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House Passes Campaign Finance Reform Bill, Religious Groups Split on Issue

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a campaign finance reform bill early Thursday morning intended to curb the influence of special interest groups. The vote was 240 to 189, split largely along party lines. Forty-one Republicans voted for the bill, while 12 Democrats opposed it.

The bill was sponsored by Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Martin T. Meehan, D-Mass., and is referred to as the Shays-Meehan bill.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Prior to the vote, a coalition of religious groups sent a letter to members of the House, supporting the bill.
“Campaign finance reform is an issue with significant moral implications. As sure as apathy, cynicism and mistrust work against religious principles, so are they enemies of a healthy democracy. The current system of campaign financing feeds these negative forces,” read the Feb. 11 letter. “The soft money regime makes a mockery of current contribution limits.”
The public policy offices of Mennonite Central Committee, Presbyterian Church <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />USA and the United Methodist Church were among the organizations that signed the letter. The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism led the coalition.
On the other side of the aisle, the Christian Coalition worked against the bill’s passage. In a Feb. 12 action alert, the Coalition targeted 22 congressional Republicans, who were thought to be potential bill supporters. The Coalition urged its members to help these congressmen “make up their minds to oppose” the bill.
EthicsDaily.com’s analysis found that of those targeted by the Christian Coalition, 14 voted against the bill and 8 voted for it.
The National Right to Life Committee also lobbied against Shays-Meehan, expressing its strong opposition to the legislation. Its Feb. 7 letter to Congress said the bill “contains restrictions that would greatly impair the rights of the National Right to Life Committee.”
AgapePress ran a Feb. 13 article, in which a conservative activist called the bill “one of the most tyrannically poisonous bills to come down the pike in a long time.” The article encouraged Americans to call on their congressional members to oppose the bill.
AgapePress describes itself as a news service which “focuses on issues that have moral, social, and political implications, and is written from a Christian perspective you cannot find in the secular world.” Its news feed appears on the Web sites of the Christian Coalition, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Jerry Falwell and American Family Association.
The Shays-Meehan bill will now go to the U.S. Senate for consideration.