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CLINTON WORDS VS. CLINTON DEEDS

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Will the real Bill Clinton please stand up?

Is it the Clinton who, during the 1992 election campaign, berated the Republicans for accepting so much "soft money" and promised to clean up this notorious loophole in the campaign finance laws?Or is it the Clinton who, after entering the Oval Office, has vigorously embraced the very practice he once deplored?

It isn't just Republicans and conservatives who want to know. Instead, the whistle is being blown by Common Cause, the liberal group that describes itself as a citizens' lobby.

This week Common Cause reported that Clinton and the Democratic National Committee have raised more than $40 million in "soft money," some of it from some of the same special interests that candidate Clinton criticized for contributing hefty checks to President Bush and the Republican National Committee. That's twice as much money as the GOP took in the same way.

"Soft money" is a way to circumvent federal laws that limit campaign contributions to $1,000 for individuals and bar corporate and labor union donations. To get around that rule, special interests contribute huge sums to the political parties, which can then spend the funds - known as "soft money" - to assist candidates.

In fairness, Clinton deserves credit for initiating some steps at reform, such as supporting measures on campaign finance reform and lobbying disclosure. But now he needs to match his deeds to his words. Americans have a right to expect their chief executive to lead by example, not just by precept.