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Bush Signs Campaign Finance Reform Law - 2002-03-27


President Bush has signed a new law changing the way Americans give money to political campaigns. Mr. Bush does not agree with all of the new rules, but says the plan, as a whole, improves the way campaigns are financed.

The new law raises the amount of money individuals can give candidates while strengthening rules governing the disclosure of who is giving how much to political campaigns. It also stops unions and corporations from making unregulated, so-called "soft money", contributions to political parties.

In a break from the tradition of signing major bills at ceremonies surrounded by the legislation's sponsors, Mr. Bush signed this law with only the vice president and a few aides in the Oval Office. He then left on a fundraising tour where he will raise more than $3 million for Republican candidates.

The president had called for the fundraising restrictions to take effect immediately. But since legislators decided the law would only apply after November's Congressional elections, Mr. Bush says there is nothing wrong with him taking advantage of the rules as they are today.

"I am not going to lay down my arms," he said. "I am going to participate in the rules of the system. These Senate races are very important for me. I want the Republicans to take control of the Senate and I want Denny Hastert to be Speaker of the House. And these are the rules. That is why I am going to campaign for like-minded people."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says they decided against a big ceremony because there are parts of the law the president believes are flawed and will be decided in court.

For example, Mr. Bush opposes limits on contributions to political parties for federal elections. He also objects to a broad ban on issue advertising, where special interest groups run commercials for or against candidates who support or oppose their position.

The president says he would have preferred a bill further restricting labor union and corporate contributions because individual union members or shareholders might not want their money supporting certain candidates.

Even with those flaws, the president says he signed the bill because it is better than the way the system is now.

"It enables an individual to give more money, and what I want to do is have a system that encourages more individual participation as well as more disclosure," he said. "I have always been concerned about a system where money is given to entities and stakeholders have no say. So I was concerned about how shareholders of corporate America not having a say as well as labor union members not have a say about how their money is being spent. This bill improves the system."

After fundraisers for Republican Senate candidates in the southern states of Georgia and South Carolina, Mr. Bush leaves for his Texas ranch where he will spend the Easter holiday.

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