For decades, campaign finance reform has been viewed as a well-intentioned but politically unachievable goal on Capitol Hill. Pressure from lobbyists and the self-interest of politicians had long represented an insurmountable roadblock. Special-interest groups and “soft money” seem to have been what made the wheels of Washington turn. The passage of the Shays–Meehan Campaign Finance Reform bill in the House of Representatives on February 14 with a vote of 240 to 189 was largely due to the soft-spoken and reasoned persistence of our representative Christopher Shays. This approval in the House set the stage for final passage by the Senate over well-entrenched Republican opposition.
Republican Shays is well known for breaking ranks with his party leadership on issues he strongly believes in. His party, including Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, did not agree with the Shays–Meehan bill and did everything they could to stop it, including introducing a “poison pill amendment” that would have exempted gun-rights groups from the bill’s limits on paid “issues advertising” (ads that appear to cover issues, but attack other candidates).