WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson says the independence of the American political system rides on whether Congress passes a bill limiting how much corporations can give to a politician's campaign.
In the Democratic radio address aired Saturday, Johnson said corporate money and the influence it sometimes purchases are corrupting the public's faith in government.
``All too often, we read and hear stories about how powerful interests use large campaign contributions to win a special tax break, influence the course of legislation,'' said Johnson, of South Dakota. ``Or how a wealthy political contributor was the beneficiary of special legislation or special treatment from the White House.''
Johnson said the issue of corporate money is now attached to almost every debate in Congress.
``It's getting so that it is difficult to debate almost any issue in Congress without one side accusing the other of being unduly influenced by the power of large, unregulated soft money contributions,'' he said.
A final vote on the bill, which would bring about the most significant changes in a quarter-century in how campaigns are financed, could come as early as Wednesday. Passage would send it to President Bush, who has indicated he would sign it.
The bill, introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., bans the hundreds of millions of dollars that corporations, unions and individuals give to the national political parties in unregulated ``soft money.'' It also restricts in the final days before an election the ``issue ads'' that often indirectly attack candidates.
Opponents say the restrictions on contributions violate First Amendment free speech rights.
Johnson said the greater threat is to political integrity.
``Uncontrolled soft money campaign expenditures are destroying the integrity of our American political system,'' Johnson said. ``Our American democracy is in danger of being sold to the highest bidder.''