WASHINGTON — President Bush said today that he will work with Congress on a pay raise for members and top federal officials, and will propose new restrictions on political action committees that contribute to federal campaigns.
A fact sheet distributed by the White House said Bush would "work with Congress on the development of details" for a pay increase, a move members rejected earlier this year amid public outrage.
It also said he will send Congress separate legislation seeking to ban the honoraria they earn for outside speaking engagements.
Campaign finance reform was the focus of Bush's speech today before a group of congressional interns.
The White House said his proposals were designed to lessen the power of special interests in politics. However, several would have the effect of harming Democrats the most because they are the majority party in Congress and control most statehouses, which have the power to draw political district lines.
Bush's proposals would:
--Abolish political action committees connected to corporations, unions or trade groups, while allowing so-called ideological PACs that operate independently of any such organization.
--Reduce the per-candidate contribution limit for the remaining PACs from $5,000 to $2,500.
--More than double the amount of money political parties are allowed to give to each congressional candidate. For Senate races, the amount now ranges from $92,000 to about $1.5 million, depending on state population.
--Ban carrying over campaign funds from one election to the next. That would require congressional candidates to return leftover funds to the contributors or give the money to political parties or the government.
--Curtail gerrymandering methods of drawing political district lines to benefit one political party or group over another. The districts would have to be drawn according to geographical and community boundaries, said a senior Administration official, who acknowledged that litigation would be the only way to enforce such laws.
--Require full disclosure of so-called "soft money" contributions to political parties. Soft money refers generally to corporate and labor donations barred in federal campaigns. Such money often takes a back channel path into federal campaigns when the funds are contributed to political parties, which then help the candidates.
--Require disclosure by unions, corporations and trade associations of any money they spend for election activity, such as voter registration drives.
--Restrict franking privileges, which allow members of Congress to send mail to their constituents free. Blanket constituency mailings, such as the current practice of sending newsletters, would be banned.
A group of GOP congressional leaders discussed the proposals with Bush at the White House today and later praised him for taking a leadership role on the issue.