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Home Stretch for Reform?

Advocates hoping to reform the nation's campaign-finance laws are expressing greater confidence that they can obtain the necessary number of signatures to force a fair hearing of their much-needed legislation in the US House of Representatives.

Now it's time for those members of the House who've previously endorsed reform to take hold of their courage, step up, and hold themselves accountable.

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According to the bill's cosponsor, Rep. Chris Shays (R) of Connecticut, just 11 more signatures are needed so the Shays/Meehan bill can be brought to the floor, bypassing the GOP leadership. At present, the petition to accomplish that has been signed by 191 Democrats and 16 Republicans. Mr. Shays expects to get the remaining needed signatures by the end of this month.

A fair and open debate, along with a straight up-and-down vote, is the very reasonable request made by supporters of reform to their colleagues on both sides of the aisle. After all, the House has passed campaign-finance reform legislation in the past, but that was before the Senate passed the McCain/Feingold reform bill in April.

Increasingly, the country's political processes are being eroded by the influence obtained through ever-larger contributions of "soft" money (the unregulated, unlimited amounts of money that can be given to the campaigns of individual candidates through the political parties).

In the first six months of 1997, $34 million in soft money was raised by the two major parties. According to Shays, that amount has risen astronomically, to $98.9 million the first half of this year - an alarming 289 percent increase. Is there no end in sight?

Members of Congress ought to responsibly take hold of this important issue. It's past time to reduce the proven corrupting influence of money in politics.