A Smart Move On Soft Money

Corporate America is taking the pledge. More companies are standing up and saying "no" to giving soft money to political parties. Tired of seeing cash diverted to distant campaigns and unknown candidates, companies are turning off the tap on this form of campaign finance. Angry at politicians for shaking them down in 1996, they are giving less for '98.

This is good news. And so is the decision by companies to switch their donations to issue-advocacy, aimed at selling ideas rather than candidates. With attack ads focusing on personalities and peccadilloes, serious discussion over issues is vanishing from elections. The electorate can only gain from a labor union-business community debate over free trade, the environment, entitlement reform, and other issues.

Of course, business opens itself up to the kind of attack leveled at labor in the last election if it produces issue-advertising. Populists of both parties will be especially critical of overt Big Business participation. But that is the price CEOs will have to pay. If Monsanto, General Motors, and others do a good job of presenting their case on important issues, it will be a price well worth paying.