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Legal bribes line the politicians' pockets

March 8, 2002 | Page 2

EVEN AS they solemnly debate "reforms" to the campaign finance system, leading members of Congress have a new scam for raking in even bigger bucks from Corporate America.

According to a study released last week by the watchdog group Public Citizen, corporations are using a little-known loophole to directly line the pockets of Washington's biggest operators.

Direct donations to politicians are limited under the law, but corporations get around this by making unlimited "soft-money" contributions. Usually, soft money goes to the two mainstream parties.

But politicians can set up their own organizations--known as "527 groups," after Section 527 of the federal government's tax code--to personally accept soft-money bribes.

Public Citizen researchers found that the 25 biggest 527 groups run by federal officeholders raked in more than $15.1 million in the year ending June 30, 2001, almost all of it from corporations.

Joan Claybrook, the president of Public Citizen, said that 527 groups are a "mechanism for legalized bribery. They allow corporations to put unlimited amounts of money directly into the pockets of members of Congress. This corporate investment is for one purpose only: to shape the laws that Congress votes on and ultimately approves."

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