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Wednesday, October 11, 2000

High court could
negate campaign
spending limits

Bullet The issue: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether federal limits on the amount of money a political party can spend to help elect candidates violate the Constitution.
Bullet Our view: Eliminating the limits would destroy efforts to control campaign spending.

FEDERAL limits on expenditures for political campaigns could effectively be eliminated if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds an appellate court ruling in Colorado. The high court has agreed to rule later this year on whether political parties may spend unlimited amounts of money in coordination with candidates they support. Allowing such expenditures would turn political parties into funnels for individual candidates' campaigns and make a mockery of spending limits.

Political parties already are a favorite conduit for corporations and labor unions to provide "soft money," which may be used for advertisements and other campaign activities to support candidates without specifically urging people to vote for them. The Supreme Court ruled in 1996 that "hard money" -- used specifically to support candidates -- is acceptable if the candidates are not consulted about its use.

The Colorado Republican Party argues that party "hard money" expenditure limits -- $33,780 to elect a House candidate and a range of $135,120 to nearly $3.3 million for Senate candidates, in addition to limited direct party contributions to candidates -- infringe on First Amendment free-speech rights. "It is a uniquely severe burden to require political parties to separate themselves from their candidates as a condition of engaging in political speech during an election," the state party argued in legal papers.

The Colorado GOP won a round in 1996 when the Supreme Court ruled that the party did not coordinate expenditures on a television ad attacking a Democratic candidate, so the expenditures were not subject to federal limits. Four of the nine justices in that case suggested they would strike down such limits whether or not coordination existed.

The Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department argue that candidates would know the sources of "coordinated expenditures" and might feel beholden to individual party officials. "There is no reason to believe that such individuals are immune from corrupting temptations and self-interest of other persons," the government maintains in court papers.

Soft money has been at issue in Congress and the presidential campaign. That could become moot if the Supreme Court allows unlimited party expenditures of hard money in coordination with their candidates' campaigns. Eliminating limits on coordinated party expenditures would make a shambles of federal law intended to regulate campaign financing.

U.N. tribunal
must try Milosevic

Bullet The issue: Yugoslavia's new president has said he will play no role in delivering ousted dictator Slobodan Milosevic to an international tribunal in the Hague.
Bullet Our view: It may be appropriate that Milosevic stand trial first in Belgrade, but he eventually should be tried by the United Nations tribunal.

JUSTICE delayed should not be justice denied. Patience may be needed in bringing toppled Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic before an international war crimes tribunal to answer for atrocities committed by his regime. The people of Yugoslavia first want to try Milosevic for various crimes at home. For that, the rest of the world can wait, but not forever.

During the recent election campaign, Vojislav Kostunica said that, if elected, he would not cooperate in extraditing Milosevic to the Hague to stand trial before a United Nations tribunal for his troops' slaughter of civilians in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Upon assuming the presidency, Kostunica reiterated to Milosevic that he would play no role in turning him over to the tribunal, which he has described as an American court.

However, Kostunica pointedly has not ruled out allowing Milosevic to stand trial in Belgrade. He reportedly told Milosevic that he had no authority to grant him immunity from charges he could face in a Serbian court. A growing consensus of Serbs believes Milosevic should face charges of war crimes and official corruption. Milosevic enriched his family and cronies while most of his country's citizens fought poverty. He allegedly spirited millions of dollars into bank accounts across Europe and Asia.

Kostunica's distrust of the Hague court reflects many Serbs' resentment that leading Croat, Bosnian Muslim and ethnic Albanian separatists have gone unindicted for what they believe were war crimes against Serbs. They don't believe a Serb can get a fair trial at the Hague.

That may change after Milosevic is tried at home, said Vojin Dimitrijevic, director of the Belgrade Center for Human Rights. In the same way, he said, the delay in arresting Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic -- believed to be hiding in Bosnia -- may have been wise. "If arrested immediately, he would have been a hero," said Dimitrijevic. "Now he is a small former politician, moving around."

Evidence to be presented at a trial in Belgrade may demonstrate to Serbs the justification for bringing Milosevic before the international tribunal in Hague. The United Nations should not allow justice to go unserved out of courtesy to Yugoslavia's new president.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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