Remarks on Signing Campaign Finance Disclosure Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Good morning. 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 hard 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 airwaves 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 Feingold and Representatives Shays and Meehan, to limit spending, end 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 interest 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.
Arkansas Supreme Court
Q. Mr. President, what is your reaction to the Arkansas Supreme Court?
The President. I'm sorry, but I've got to go back; I've got an important phone call, and I can't delay it.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:30 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House prior to his departure for Camp David, MD. H.R. 4762, To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require 527 organizations to disclose their political activities, approved July 1, was assigned Public Law No. 106-230.
William J. Clinton, Remarks on Signing Campaign Finance Disclosure Legislation and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/228646