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Bradley: Eliminate Soft Money

Presidential hopeful Bill Bradley proposed major changes to the campaign finance system Thursday.

He also issued a challenge that if he is the Democratic nominee, he will invite his Republican opponent to instruct the political parties not to raise soft money.

Speaking to the National Press Club, Bradley's proposal includes the following points:

  • Public financing of congressional elections.
  • A ban on soft money contributions.
  • Free broadcast time for federal candidates.
  • Same day voter registration.
"Our goal should be to make money much less important, and make ideas, character and experience count for much more," he said.

Bradley alleged that presidential hopefuls Al Gore and George W. Bush have said they support changing the soft money system, in which large, unregulated contributions to the parties, made primarily by unions and corporations, indirectly help candidates.

He said, however, "both reportedly have directed their top fund-raisers to begin raising soft money [for] the general election."

Responding to questions, the former New Jersey senator also said he would not run as Vice President Gore's running mate if asked.

In response to criticism that he's milking the system he's criticizing, Bradley countered, "The way we're raising money in this campaign is part of what's right, not what's wrong."

"Democracy doesn't have to be a commodity that is bought and sold....Nothing breaks down trust in democracy as powerfully and surely as money," he added.

Bradley quoted from a term paper he wrote in high school about the 1896 presidential race, in which John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company gave William McKinley $250,000 to win the White House. Such big money "is like a great stone wall that comes between the people and their representatives," Bradley said.

"In doing that paper, I sensed that money was to politics as acid is to cloth - eating away at the fabric of democracy."

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