White House Vague, Shadegg Clear on Loopholes

While conservative Rep. and House Republican Leader hopeful John Shadegg (Ariz.) is very clear about closing the loopholes in campaign finance laws and imposing the same limits on Indian tribes as other contributors to federal candidates, the Bush Administration is not.

When I joined other reporters to interview Shadegg at the Republican Study Committee retreat in Baltimore January 30th, I cited the cover story in HUMAN EVENTS by Amanda Carpenter pointing out that campaign aggregate limits of $37,500 for individuals to donate to candidates and $57,500 to donate to political action committees and national party committees to do not apply to Indian tribes. The reason, as Carpenter’s story pointed out, was an exemption in the McCain-Feingold campaign regulation law put in by its co-author, Sen. John McCain. (The Arizona Republican freely admitted this to Carpenter).

So what does McCain’s fellow Arizonan Shadegg think of this? "The rules ought to be the same and we should not have different rules for different contributors," he told me without hesitation.

But the White House won’t make the same commitment on applying limits and disclosure rules to Indian tribes, whose involvement in contributing to Members of Congress of both parties have been highlighted in the recent Capitol Hill scandal involving former "superlobbyist" Jack Abramoff. At the White House press briefing January 27th, three days before questioning Shadegg, I asked if the Administration supported amending the laws to make the same rules apply to the tribes as to other contributors to federal candidates. Press Secretary Scott McClellan would only say that the President has "signed some common-sense reforms into law [McCain-Feingold, which included the exemption for tribes] because he believed they helped the system" and "we want to continue working with Congress as they look at reforms that they may want to pursue as well."

On the Tuesday (February 1st) after my session with Shadegg, I read his response to McClellan and asked whether the Administration agreed with him that the rules for campaign donors ought to be the same. "I have nothing further to add to what I said [at the previous briefing]," snapped the President’s top spokesman.