Clinton asks FCC for help

Says regulatory agencies only means of reforming campaign law

WASHINGTON — If there was ever any doubt, President Clinton has made it clear that he wants to use the FCC to bypass Congress when it comes to the White House-backed proposal for broadcasters to give free airtime to political candidates.

In a letter Friday to Federal Communications Commission chairman William Kennard, Clinton wrote that it is particularly important for the agency to act on the FCC airtime proposal, now that campaign finance reform efforts were defeated in Congress.

“Yesterday’s defeat means that it will be virtually impossible for the Congress to move forward on campaign finance reform,” wrote Clinton. “The most realistic next steps for reform will come from the actions of regulatory agencies, acting within their legal authority, to renew our democracy.”

Clinton’s letter to Kennard also said that “Congress should not make matters worse by actively blocking your progress.” Of course, that will not deter Congress from setting up its own roadblock.

The White House, along with some in Congress, wants to force broadcasters to give a chunk of free airtime to political candidates, mainly to help with the soaring cost of campaigns.

At a meeting Monday with broadcasters gathered in Washington, an aide to Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the senator will proceed with his plan to introduce legislation that would bar the FCC from enacting the proposal.

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