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Bill Would Reform Campaign Reform

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) said Wednesday that he plans to introduce legislation that would restore the right of unions and corporations to pay for campaign ads.

His bill would target a provision of the 2002 campaign finance reform law. The law, upheld in 2003 by the Supreme Court, bars unions and companies from sponsoring broadcast ads that mention federal candidates within a month of a primary election and within two months of a general election.

Bartlett, who sponsored similar legislation last year, said the ban is a clear violation of the Constitution's free speech protections. “The speech our founding fathers were most concerned with protecting is political speech,” he said. “”Wouldn’t that be the speech we are grossly violating here? We’re totally removing individuals’ ability to criticize their government.”

Bartlett said he opposes all of the 2002 campaign finance reforms, but believes Congress won’t overturn the entire law. “This is the place to start,” Bartlett said.

Provisions he’s not attacking now include a ban on unlimited "soft money” donations to political parties. Bartlett says he has almost 40 co-sponsors and predicts he can get at least 60 more.

Bartlett’s bill was endorsed by both the ACLU and the National Rifle Association.

Bartlett’s legislative bid gets under way as campaign reform proponent Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gears up an effort to toughen campaign laws even further.

McCain wants to outlaw campaign ads by the non-profit “527” groups that flooded the 2004 presidential election with attack ads.

McCain says the groups exploited a loophole in his law.