(CNSNews.com) - It appears that George W Bush is trying to steal some of John McCain's thunder going into tonight's South Carolina debate: On Tuesday, Bush announced a proposal to "reform" campaign fund-raising practices by banning corporate and union "soft money" donations and blocking lobbyists from contributing to lawmakers while Congress is in session.
"The next thing you know, he'll be moving to Arizona," McCain joked, after hearing about Bush's plan as he campaigned in South Carolina.
McCain - a US Senator from Arizona -- is a longtime advocate of overhauling the nation's campaign fund-raising laws, and he's made the issue the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. He wants a ban on all soft money contributions - the unlimited contributions given to political parties by corporations, unions and individuals.
Unlike McCain's plan, Bush said his own would preserve the right of advocacy groups to pay for so-called "issue ads" during political races.
Republicans insist those issue ads are essential in getting their message out. They complain that under McCain's bill, labor unions would be allowed to continue helping Democrats, while conservative advocacy groups would be muzzled. They blast McCain's plan as a violation of free speech guarantees.
In announcing his own fund-raising reform plan, Bush said candidates should be required to quickly disclose all donors on their Web sites, as he has done. And he said federal candidates should not be allowed to roll over money raised for one campaign into another campaign. (McCain is using Senate campaign funds in his race for president.)
"These are reforms that will make the system work better. These are real reforms. These are wholesale reforms," Bush told supporters during a campaign stop in Irmo, SC. He called them "reforms that respect individuals."