10/01/97 - 11:42 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Group deplores GOP campaign receipts

WASHINGTON - Soft money donations to a GOP committee that raises funds for senatorial candidates have jumped under the chairmanship of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a watchdog group said Wednesday.

Common Cause said that since McConnell became chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee last January, soft money donations from big corporations and wealthy donors have reached $2 million. That is double the amount the committee raised in the first six months of the last election cycle, when Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., chaired the group.

The NRSC raised another $2.6 million in soft money through the Republican Senate-House Dinner Committee, bringing the committee's total soft money take for the first six months of 1997 to $4.7 million, 42% more than it raised in the first half of 1995, Common Cause said.

McConnell is leading the opposition to a bill endorsed by President Clinton that would do away with soft money - unregulated donations that both parties seek from corporations, wealthy donors and special interest groups.

"Senator McConnell's record-breaking soft money fund raising makes clear his opposition to campaign finance reform is not simply an innocent defense of the First Amendment," said Common Cause President Ann McBride.

Mike Russell, a spokesman for the GOP Senate campaign group, disputed Common Cause's figures, say the NRSC raised only $3.6 million from January through June. As of Sept. 30, the NRSC has raised $5 million in soft money, the same amount it raised through September of 1995, Russell said.

"Common Cause's efforts to demonize soft money is disingenuous at the least because that's how they fund themselves," said Russell.

Common Cause, which advocates tighter controls over political money, said it is supported by membership dues and donations from individuals. Spokesman Jeff Cronin said the group does not accept money from corporations, unions or foundations.

By The Associated Press

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