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Crucial Week for Campaign Finance Reform

Aired February 11, 2002 - 17:30   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington. As we begin a crucial week for campaign finance reform, I'll ask a leading advocate and a top opponent where the head-counting stands.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kate Snow on Capitol Hill. If the bill becomes law, is soft money gone from politics? Some warn the parties will still find a way to get around the rules.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Major Garrett with the president in Wisconsin, with this question: is the president trying to justify his political fund-raising by repackaging his health care policies?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us. And we begin on Capitol Hill, with a vote that is two days away and years in the making. Our Congressional correspondent, Kate Snow, has an update on campaign finance reform, the last-minute heat and the possible holes in the legislation -- hello again, Kate.


The race is on for the votes up here on Capitol Hill. Senator John McCain and Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt are set to meet about an hour from now. They are going to be talking strategy on their side. Both sides are geared up, aiming for this group of key Republicans, about 50 of them who voted for campaign finance reform in the past.

Now, specifically, reformers are targeting where it hurts, in their home states. Today they began running commercials in nine districts across the country. These are key moderate Republicans from California to New York, New Jersey and West Virginia.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: We need to end the abuse of soft money.

SNOW (voice-over): Supporters of the Shays-Meehan reform, like the version that passed the Senate last summer, want a ban on soft money, those unlimited donations by corporations, labor unions and wealthy donors. So far this election year, Democrats have raised $71 million in soft money; Republican $63 million. In regulated hard money, Democrats have $54 million; Republicans $132. On its face, eliminating soft money would seem to help Republicans. They are left with more hard cash. But opponents of the reform say there may be a loophole, using state and local parties to funnel soft money back into the races.

MICHAEL MALBIN, CAMPAIGN FINANCE INSTITUTE: Legally, it would be permissible for either party to establish an unlimited number of local committees under Shays and Meehan. So, therefore, there is, in principle or in theory, no limit on the amount of money any one giver could give.

SNOW: But there is a limit on what that money could be used for. Legally, it can't be transferred to national parties or used to promote federal candidates. The bigger issue, says one former senior official at the FEC, is soft money that exists outside the national parties: for example, inventive funds linked to individual members of Congress. There would no ban on those.

Those who watch campaign finance closely say the bottom line is, parties can almost always find a way around the rules. And even sponsors admit they may need to reform the reforms eventually.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The day this is passed, smart guys will be figuring out loopholes and a way around it. We have gone through a cycle of corruption and reform throughout America's political history. So, no, I don't think anything is permanent. And I think that, over time, they will find ways around it.


SNOW: But McCain and other supporters will tell you that some reform is better than no reform at all. They think the entire climate will change if this passes. People will be less reluctant to get involved in soft money because of the public perception that it is banned.

Now, meantime, Republican leaders say they are going to try to change the bill on the House floor, Judy. They say want to amend it. If they are going to go partway, why not ban all soft money, even to the state and local level? And they are going to try to do that. So, ironically, we may see the leaders of the reform effort trying to block some of those amendments that sound good because they don't want it to change on the House floor, because then it won't match what the Senate did last summer, and they will say it could die in a conference committee -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kate Snow at the Capitol.

Well, our new poll shows many Americans support campaign finance reform, even as they harbor some doubts about its effectiveness; 72 percent of those surveyed in a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll say they favor new campaign finance laws. Now, that's up from 65 percent last year. But when asked if campaign fiance reform will reduce the power of special interests, more than two-thirds of those questioned in our new poll said no.

"On the Record" this Monday: one of the House sponsors of campaign finance reform and the Senate's leading opponent. Joining me here in Washington: Republican Representative Chris Shays of Connecticut; on Capitol Hill, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky.

Senator McConnell, what about that poll showing 72 percent of Americans want some kind of campaign finance reform? Are you bucking the trend here?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, Judy, it depends on how you ask you question. If you ask the question, "Do you think it would be permissible for the government to keep you from speaking effectively in the political process?" I think you would get exactly the opposite answer. So I think the poll is not terribly persuasive.

What is going on over on the House side is that Congressman Shays and his allies won't show anybody the bill. In fact, they don't want to show it until tomorrow night. And I predict for you, Judy, the reason they don't want to show the bill is because it has some special fixes in it for the Democrats. For example, it is going to let them continue to spend soft money the rest of this year. If it's so evil, why not get rid of it now?

No. 2, there is a special fix in there for the Democratic National Committee, which wants to build and construct a new building. It will allow the use of soft money in perpetuity for that purpose. It will also allow unions to continue to nail Republican candidates with both mail and phone banks in the last 60 days of an election. So that's why Chris won't show you the bill today, Judy, I predict.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Shays, you a Republican. You are trying to help the Democrats here? Is that is what is going on behind the scenes?

SHAYS: First off, this bill is almost basically what we introduced last summer when we were forced to take our amendment and divide it into 13 parts. So, if you want to see our bill, basically see what we did last summer. We're looking at one or two issues, but 99 percent of the bill is basically that bill.

So, Mitch, just take a good look at that bill.

What Mitch doesn't want you to know is, we are trying to enforce the 1907 law that bans corporate treasury money and the 1947 law that bans union dues money in these federal campaigns: no more corporate treasury fund-raising by federal candidates, no more corporate treasury money and union dues money in federal elections.

And we are allowing states -- because of the Levin amendment, which I think he supported -- to allow soft money for those state elections that allow it for nonfederal elections. And none of it can be raised by federal employees. WOODRUFF: Well, let me cut through some of this, and, Senator McConnell, come back to you.

The report we heard from Kate Snow that some of the people -- some of the Republicans in the House are planning to try to amend the bill to make even more soft money impossible to be raised and spent, is that one of the strategies now for the opponents?

MCCONNELL: Well, as you know, Judy, I don't favor getting rid of soft money. But if we are going to adopt the principle that it is somehow improper and we ought to get rid of it, why not take the cure now? I think that the reason Chris won't show you the bill is because what is going to happen tomorrow night late, they are going to unfold a bill that will allow soft money to be spent through this election, which, of course, advantages the Democrats, because they have more soft money than we do, as you just reported in the setup piece.

And, also, there is going to be this special fix in there for Terry McAuliffe and the DNC. Now, it seems to me that is not exactly a bipartisan measure.


WOODRUFF: Let me let Congressman Shays respond.

SHAYS: One of the things he is totally distorting is that any of the money that has been raised now will be allowed to be spent. That's already in both bills. So, I mean, I don't understand what your comment is. The question is, given that so much time has elapsed, should we have this bill take effect the beginning of the next election or should we try to incorporate it? We have had to fight off people like Mitch for so long that he has pushed it into this year, when we should have taken it up in January or February of last year.

WOODRUFF: Well, Congressman Shays, is it possible that tomorrow night -- is it likely tomorrow night that what we are going to see is a plan to push back the effective date here?

SHAYS: Well, that's an issue we are debating. We have disagreement. The question is: Should it be in our base bill or should it be an amendment? I would like to have an amendment on the floor of the House on Wednesday that pushes it to the beginning of November. That's what I would like.

WOODRUFF: Senator McConnell, only got a few seconds left. What do you think is going to happen in the next...

MCCONNELL: Well, I don't know what is going to happen, Judy, but they have got special language in there that would allow Terry McAuliffe to raise an unlimited amount of soft money very quickly and spend it for the construction of the Democratic National Committee building. The Republican parties are not looking to buy a building.

SHAYS: No, it just says the soft money they have now they could spend on a building. If they want to be stupid enough to spend it on a building and not an election, you should love that.

WOODRUFF: Congressman Shays, your prediction?

SHAYS: I think it's a close call. And I think nobody can say how it is going to turn out. But, ultimately, it will pass. If not tomorrow or the next day or the next day, it will pass because we have a corrupt system that needs to be cleaned up.

WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, we are going to leave it there.

Senator McConnell, Congressman Shays, thank you both.

MCCONNELL: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We'll be watching tomorrow.

When we return: the president's travels as a road map for his political game plan. Major Garrett reads between the state lines. And later: Osama bin Laden, dead or alive? Robert George and Katrina Vanden Heuvel will take issue.


WOODRUFF: As we have been telling you, President Bush on the road today in Milwaukee, outlining again his health care proposals -- also there to raise money for the Republican governor running for reelection.

Our Major Garrett traveling with the president.

Major, how much of this trip is policy and how much of it is about winning elections?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's little bit of both, Judy, as you well might imagine.

If you're going to divide the time, the president did devote a considerable amount of his speech to the health care debate. Really, the president gives two kinds of speeches, really. He gives a make- the-news sort of speech. I would call the State of the Union a make- the-news sort of speech. "Axis of evil" certainly made a lot of news.

And then he gives frame-the-debate-type speeches. And that's what we had today. There was really no new policy in what the president talked about, but he was sending a signal to Congress about was his markers are on the various ranges of health care policy. And he touched a lot of them: Medicare reform, prescription drugs, increasing access to those who do not have health insurance, how they can use tax credits and other methods, genetic research, medical records privacy -- all those things.

But he is also here to raise money, as you said, for the Republican governor, Scott McCallum, who is a very good friend of his health and human secretary, Tommy Thompson. There is a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser the president is on his way to now. The haul there is expected to be $1 million. The president really does not want to be conspicuously fund-raising right now. So, if he is going to fund- raise, he is going to put some policy on the table as well. That's exactly what happened today -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: I'm sorry, Major. Thank you very much, traveling with the president. I'm sorry.


WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now in New York are Robert George of "The New York Post" and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of "The Nation."

I want to ask you both about some figures in a poll, a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll coming out today, showing that the percentage of those who think it is very important that the U.S. either capture or kill Osama bin Laden down from 85 percent a few months ago to something like 68 percent.

Is this a trend that you both are comfortable with -- Robert George?

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": Pretty much, Judy.

I think the president's State of the Union basically outlined what is the next step militarily and foreign policy-wise for the United States. And, in that context, bin Laden is somewhat irrelevant. In fact, the president didn't mention him at all. So I think we are at a point now, with the Afghanistan campaign basically winding down, that the United States is proceeding forward whether bin Laden is alive or dead.

WOODRUFF: And, Katrina Vanden Heuvel?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": I think it's a measure of the administration's failure.

Symbolically, President Bush spoke about getting bin Laden dead or alive. He personified what he called evil. Now it appears that the administration is moving away from eradicating al Qaeda as its primary goal and overthrowing the Taliban into widening war, a war without end.

And I think what that does is to allow the administration to move away from what has perhaps been a failure and allow it to move away from a larger debate that this country should have about the most effective means of eradicating terrorism, the al Qaeda network and future bin Ladens, because we see now that this administration may not want to define what victory means and, through bloated military budgets, avoid diplomacy and, in economic development, internationalism.

And I think that is a measure of what the failure to find bin Laden has been for this administration's foreign policy.

GEORGE: Well, first of all, I certainly wouldn't call the military campaign in Afghanistan a failure. We certainly destroyed the Taliban and rooted much of al Qaeda. Now, obviously, the next step is pursuing al Qaeda around the world. And that is happening. There are battles going on right now in the Philippines with Muslim insurgents there which have connections to al Qaeda. So that is still going on. And so I wouldn't call this a failure in any way.


VANDEN HEUVEL: I did not mean to call what is happening in Afghanistan a failure. However, if we don't put the needed resources into reconstructing that country, rebuilding it and working with an international coalition, we may seize defeat from the jaws of victory.

WOODRUFF: I'm sorry. Our time is limited because we did want to carry the president's speech earlier this hour. So forgive me. I'm going to ask this very quickly, another question in our new poll, a domestic question, asking Americans about Enron, 15 percent saying that they believe the president -- the Bush administration's involvement with Enron was illegal; another 43 percent saying it was unethical. On the other hand, 28 percent saying the administration did nothing wrong.

Looking at these percentages, Robert George, is this becoming more of a political scandal?

GEORGE: I mean, I think it's only going to become a political scandal if there is some kind of smoking gun out there which connects -- I mean, explicitly connects something that Ken Lay did with something that the Bush administration did in response. And absent that, which so far we have, I don't -- I don't think it is going to become a major political scandal.

WOODRUFF: And, Katrina, you get the last word.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Yes. I think that it's a nexus on the window of money in politics in Washington and that it reveals our corrupted electoral, legislative and regulatory system. And I think it's too early to tell. But the sign that the majority of Americans want campaign finance reform and perceptions of this administration's coziness with Enron suggest the shift that the Enron scandal has had in terms of this thinking about the Bush administration.

WOODRUFF: Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Robert George, thank you both. We appreciate it. Good to see you.


GEORGE: Thank you.

WOODRUFF: And after the break: more on Enron.


WOODRUFF: By many accounts, support for campaign finance reform has grown as a direct result of the Enron debacle. Our new poll gauges the political impact of the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history. CNN national correspondent Bruce Morton runs down the numbers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respectfully decline to answer the question.

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Americans think the Enron scandal matters. Nine out 10 in the newest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll say it's somewhat or very important, compared with just three out of five who thought that of the pardons President Clinton gave out when he left office.

And all those congressional investigations, Americans think that is good. Eight out of 10 said Congress should investigate White House contacts with Enron. Enron has made a faint stain on President Bush's soaring popularity. Only 15 percent of our sample think his administration has done anything illegal. But another 43 percent say people in his administration have done something unethical.

Our sample split about evenly on whether the Bush people are covering up their Enron dealings or cooperating in getting the truth out. So, is that good news for congressional Democrats? Not exactly. Just about the same number of people think the Republicans in Congress and the Democrats in Congress have done something unethical. In fact, our sample sees this as what you might call a bipartisan problem; 20 percent say Enron's problems mostly involve Republicans. But a whopping 65 percent say, no, the two parties are equally to blame.

And the people we polled blamed business more than the politicians. Is what Enron did worse than what other business executives have done in the past? A majority said, no, no worse. And do executives do these things at most other big corporations? A quarter of our sample said, yes, at most corporations; 50 percent said at some. Only 19 percent said that just a few act this way.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: And to women going for the gold: That's next on INSIDE POLITICS. Do the Games foster a winning image for women? We will ask former Olympian Donna DeVarona.


WOODRUFF: In Salt Lake City, high wind forced the postponement of Women's downhill today, delaying Picabo Street's quest to become the first American woman to win three Olympic skiing medals. Street is a marquee name in the Winter Games. Is she also representative of the way woman are portrayed in the Olympics?

Well, we are joined now by former swimmer Donna DeVarona, who won two gold medals in the 1964 Summer Games.

Donna DeVarona, thank you for being with us. Let me start out by asking you about this first U.S. gold medal. Kelly Clark won it yesterday in snowboarding. Does this signal that women truly today have the same opportunity as men in the Olympics?

DONNA DEVARONA, FORMER U.S. OLYMPIAN: The Olympics is the Super Bowl for women. And after the '70s and '80s, when Juan Antonio Samaranch took over and declared women should have more and more opportunities, we have seen every Olympics add new events to Olympic calendar. And I think Kelly Clark's performance was fabulous.

I have a little son that is 14. And he said: "She is really hot. Man, look what she can do on the hill." And there is really no distinction in the Olympic arena as far as I think we can showcase women in sport. And, of course, I think the Olympic Committee was very smart to add the aerials and the snowboarding and these hot sports, because they really need to reach out to young people.

WOODRUFF: Has it always been this way? Has the opportunity always been there for women?

DEVARONA: No, it hasn't. As you know, Title IX in 1972 was passed in the United States to really open the door in educational institutions receiving federal funds for women to enjoy the benefits of education, but also in the sporting world.

And since that time, I think the U.S. has the led the way as far as participation by elite athletes. But people forget that it wasn't until 1976 that women's basketball was added to the Olympics. It wasn't until 1984 that the women's marathon was added to the Olympic. And if just look back to the recent Summer Olympics in 2000, women participated in the pole vault for the first time.

But now, at this Olympics, there are almost an equal number. Women aren't ski jumping. But there has been a real commitment on the Olympic Committee's part to embrace women.

WOODRUFF: But, Donna DeVarona, is it unfair that women, unlike men, cannot look forward to a lucrative professional career in some of these sports that they excel in as amateurs?

DEVARONA: Well, I think if just you look at the television landscape, where, you know, I thought when we added cable television 24-7 that women would find their place in the marketplace. And only in the Olympics every two years do they really shine. And then afterwards they are lost. The women are struggling in women's basketball to make the pro league work. It has.

Women soccer players, after the 1999 World Cup that was so terrific, are struggling with the World Cup pro soccer as a professional world sport. Yes, it's very difficult. Your ice skaters will make a lot of money. I think maybe they make more money than the men, but it's still a struggle.

WOODRUFF: What about -- last but not least -- women covering the game, women as sports announcers? How they are they doing? DEVARONA: Well, I think that NBC has done a great job here as far as hiring women to cover the sports. But I think, across the board in the sporting world in broadcasting, we still need to see more women. So many of them leave. I know Robin Roberts is focusing on news. We want to keep them in the game behind the camera as well as in front of camera. But it's getting better.

WOODRUFF: All right, Donna DeVarona, wonderful to see you again. And we appreciate you being with us today. Thank you so much.

DEVARONA: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Coming up next: the latest exchange of fire between the White House and the media.


WOODRUFF: A final Olympic-related note may put politics in perspective for some of us. President Bush's visit to Salt Lake City last Friday give several members of the president's staff and a few members of the news media the chance to work out a few frustrations with snowballs. Neither side scored any direct hits.

You are supposed to be seeing pictures of this right now. I don't know what happened to them. But we are told that the president was not involved. I guess we lost those pictures, but we guarantee you they were good ones.

Just to let you know, tonight's "GREENFIELD AT LARGE" will focus on the military and intelligence mistakes in Afghanistan that may have cost civilian lives. That's Jeff Greenfield at 11:00 Eastern.

CNN's coverage continues now with "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Thanks for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff.




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