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives pointedly reintroduced three pieces of George Bush-vetoed legislation soon after Clinton's inauguration. H.R. 1 was the Family and Medical Leave Act. It passed and is now law. H.R. 2 is the "motor voter" legislation, providing for voter registration when a person applies for or renews a driver's license. It has survived Republican challenges and is expected to become law soon.

As for H.R. 3, the campaign finance reform bill, Clinton appears to have been cowed by congressional Democrats--notably House Speaker Thomas S. Foley--who were happy enough to support campaign reform when they knew they could count on a Republican President to veto it but are in full flight from it now. Clinton has handed campaign reform off to a very junior aide, and no one now expects that a bill will be passed in the first hundred days.

Republican claims to the contrary, the status quo favors incumbents, which means that, at the moment, it favors Democrats. The Democrats, no surprise, don't want the bluff of their past support for reform called until after the 1994 congressional elections, if then.

They're making a big mistake. It isn't just domestic money that has corrupted the American political process, it is also foreign money. Every major political contribution is a lobbying investment, and Ross Perot has been and will be brilliant at appealing to American patriotism against foreign lobbyists. The theme of his new campaign and the title of his new book: "Not for Sale at Any Price."

At the moment, President Clinton and Congressional Democrats are leading with their chins on this one. If they think Perot won't take a swing, it won't be long before they find out otherwise.

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