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Campaign finance bill faces hurdle in House

The Senate's campaign finance bill is designed to curb the influence money has on politics and to give challengers a fairer chance at unseating incumbent lawmakers. Though it passed the Senate 60-38 last week, the bill still faces a tough road in the House.

The legislation limits the amount Senate candidates can spend on elections, bans political action committees and outlaws the use of taxpayer-provided "franked" mail by incumbents in election years.

Spending limits are pegged to a state's population. Senate candidates in Florida would be able to spend up to $5.3-billion. That's about $800,000 less than challenger Bob Graham spent to unseat Republican incumbent Paula Hawkins in 1986.

The spending limits wouldn't be mandatory, but candidates face a series of incentives to abide by them.

First, to stay within the rules, candidates would forced to raise 5 percent of their money from small givers _ collecting the money in $250 increments. Then, they would be permitted to make two discounted mailings to voters and buy broadcast ads at half-price.

If a candidate chooses to ignore the limits, he or she must pay a tax of 34 percent on all campaign money raised. Candidates who exceed the limits are not eligible for discounted advertisements or mailings.

In addition, the bill prohibits political action committees, lobbyists, trade associations, union officers and corporate officers from "bundling" multiple contributions for delivery to a candidate. The bill says they are banned from "directly or indirectly" arranging bundled contributions _ a broad definition that could limit many types of political fund-raising, said a lobbyist for Common Cause.

It also prohibits political parties from spending "soft money" _ money collected in large contributions not limited by federal law _ in connection with congressional or presidential elections.

_ Source: Congressional Quarterly.