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Local editorials

Actions louder than words

Campaign finance is being debated, but not all are walking their talk

Follow the money is one time-honored axiom when reporting on politics. When it comes to politicians regulating their own use of money, another is helpful: Watch what they do, not what they say.

House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, and Minority Leader Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, have announced a bipartisan plan to tighten the rules governing lawmakers' use of campaign cash for personal expenses. That's a good thing, and long overdue.

Campaign finance reform proposals have been introduced in the Senate as well, including one bill that would set up a Web-based system for campaigns to report their finances and for the public to examine them. That's also a good thing, and also long overdue.

So why are we still skeptical?

Because, even as these positive steps were reported, the governor and Senate Republicans said they planned to raise campaign money during the legislative session, something they had voluntarily refrained from doing since 2001.

A state law passed by voters after the Watergate scandal barred lawmakers and later statewide elected officials from accepting contributions during a session, but Attorney General Hardy Myers ruled it unconstitutional in 2001. The League of Women Voters then asked for voluntary compliance, and got it ' until now.

— Senate Republicans say they lost too much ground against the Democrats in the November election. Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he has a full-time job all year long, so he has less time to raise money, and he'll be careful not to take any from anyone with an interest in specific legislation.

Neither explanation cuts much ice with us.

Senate Democrats seized full control of the chamber without raising funds last session, so why can't the GOP?

The governor has a point, but he refrained from raising funds last session, and he's not up for re-election until 2006.

When it comes to ethics in government or any other arena, appearance is everything. When your need for campaign cash outweighs the risk that voters may assume your vote or your clout is for sale, you've conceded the high ground.

Both House caucuses and the Senate Democrats will continue to observe the no-fund raising rule this session. We applaud their commitment, and we hope the Senate Republicans and the Democratic governor figure out where they misplaced theirs.

Free prescriptions

There may be no free lunch, but if Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, is successful, there may be more free prescription drugs.

Bates, a physician, plans to introduce a bill in the state Legislature that would train volunteers to help low-income people meet the debilitating drug costs facing many of them, particularly the elderly and people with long-term illnesses.

Though most aren't aware of it, many pharmaceutical firms have been offering free drug programs for about 50 years. So why don't the needy just line up for free meds? Because the paperwork is a hassle.

We hope the bill is successful. The cost of medication has skyrocketed in recent years. Unless you have some pretty high-powered medical insurance, a major illness could break your personal bank.