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Breaking News

Clinton Addresses Media After Signing Campaign Finance Reform Bill

Aired July 1, 2000 - 10:28 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching breaking news from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Kyra Phillips. A bill placing financial restrictions on tax-exempt political groups is now law. The president signed the bill just a few minutes ago at the White House.

Let's listen in.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just a few moments ago, I signed into law the first new campaign finance restrictions in more than two decades.

This legislation closes a special interest loophole that allowed so-called 527 organizations to raise unlimited funds to influence elections without disclosing where the money came from or where it was going. Anonymous donors could simply pour millions of dollars into these efforts while keeping citizens in the dark.

Today's actions will stop special interests from using 527 status to hide their political spending behind a tax-exempt front group. It will help clean up the system by forcing organizations to come clean about their donors.

This is good news for the American people, and I want to commend Congress for passing this legislation with broad bipartisan support. Especially, of course, I want to thank Senator McCain, Senator Lieberman and Senator Feingold in the Senate, and Representatives Doggett and Houghton, who worked on this legislation in the House.

Let me give you an example of why this disclosure is important. We're fighting hard here for voluntary, dependable, affordable Medicare prescription drug coverage for all seniors and people with disabilities. Three in five Medicare beneficiaries don't have such coverage now and many seniors aren't getting the drugs they need.

Now, over the past few months, a so-called 527 group, calling itself Citizens for Better Medicare, has flooded the airways with negative ads against our plan. They spent tens of millions of dollars to mislead the public, confuse seniors, target members of Congress and distort the debate, all to the benefit of the drug companies.

The American people have no earthly idea who Citizens for Better Medicare is, who is paying for the ads. The bill I just signed lifts the curtain. It makes groups like this reveal the sources of all future funding.

Of course, in a case like this, the damage may already be done. The special interest money is already in the bank. The attack ads are already on the air.

So in the spirit of this law which I have signed, which clearly has broad bipartisan support, I think that Citizens for Better Medicare ought to respect the legislation, open their books and disclose the sources of the funds which have paid for these ads. Let the American people judge if this organization truly is for better Medicare.

This law will make a difference, but it's just a step, not a substitute, for comprehensive campaign finance reform. Again, I ask Congress to pass the bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators McCain and Feignold, and Representatives Shays and Meehan, to limit spending and soft money, and give candidates free or reduced-rate TV air time.

As we celebrate this first Independence Day of the 21st century, let's do more to strengthen our majority. I ask Congress to join the vice president and me to build on today's progress to put public interests over special interests and pass real campaign finance reform.

But let me say, this is a good day and this is a good law, and I thank everyone for voting for it. And I wish you a happy Fourth of July weekend.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do really...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What's your reaction to the Arkansas Supreme Court committee lawsuit?

CLINTON: I'm sorry, I've got to go back. I've got an important phone call and I can't delay it. Thank you.

PHILLIPS: You've been listening to President Clinton as he was addressing the media with regard to the signing of a campaign finance reform bill. The measure signals the first major changes to campaign financing in two decades. Organizations affected by the bill will be forced now to reveal who's paying for their cammpaign-style TV ads.

Congress approved the legislation on Thursday, President Clinton did sign the bill. It became law within the past hour.

We're getting ready now to turn to Kelly Wallace at the White House. She's preparing for additional information.

Once again, President Clinton just addressed the media, talking about the signing of a campaign finance reform bill. If you're not familiar with the bill, it does signal the first major changes to campaign finance within the last 20 years, and the organizations affected by the bill now will be forced to reveal who's paying for specific campaign-style TV ads.

We're going to go to a quick break, and we'll be back with more in a moment.

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