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Business group wants limits lifted on contributions

WASHINGTON - Staking a position opposite supporters of campaign reform, a business group said Tuesday that donors should be allowed to give more - not less - money to parties and candidates.

"We think the limits on donations have created most of the problems," said Charles Mack, president of the Business Industry Political Action Committee, which raises money for pro-business candidates and counsels companies on where to direct campaign donations.

Taking a stand that contrasts with proposals by President Clinton and lawmakers to curb political donations, the business group called on Congress to end restrictions on how much businesses, PACs and individual donors can give.

Under the business group's plan, corporations and unions - now banned from directly contributing to candidates - could legally give unlimited amounts to presidential aspirants and candidates for Congress.

The business organization proposed that all donations be disclosed promptly by the Federal Election Commission through the Internet.

Letting donors give unlimited contributions would clean up the system and close loopholes in campaign laws that make it difficult to trace how donations are spent and would allow parties and special-interest groups to spend massive amounts on ads supporting candidates, Mack said.

The system would be cleaner because if all donations were made public, candidates might think twice about accepting massive checks from special interests, he said.

"It will all be brought out into the open," Mack told a news conference.

Political money experts and advocates for more stringent controls over campaign spending gave the proposal an icy welcome.

"It would dramatically raise the potential for the type of quid pro quo abuses that are the basis for all concerns about campaign finance," said Anthony Corrado, associate professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Under laws put in place after the Watergate scandal, individual donors can give $2,000 per election cycle to single candidates and $20,000 a year to national party committees. PACs are allowed to give $10,000 every election to candidates and $15,000 a year to national party committees.

Corporations can't donate directly to candidates but are allowed to make "soft money" donations to national party committees, a type of contribution that is not limited by federal election laws.

By the Associated Press