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May 08, 2000 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2000-05-08

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4 - The Michigan Daily -

May 8, 2000

Edited and managed by GEOFF GAGNON PETER CUNNIFFE
students at the aEditor In Chief JOSH WICKERHAM
University of Michigan Editorial Page Editors
42leMsynardrwireenoted.uysigs deditorials reflect the opinion of the@
420 ayrd M St4e9 majority of the Daily's editorial hoard. All other articleslettersand
Ann abordMlt4810 cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

O ne of the largest emerging issues in
American politics today is the role that
campaign contributions play in the forma-
tion of federal policy Public attention to the
issue has been growing for several years, as
the amount of money being collected by
politicians and political parties from special
interest groups, companies and individuals
has continued to skyrocket. Attempts to leg-
islatively curtail this flood of money into our
political system have so far not been able to
pass Congress.
The most popular of the campaign
finance reform bills, the McCain-Feingold
bill, has twice passed the House and is sup-
ported by a majority of senators.
Unfortunately, the bill has been filibustered
every time it has been considered by the
Senate and has never been able to garner the
sixty votes necessary to overcome this pro-
cedural roadblock. The key component of
the McCain-Feingold bill is a ban on soft
money. Soft money, unlike strictly regulated
hard money, can be given to political parties
in unlimited amounts, but cannot be used to

Policy being sold to highest bidder

directly advocate a candidate's election or
defeat. However, the laws covering the use of
soft money have been loosely interpreted
and parties can do almost anything on behalf
of their candidates with soft money, short of
saying "vote for" or "don't vote for" in an ad.
Soft money is the principal reason for the
deluge of money into the American political
system and definitely deserves to be banned.
As problematic as soft money has become, it
is apparently only the tip of the iceberg.
Creative politicians have come up with an
even more egregious method of collecting
and spending campaign money known as
"527" groups, so named for the provision of
the tax code under which they are created.
These groups act as independent organiza-
tions in political campaigns, meaning they
can spend unlimited amounts on political

activity as long as they do not explicitly
advocate someone's election or defeat or
coordinate with a candidate's campaign.
Many of these groups have been set up by
politicians and parties, however, making
their ties to specific candidates unquestion-
able. These groups spend money, which they
can collect in unlimited amounts, on elec-
tions in the same way political parties spend
soft money. Unlike the parties however, 527
groups, which are often just front organiza-
tions for parties, don't have to report the
sources of their money or the quantity raised.
Being able to secretly collect unlimited
amounts of money from hidden donors holds
so much corrupting potential for our political
system that is difficult believe these groups
are legal.
When it was first coming into wide use,

soft money was decried as a device that
would allow the selling of national policy to
the highest bidder and turn candidates' atten-
tion from their constituents to their contribu-
tors.
While this has turned out to be true A
innumerable instances, even the excesses of
soft money will be put to shame by 527
groups. It is much easier to buy politicians
when it is legal to cover the money trail.
The appearance of 527 groups is only the
latest, and undoubtedly not the last, hole
found in, our campaign finance laws. It is
more clear than ever that campaign finance
reform is absolutely necessary. Ordinary cit-
izens, without hundreds of thousands or mil-
lions of dollars to give, are increasingly
being cut out of the policy making process i
favor of big givers. People need to realize
that their voice in their government is grow-
ing less and less important and demand cam-
paign finance reform.
Without it, the selling of policy to big
contributors will continue to make a mock-
ery of our democracy.

Affordable education
New proposals to benefit Michigan families
M ichigan parents may soon experience While the current trust is designed for
greater flexibility in financial prepara- Michigan public universities, increased flex-
tion for their children's college education. ibility would also allow money in these
Under a plan proposed by Sen. Mike Rogers accounts to be used at any college - public
(R-Brighton), parents could more easily save or private - as well as vocational traiining
money for their children's education, in addi- out of state. Those who opt to attend more
tion to greater flexibility in the usage of expensive private or out of state schools
these savings. As the cost of higher educa- would only receive an amount equal to the
tion continues to rise, the state Senate needs average tuition at Michigan schools. While
to ensure the plan's approval this week to aid this is a nice start, it may prove to be inade-
parents in providing adequate financial quate on its own. Families should be able to
resources for their college-bound children. send children to the college that is best suit-
Currently, many parents use a rigid sys- ed to their child's education needs, not just
tem called the Michigan Education Trust. the college that is within their budget.
More than 58,000 contracts have been pur- The new proposal would try to overcome
chased and over 10,000 students are now this financial limitation by allowing relatives
attending college under the plan. It is time and friends to contribute to a child's educa-
for proposed changes to be passed into law. tion. By doing so, the burden on young par-
At the center of Senator Rogers' propos- ents would be reduced, although further
al is a change to the education savings changes need to be implemented. With a bal-
account for Michigan. Savings accounts lot initiative spearheaded by Sen. Alma
would be free from state income tax. Federal Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Township)
taxes would be deferred until the money is attempting to bring additional aid to cash-
withdrawn. An added benefit gives parents strapped families to Michigan voters in
the option of opening a savings account with November, this may be in reach. Michigan
as little as $25. Under existing provisions, needs a plan that does not cater only to
these accounts require lump-sum payments wealthier families, but allows access to high-
of $5,000 per college year to guarantee four er education for all families.
years at a Michigan public school. To extend benefits to as many parents as
One of the most significant benefits of possible, voters should seriously consider
Senator Rogers' proposal is the degree of Sen Smith's proposal. Under her plan, she
flexibility it would allow with savings. proposes postponing a scheduled state
Currently, provisions limit the money saved income tax cut for five years so that the
in these accounts to tuition alone. Under the money can be invested toward tuition for
proposed plan, these accounts could be used children in families earning less than
to pay for room, board and books - an $100,000 or less than $50,000 in a single-
expensive, yet integral part of the college parent household. This plan makes sense for
experience. The money will also be transfer- Michigan families. With college tuition
able to other children or even parents seek- increases showing few signs of leveling off,
ing higher education in a step to make col- releaving financial impediments is the only
lege education flexible enough to accommo- way to provide the best college experience to
date many family situations. the most deserving students.

Guns on the run
Gun industry's hopes pinned on George W
W ith lawsuits from 31 cities and coun- tary of Housing and Urban Development,
ties across the country looming for Andrew M. Cuomo. This hope for Bush to
many of America's largest gun manufactur- end pressure on the industry could present
ers, settlement talks were ended abruptly grave consequences for the future of
on hopes that a presidential win for George actions that seek redress from gun manu-
W Bush could turn the tides in these cases. facturers. The end to these talks sends a
These suits, which generally claim that gun message that gun control initiatives wil*
manufacturers failed to incorporate face serious battles from an unyielding
enough safety features in handguns, as well gun industry, as well as groups interested
as making it too easy for criminals and in preventing any further gun control leg-
juveniles to get their hands on weapons islation.
through their distribution process, are local The National Rifle Association showed
initiatives to make the gun industry their arrogance this week when, according
accountable for its actions. The industry's to the Washington Post, their second-rank-
reliance on George W Bush is based on his ing officer told NRA members behind
record of gun industry support as Governor closed doors that if George W. Bush wins
of Texas, particularly a 1999 law making it the election, "we'll have... a preside*
difficult for local municipalities to sue gun where we work out of their office." They
makers. This dependence on preventative also feel the election is critical to maintain
lawmaking and support from a Supreme Court support of issues on the
Republican-controlled congress - and NRA's agenda. Because of their "close
possibly White House - sidesteps the ties" with Bush, the NRA is convinced
issues involved in these cases, setting gun that the right to own firearms will not be
control back for the foreseeable future. impinged in any way, despite public outcry
With growing public sentiment for for a reduction in the number of deaths
increased gun control, the gun industry is claimed to be caused by insufficient safe-
making an unfortunate gamble that should ty measures on the part of gun manufac-
not be allowed to hinder legislation and turers.
lawsuits addressing gun safety concerns. On Friday, George W Bush was askew
Before this week's announcement that about his support for the gun industry. He
the industry would end settlement talks, claimed that his record in Texas indicated
hopes weret high following a deal with his position. With legislation like the 1999
Smith & Wesson to change some of its Texas law favoring gun manufacturers over
manufacturing and marketing practices. It concerned citizens, it seems tjse gun indus-
was hoped that other companies might fol- try has placed bets on the right man for the
low suit, enacting changes that could save job. This only highlights the fact that their
lives and prevent guns from falling into the actions as a whole remain objectionable
wrong hands. and distant from those Americans coi
Now, however, the gun industry is cerned with gun safety. Settlement talk
counting on ending the Clinton adminis- should be continued, because gun safety
tration's push for a settlement, which is cannot be forced to the side at the hand of
coming through pressure from the secre- special interest groups or future profits.

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