In the Spotlight

News & Features

Coleman calls for campaign finance limits in Senate race
By Brandt Williams
Minnesota Public Radio
March 20, 2002

While U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone was hailing the passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill in the Senate, his main rival challenged him to abide by some aspects of the bill before it takes effect. And Republican Norm Coleman is asking Wellstone to go beyond McCain-Feingold by not accepting contributions from sources outside the state. Coleman says the idea is to make this fall's Senate race a 'Minnesota election.' However, Wellstone's campaign says it doesn't see this as a serious proposal.

he centerpiece of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill is its ban on unregulated "soft money" donations, contributions that corporations, unions and individuals give to the national political parties.

Senate candidate Norm Coleman says he supports this part of the bill. However, the legislation won't go into effect until after the November election. Coleman says he wants to start the reform process now.

The race is one of the most hotly contested in the nation. Even the White House has gotten involved, with President Bush recently making a fundraising trip to Minnesota on behalf of Coleman. Both candidates have also received significant amounts of cash from outside the state. But even though such a restriction isn't a feature of McCain-Feingold, Coleman says he and Wellstone should now reject out-of-state money.

"I can't change where we've been yesterday," Coleman said, "but we can say starting from now that we reach agreement on this and that simply now we look forward and by looking forward ensure that only Minnesotans and only companies headquartered in Minnesota and individuals in Minnesota, that they're the ones who decide who the next senator should be."

Coleman says his proposal is not meant to try to equalize the amounts of money raised by the two candidates.

"It would probably change the overall amount of money they both have and I don't think that necessarily favors either person. "

- Chris Gilbert, political scientist

Wellstone supports the McCain-Feingold bill and amended the bill with a provision that bans political issue advertisements paid for by groups not directly affiliated with the campaigns.

Wellstone at first said he'd consider Coleman's proposal, but his campaign later issued a statement all but rejecting it, saying it contained loopholes that benefited Coleman.

"I'll look at the specifics of his proposal," Wellstone said. But to me the more debates we have and the more we can do - the grassroots politics - the more I like it. But I must say as I look at the kind of money pouring into the state from these outside groups and organizations, I'm skeptical."

Chris Gilbert, a political science professor at Gustavus Adolphus College, says he doesn't know if a ban on all money from outside Minnesota would give Coleman an advantage over Wellstone. However, he says it would put a crimp in their coffers.

"It would probably change the overall amount of money they both have and I don't think that necessarily favors either person. I think it really comes down to how well they can sell their ideas and their ability to function effectively in the Senate to the voters of Minnesota and we're just going to have to wait and see how that plays out," according to Gilbert.

Coleman said his plan would only go into effect if Wellstone agrees to it.

More from MPR
  • Campaign 2002