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Economic Hard Times; Voter Registration Scandal; Global Economy Rescue; Campaign Trail Update; Water Charity; Resale Shop Comeback

Aired October 12, 2008 - 09:00   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Fraudulent voter registration, thousands of them. And groups are being called in to question. We'll have the latest on that.
Also, there is at least one business surging in these tough economic times. Like those $300 jeans? Well, how about paying $1 00 bucks for them? That might be a deal for you. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, bringing you news from all around the world this morning, good morning, everybody I'm Betty Nguyen. My partner, T.J. Holmes, is on location talking about the economy. We'll check in with him in just a moment.

And speaking of your money, America's financial crisis getting lots of attention this weekend. Asian financial markets often a bellwether here, they open late tonight and we're going to see how they're doing. Financial ministers and bankers from the world's leading industrial nations have been in Washington to talk about how to fix this problem.

President Bush is encouraging a global approach. He capped his Saturday with a surprise visit, last night, with a meeting of G-20 finance ministers. The G-20 consists of leading industrial nations as well as major developing nations such as China, Brazil and India. The International Monetary Fund also has been meeting. So, a lot of people working on this.


YOUSEFF BOUTROS-GHALI, CHMN INTL MONETARY FUND: The support of the entire financial community of a set of measures implemented, this is a crucial component for a soaring country. We are all 185 members of the IMF, we are all committed to the plan of action.


NGUYEN: That's the chairman of the International Monetary Fund. The IMF oversees global financial system. The group has endorsed a plan from the world's leading industrial nations to pump money in for the global banking system.

And talking about your money today, my partner, as I mentioned, T.J. Holmes, on location, this morning. He's going to be talking with a lot of folks about what they're doing in this economy. Are they scaling back, are they continuing with life as normal. We'll check in with him in a second. But in the meantime, North Korea says it will resume disables its nuclear plants now that the United States has taken it off the list of states that sponsor terrorism. The White House made that move yesterday after it said the two countries had agreed on several verification measures. And that's important. Those measures include access to all of North Korea's nuclear facilities and restarting six party talks.

Governor Sarah Palin went out on a limb again last night. The Republican vice presidential candidate had some this to say about taking North Korea off the terrorism list.


SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, Condoleezza Rice, of course, having worked on this strategy for quite some time, I have faith in her that they're making this wise decision. And North Korea, a of course, had better live up to its end of the bargain there in speaking with the other countries who working with and from, seeing the verification, that end of the bargain has got to be lived up to.


NGUYEN: The trouble is her boss, John McCain, apparently is not onboard with the plan. McCain says it's not rear that the current deal will force North Korea to come clean about its nuclear activities.

Well, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama calls the deal a "modest step forward" in dismantling North Korea's weapons program, adding if North Korea reneges it could face a future of economic and political isolation.

Obama does wake up in Chicago this morning. A little bit later today he heads to Ohio where he'll prepare for Wednesday's third presidential debate. John McCain is honing his debate skills in Washington. Both candidates are off the campaign trail today as they get ready for the final showdown.

Well, CNN has the Democratic and Republican candidates covered. Hear what they're telling voters in their own words. It's unfiltered, called BALLOT BOWL, airing this afternoon at 4:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

NGUYEN: Evangelist Billy Graham is back home after a brief stay in the hospital. He tripped and fell over one his dogs Friday night at his home in western North Carolina. Graham, who is 89 years old, was released from the hospital yesterday and he is expected to have a full recovery.

Well, in western Pennsylvania, listen to the story, at least 2,000 people were told to evacuate because of a hazardous chemical cloud. They have been given the all-clear to return home. The trouble started last night around dinnertime. Officials say a material similar to sulfuric acid leaked from a nearby plant.


DAVE DORKO, PLANT MANGER: It appears there was an overflow of the tank, so the situation was just a one time instantaneous event. And due to the nature of this material, it evaporate and that's the cloud you saw, you know, perhaps, or heard described to that you today out of the plant. It was really material evaporating from this release.


NGUYEN: Federal environmental officials say the cloud has since dissipated and there is no trace of the chemical mist anywhere.

Well, we have been talking about the economy. And in fact, I'm going to tell you about this story real quick, this is what happens when you lose control and run right into a gas station. Officials say the driver suffered a seizure. Look at this. Rammed into the gas pump, you see the fireball, there. Both the car and the pump caught on fire. Luckily some off duty firefighters were nearby and rescued the driver. She had only minor injuries.

All right, now back to the economy and what people are doing in this time of really economic crisis in their lives. Are they changing the way that they're buying things, the way that they carry out life as normal? Well, T.J. Holmes, my partner, is on location.

T.J., this is quite an assignment.

TJ HOLMES, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Yeah, it's -- I'm the most overdressed tailgater down here for the Atlanta Falcons game, today. You know this area well, the "Pigeon Pit," as it's called, it's a form of a barbeque pit, right now, this area where a lot of people get together and tailgate. And you know, a lot of people looking for that Joe six pack, you know, since Sarah Palin mentioned in the debate the other day. Not sure about Joe six pack, but I found plenty of six packs, actually, Betty, at 9:05 in the morning. It has already gotten started out here. But really, you know, pro football, attending a game? It's expensive, certainly if you have kids. This will certainly into a several hundred dollar trip for a lot of people, if you include tickets, you include gas, you include food, beverages, whatever it may be.

Allan Brown is one gentleman I did find, he's the responsible for this over here, actually. You can take a look at the pit, what he has.

Yeah, check it out. Let's see what you got going here. We'll talk to you why you're showing it to us, but Allan, man, that looks good.

ALLAN BROWN, FALCONS FAN: I got baby back ribs going.

HOLMES: Oh, that looks good. But on to some more serious issues. This is a good time, this is fun. You told me you do have a job you're blessed to have, but, still, how does the economy still kind of weigh on you, your job, and think about these things like these are luxuries now to be able to come out here and do this.

BROWN: Absolutely. I mean, all of us who are here are very fortunate to be able to do this. You know, my friends over there invite me down for a few games a year for season tickets.

HOLMES: So, you actually have free tickets, so that's a good deal for you.

BROWN: Oh, it's not free, I still pay him for it. You know, I pay them for their ticket. But, like I said, I'm very blessed to have a good job and fortunately enough, I'm young enough, I think, to see this economy turn around and have time to make up these losses right now.

HOLMES: Do things like this come off some times -- again, it's a football game, it's fun, everybody's into sport, but it seems like more of an extravagance now? You know, something it use to just be fun, but now you it's something that you've got to think about and you know, it's fun and game, but still do I want do this or do I want to take that other trip next weekend?

BROWN: Definitely. You know, even though I'm fortunate to have what I have, I have had to prioritize my fun or my extracurricular activities, for sure. And I'm very sympathetic to those who really aren't going to be able to recover from this. It's very sad.

HOLMES: How much politics do you talk about when you're down here? You got here early. I think you said 6:00 you had to get the ribs on, so that gives and you lot of down time to talk. You talking politics a lot down here?

BROWN: Not so much. The only thing that's been brought up today, I mean, don't know if I'm going it know who I vote for until I actually get out of my car to go vote. My mind changes daily. So, I think whoever we get is going to affect some sort of change, which will be a good thing for the country.

HOLMES: All right, again, Allan Brown, he's one of the several we found. Thank you. We know the ribs will be on for a while. Betty, we'll bring you some when they're all ready. It'll be awhile, but we'll still make sure we get you some ribs.

But still, people still starting to trickle in, but these are the people you talk about, the Joe six pack, the ones who take these trips on the weekend, who don't have those big jobs to buy those big fancy cars like we were showing in the segment earlier this morning, Betty. But a lot of talk out here, and people really trying to change it and manage their lives a little differently, a little better. We'll stick around down here, talk to a few more and I'll get back up to you in a little bit.

NGUYEN: All right, well, you know, people do want to enjoy life it is as, but at the same time, you got to count those pennies and make sure your budget can still afford it. T.J., looking forward to those ribs. OK, in the meantime, let's talk about politics for a second because a voter registration scandal, hundreds of forms filled out with the same handwriting and using phony addresses. So, was someone trying to steal the presidential election? We investigate.


NGUYEN: Thousands of fraudulent voter registrations are casting a cloud over elections in Indiana. CNN's Drew Griffin with the "Special Investigations Unit," has this report.



(on camera): These?




GRIFFIN: And these.

(voice-over): They are new voter registration applications turned in by the community organizing group, ACORN, which has launched a massive voter registration drive. And with 5,000 applications in this one county dumped on just before the October 6 deadline, it looked to Elections Board administrator Ruthann Hoagland like ACORN was extremely successful until her workers began finding problems.

GRIFFIN (on camera): A lot of them?

HOAGLAND: Fifty percent. We had close to 5,000 total from ACORN, and so far we have identified about 2,100.

GRIFFIN: So roughly half of them.

HOAGLAND: Roughly half.

GRIFFIN: Are bad.

HOAGLAND: Correct.

GRIFFIN: Registered to a dead person. Registered as a person who lives at a fast food shop.


GRIFFIN: Or just all of them amazingly in the same hand.

HOAGLAND: Yes. Yes. All the signatures look exactly the same. Everything on the card filled out looks just the same.

GRIFFIN: Ruthann, fraud?

HOAGLAND: We have no idea what the motive behind it is. It's just overwhelming to us...

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It's not that some are bad. Once they started going through them, every one they looked at was bad.

GRIFFIN: Hoagland decided to stop the review altogether, work on other apparently legitimate registrations and get back to the other half of what she now calls "the fake pile," later.

HOAGLAND: It's frustrating. It's very frustrating.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Here's another ACORN filled out registration form. It's for Jimmy Johns, 10839 Broadway in Crown Point. Jimmy Johns. We decided to track him down. Here he is.

Is there anybody here that's actually named Jimmy Johns? Nobody registered to vote here named Jimmy Johns?

This could really -- I mean, there has been no fraud yet because people haven't voted yet, right?

HOAGLAND: Correct. We'll find out on Election Day.

GRIFFIN: But it certainly sets up a potential.

HOAGLAND: The potential, I suppose, is always there. It's just that the volume -- the volume is just incredible.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The elections board is run by both Republicans and Democrats. It is fraud, says the Democrat director, Sally Lasota.

SALLY LASOTA (D), LAKE COUNTY ELECTION BOARD: Well, if you look, it's the same signature for all three voters. It's though the one individual tried to do three separate applications but put -- you know, you can tell the signature. We're not handwriting experts, but what's obvious is obvious.

GRIFFIN: ACORN's voter registration drives are under investigation or suspicion in several states. Just yesterday, local authorities raided this ACORN office in Las Vegas where ACORN workers allegedly registered members of the Dallas Cowboys football team. Over the last four years, a dozen states investigated complaints of fraudulent registrations filed by ACORN, and complaints of fraud by ACORN have exploded nationwide in just the last few weeks.

We tried to contact the ACORN director in Gary, Indiana, but when the phone messages went unanswered, we went to the office. It's abandoned. ACORN told us the state director for Indiana ACORN is actually based in this office in Milwaukee. But today, we found it empty, too.

ACORN's attorney in Boston told us allegations his organization has committed fraud is a government attempt to keep the disenfranchised from voting. BRIAN MOLLER, SENIOR COUNSEL, PROJECT VOTE: We believe their purpose is to attack ACORN and suppress votes. We think that by attacking ACORN that they are going to discourage people who may have registered with ACORN from voting.

GRIFFIN: Brian Moller says ACORN has its own quality control, has fired workers in the past, including workers in Gary. Despite its past, the Obama campaign gave $800,000 to ACORN to help fund its primary registration drive, and ACORN has endorsed Barack Obama for president.

The Obama campaign reacted, saying, it is committed to protecting the integrity of the voting process, and said it has not worked with ACORN during the general election.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Crown Point, Indiana.


NGUYEN: And Bertha Lewis is the chief organizer for ACORN, she appeared on CNN's LARRY KING LIVE Friday night. Here's what she had to say.


BERTHA LEWIS, ACORN CHIEF ORGANIZER: Well, I'm not worried whatsoever because here's why. First of all, in every county when you register voters, you've got to turn in every single card no matter how weird or wacko it may appear, that's the law. We train our voter registration workers. We try to verify those people who registered three times on the phone, if we can't, guess, what we flag them, we tag them, we bundle them, turn them into the authorities. It is a little particular that we've been doing this for 18 months, we turn them in every two weeks and I guess they're trying to make it appear as if all of these just showed up at once. But you know what else is good? The system actually works because any new voter is going to have to come and show their I.D.


NGUYEN: OK, so let's talk more about this. Steve Carbo is with which is working on voter registration. He joins us from New York and Keith Appell, is a Republican strategist who joins us from Washington.

Steve, let me talk to you first because in looking at Drew's piece, we're talking about what hundred, perhaps even thousands, of false information here on voter registration applications and that's the ones that have been spotted. I mean, are these numbers inflated here or is ACORN truly involved in voter fraud?

STEVE CARBO, DEMOS.ORG: Well, I think we need to be clear about what voter fraud is. The record shows that it's exceedingly rare for individuals to show up on the polls on Election Day and pretend to be other people, to vote twice, to vote illegally. That's the kind of voter fraud... NGUYEN: But isn't something inherently wrong if the information on the application is incorrect? You've seen other cases where you have the Dallas Cowboys listed on applications in Nevada.

CARBO: That's right. And what we're seeing is that the system is working. It's picking up questionable voter registration forms so that those folks don't get on to the voter rolls. If someone registers, for instance, at Jimmy Johns and it's a restaurant chain or Mickey Mouse, you don't see Mickey Mouse showing up on Election Day saying I'm Mickey Mouse, I want to vote today.

NGUYEN: All right, let me bring you in, Keith, I mean, do you agree that, hey, this is OK as long as it doesn't happen on Election Day? You don't see these people showing up when it's not really them?

KEITH APPELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Betty, ACORN is under investigation in no less than nine different states. This is not an isolated incident. It starts to border on a political version of organized crime that threatens the integrity and the very outcome of this election and the Obama campaign, as you reported, has contributed $800,000 to the ACORN efforts.

What is happening here is ACORN has already admitted it has registered 1.3 million voters. Just to do the quick math, 1/10 of that amount of voters would have changed the outcome of the 2004 election in Ohio, alone. It would have changed the entire out cough the election. That's why this is so serious and so suspicious.

NGUYEN: OK, Steve, I'm going to let you respond to that because the accusation here is that the Obama campaign has supported ACORN's efforts by contributing some $800,000. Is this something that is being...

CARBO: That's public record.

NGUYEN: Yeah, exactly, but is the campaign trying to skew this election, are you finding any truth in that?

CARBO: Well, I mean, I don't work for the campaign, so I can't comment on the Obama campaign. What I do know is this here, is that we've got millions of people who are excited about the election, who want to get out to vote for the first time, many of them young people, and we need to make sure that our election system will work so that they will have an opportunity to cast a ballot and that that vote will count. And we've seen that our election system is really having a hard time being able to accommodate the surge in voter interest this is year.

APPELL: When you have an investigation going on in nine different states of the same organization, something is wrong. And when that organization has claimed on its own to have registered 1.3 million voter, then you have a very serious situation developing. The problem, Betty, is that there's such a huge volume in registration that local election boards, state election boards, don't have the manpower, don't have the wherewithal to contend with the overwhelming amounts of fraudulent registrations. So, inventively... NGUYEN: But to be fair, here, Keith, there are also accusations that right wing groups are handing on out flyers to low income families, to college students saying, look, if you show up to vote, you could be arrested for outstanding traffic violations, for warrants, for whatnot. Is that really happening?

APPELL: Well, I'm not sure. If you have any evidence of that, I'd be -- let's have Drew Griffin report about that. That may happen from time to time. But this time...

NGUYEN: Well, there are cases when it comes to Drexel University where students have already reported that this is happening.

APPELL: Well, like I said, that may happen from time to time. I don't doubt that. What we're talking about is a systemic organized effort to defraud voters. Everyone should have a right to vote. I agree with Steve on that. But everyone should have the right to vote once. And if you're registered 50 times or if you get to vote 50 different times in several different counties in Ohio or Nevada or Michigan or any of these battleground states where the elect could be decided, then that completely ruins the integrity and fairness and of course affects the outcome of the election.

NGUYEN: All right, very quickly, in one sentence, if you could, each of you, what needs to be done to make sure that this election is fair?

CARBO: Well, I think that voters should do a couple things to make sure that they're able to cast the ballots that year and that their votes will count. They should call their local election officials, local election office, and verify that their registration is active. They should bring identification, proof of residency with them to the polls. They should be wary of the kind of leafleting of misinformation that you mentioned is happening in Philadelphia. And there were two reports already this week. And if there are any problem, they should call 866-our-vote which is a nationwide hot line to respond to...

NGUYEN: All right, Steve, you've gone over the one sentence limit. Keith, very quickly, what should be done?

APPELL: Well, I think the courts need to be sympathetic to the complaints that come in about this because of the overwhelming and systemic process that has been undertaken by ACORN and other groups to try to defraud this election.

NGUYEN: All right, both of you, we do appreciate it. It's obviously hot button issue and something a lot of people want resolved on all sides. Thank you both.

CARBO: Thank you, Betty.

APPELL: Thank you.

NGUYEN: T.J. HOLMES: Well, another hot button issue these days, the economy. Yes, this is tailgating going down here. This is fun, this is games, but you don't think this football game, tailgating going to a pro game these days is tied to the economy. Well, look at those SUVs. Costs money to put gas in knows tanks. Look at that food, look at this equipment. And don't even mention the tickets, those prices. We are talking to folks down here, that Joe six pack that has been mentioned on the campaign trail, talking to a lot of these guys about what it takes these days to attend a game and is this an extravagance that people can afford it anymore.

I'm T.J. Holmes, just downstairs from the CNN studio, going to be taking to some of these folks when we come back after break.


HOLMES: All right, again, I'm out here, really, at the "Pigeon Pit" is what it's called. It's like a barbeque pit, but this is where people get together, tailgate, like my man, Pete Schamberger from Canton, actually, just sought side of Atlanta. We were talking to a lot of folks.

Yes, the game is on your mind. The Falcons look pretty good, but there's something else on the minds of a lot of folks and this is the economy. You've been blessed that your business, right now, is doing OK and you feel kind of settled, but you've got, and as we hear a train come by here, perfect timing, we timed that perfectly -- but as you move forward and look ahead into the future, things like this might not be so easy for to you do, going to a game, this is kind of an extravagance in a lot of ways.

PETE SCHAMBERGER, FALCONS FAN: Yeah, it absolutely is, especially considering everything that's happened over the last 12 monthses or so. So, something we hope we can continue to do. I hope my small business continues to do well so that we do have that opportunity, but it's absolutely a concern for me in the long-term.

HOLMES: And something that certainly jumps out when you said it to me, a small business owner. Small business has been talked a lot about, about taxes, tax plan, who's going it on get hurt by this plan and that plan. A lot going back with the candidates. You still haven't made up your mind about who you're going to vote for. We're 23 days away, I believe.

SCHAMBERGER: Right, right. Still undecided at this point. As a small business owner, the tax plans do concern me a bit and I guess it's something that we'll have to see what happens and hopefully make my decision in the next couple weeks.

HOLMES: Tell me, did it change for you, your issue No. 1, if you will, for so long, it was Iraq being talked about, homeland security, who could best protect us, even healthcare was up there, but then the economy happened. Economy tanked. Did your No. 1 voting issue, if you will, change when the economy changed?

SCHAMBERGER: No, because for me I think it's still all about national security, that's still my biggest concern. I think, we can fight through the economy and things like that. I think we're a strong enough country, it's national security and protecting what's happening here in the United States that's probably still my biggest concern.

HOLMES: You have a son back there. He's back there tossing around his football. Which one's yours? Oh, OK, over here on the other side. Evan is your son. Now, what your concerns? So many people talk about this debt, this $700 billion package. It's going to be inherited by your children, our grandchildren and things like that. Now, what -- I mean, tell me what your thoughts are as you look at your son and think about this plan that people -- politicians tell you we need, but you think about what's ahead for him.

SCHAMBERGER: Right, you know, it's hard to say. Of course I'll always have concerns about, you know, his future and how the economy is going forward. Again, I think as a country, we're just strong enough to pull out of anything and I think it'll be a matter of a couple years and hopefully things will turn around for the better. I don't want to look at it as a negative long-term thing, more, I think, in the end, it's going to work itself out. I think we're that strong as a country.

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE) so much. Enjoy the game, enjoy your day. So, Betty, you hear a word of optimism, down here, from a Falcons fan and I guess Falcons fans have reason to feel optimistic this year, they're actually 3-2 after all they went through last year. So, some optimism down here. But still, economy, politics, a lot on the minds as well as barbeque and beer.

NGUYEN: Yeah, and you know, an it's hard to win in this kind of economy, but obviously those folks are still going at it, trying to live life as normal as best they can. We'll see how the Falcons do today. Thank you, T.J.

While the financial minds meet here, those in Europe are hoping to solve their own crisis. one than a dozen countries represented and they can come up with a single answer, but what is that answer we're going to go live to Paris.


NGUYEN: Welcome back on this Sunday, I'm Betty Nguyen. You know, the Asian financial markets, they open a little bit later tonight and we're going to be watching closely to see if they open a positive or negative note. President Bush has been tied up with meetings on this problem, and he dropped in last night on the meeting of the world's largest industrial nations. He told the group there that there's got to be some global response to this problem. And today, in fact, they're trying, the leaders of 15 nations, that use the euro currency are meeting and one suggestion that they've already nixed by the leaders of Germany and France is a financial rescue fund.

But Britain has managed to figure out its own bailout plan, but, again, those European leaders are meeting today in Paris and they're have being this emergency meeting in a way, one, to solve the financial problem, but, two, calm the markets around the world because it's all connected. So, let's go to our CNN's Jim Bittermann who joins us now live in Paris.

Jim, what are you hearing about this meeting? Are they coming up with any concrete ideas?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. in fact, no, it hasn't started yet, those 15 leaders are yet to arrive, here. They're going to start arriving about 45 minutes to an hour from now. But, Gordon Brown is already here, the prime minister of Great Britain, and he is probably going to be talk with the other leaders about what he is trying to do in his country, that is to say, bolster the finances of specific private banks by taking on shares of those banks and giving them a little liquidity. That's one of the tools that the governments can use.

Now, as you mentioned, these 15 are not likely to come up with some kind of common financial bailout fund, which is one of the things that had been suggested, but it was rejected earlier in the weekend by Angela Merkel who has been meeting with President Sarkozy, here over the weekend, as well. But in fact what they will come up to -- up with is something that they're likely to call the financial clear box, which is to say that they're coming up with similar kinds of approaches in the 15 euro zoned countries.

And I think that we're going to see some of those approaches taking effect probably even as early as tomorrow morning where individual governments will start meeting, come up with laws that maybe necessary to enact these various things so that they can actually go ahead and start guaranteeing either the individual accounts or the liquidity and the loans that banks are making between each other or used to make between each other and have stopped making between each other to get them to once again start lending money to each other again so that the financial system can get off the ground -- Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, so what we're hearing is not one unified plan, but a number of different mans, which these countries are going to decide on their own, but hopefully they're similar to find a solution to this mess.

BITTERMANN: Well, exactly. I think they'll be looking at similar approaches, but because of the differences in the various banking and financial arrangements in each of the individual countries, coming up with a unified plan would be very difficult. So, they'll come up with something that makes it look like they are taking joint action that has a joints approach, but won't be exactly the same in each country, simply because of the legal differences in each country. And hopefully that will, you know, give a little bit of a psychological boost to the market.

So, much of what we've seen in the last few days has been based in terms of financial turmoil has been based on psychology and emotion. The image of these 15, just the image alone of these 15 coming out of this meeting this evening and saying they've agreed to a common approach should be at least some kind of a psychological bolstering for the market.

NGUYEN: Yeah, we'll see if it calls some fears, because no doubt a lot of people looking at these markets just wondering where do we go next. Jim Bittermann, joining us live. Thank you for that.

HOLMES: Well, of course we know we've got less than a month to go until the election, and the candidates narrowing much of their focus on the undecided voters. Danny Diaz, director of the communications for the Republican National Committee and was previously with the McCain campaign, joins us live now from Washington.

Previously with the McCain campaign. The McCain campaign, some would say, could use all the help they can get right with now and you might be recruited to go back. So tell us, what now is the problem would you say? You know the talk out there, there's no clear focus right now, no clear message coming from the McCain campaign. What are we going to see the last 23 days?

DANNY DIAZ, REPUBLICAN NATL COMMITTEE: You know, I disagree with that. John McCain is out there talking about America's priorities, making sure that we keep spending down so we can prioritize America's needs, give money back to taxpayer so is that they can pay for the needs that they have at home.

Barack Obama has supported higher taxes 94 times in the United States Senate, a trillion dollars in new government spending. When you couple that with the very poor judgment he has demonstrated with regard to his friendships and associations with Bill Ayres and Tony rezko and other, he's not qualified to be president.

HOLMES: Danny, with you hear that and we know you want to make that pitch. But, complete this for me. People hear Barack Obama and a lot would agree, whether or not you know his policies or not, people associate Barack Obama with change, quite simply. They just do. When people say John McCain, what is the clear message, the thought that comes in their head?

DIAZ: Leadership. Barack Obama change? What kind of change? Well, higher taxes? They'll punish small businesses, that will punish families, a huge growth in government that, you know, that will cost a lot of money that we can't possibly afford. John McCain, leadership. Someone who has reached across the aisle, gotten things done for the American people, led on the important issues of the day, been able to work with Republicans and Democrats, alike.

You know, this general election has been going on for quite a while. I haven't heard the Obama campaign be able to say once, not even once, when has Barack Obama reached across the aisle and led on an important issue. The man has authored two books, never once authored a significant piece of legislation.

HOLMES: You know, Danny, a lot of people would say that's part of the problem here, maybe with McCain, about selling his message. And all due respects here, I asked you a couple questions and you spend more time talking about Barack Obama than you did about John McCain.

DIAZ: Well, I think I've answered your questions.


DIAZ: John McCain, on the economy, which is the important issue of the day, who do you trust? Someone that has assumed keeping taxes low, who has railed against special interest projects his entire career in the United States Congress, or someone who has done the opposite of that? You know, T.J., it's a contract, A versus B. You have to present both so that voters have a clear picture. The picture is coming more and more clear day by day, and I think at the end of the day on November 4, the American people are going to support the candidate that has led on the important issues, someone that they can trust will deliver at the end of the day.

HOLMES: And are we going to see anything in the last few seconds we have here, anything different? I know you say you disagree with a lot of the people out there who are saying there hasn't been a clear message, a lot of those voice are Republican and conservative voices, upset about the message, we've seen a lot of people at the rallies upset as well, just want McCain to put up more after fight, if you will, but are we going it see anything different or will we see this same kind of campaign that John McCain has been running, a good campaign, as far as you say?

DIAZ: Well, I mean, at the end of the day, I think John McCain is going to talk about these issues, the contrasts are going to become more and more clear as we get closer to Election Day because the voters are tuning in more and more. They're going to recognize that there's one individual that has led, there is one that has not, and one of them has demonstrated poor judgment on issue after issue that should disqualify him from being president versus another who has led and has proven that he can deliver.

HOLMES: All right, well, we will ask a member of the Obama campaign about some of the charges there about whether or not that candidate is ready to lead. Danny Diaz, sir, director of communications, there, at the Republican National Convention. Sir, we appreciate your time here on Sunday. Certainly hope we'll see you plenty over the next 23 days now, is all we got left. So, thank you so much.

DIAZ: Thank you so much. Thanks, T.J.

HOLMES: And, again, what about Barack Obama, what are his goals with just a few weeks left? We'll get the inside scoop from that campaign. Stay here.


HOLMES: All right, of course 23 days until Election Day. We're trying to give you as much information as possible about the two campaigns, about the two candidates and we get it directly from the campaigns themselves. You just heard from Danny Diaz with the Republican National Committee. We're expecting to hear from Bill Burton who's going to be talking to us here shortly from the Obama campaign, so you'll want to tune in for that.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, I know it's mid-October, but hey, it's never too early for some snow. Check it out, these folks making snowballs, tossing them at friends. This is in Salt Lake City. The season's first large snowstorm in the western mountain states and it is still coming down. Some areas, believe it or not, can get up to a foot of snow. So, let's talk to Reynolds Wolf about this, because Reynolds, last time I checked, it's only October 12.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, you know, winter officially, at least according to the calendar, begins on December 21, but things have been weird, like for example, Boise has recorded some of the earliest snowfall on record. So, yeah, things a little bit chilly out there now question about it. The snow is coming down.


NGUYEN: All right, thank you, Reynolds.

And you know what time it is, time to check in with Howard Kurtz in Washington to see what's ahead on CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES.

Hello, Howard.

HOWARD KURTZ, RELIABLE SOURCES: Hello, Betty. Coming up on this show, the press revives the question of Obama's relationship with one- time terrorist Bill Ayres has the McCain campaign all over it. Is that and the angry crowds McCain is drawing a valid issue. "New York Times" columnist, Frank Rich joins our discussion.

The "trooper gate" investigation finds that Sarah Palin abused her power as governor by fire an official who refused to get rid of the trooper who was divorcing Palin's sister. Will journalists keep scrutinizing Palin's Alaska record?

And CNN's Ali Velshi on the hot see over criticism that he and financial pundits are too excitable and opinionated while the stock market is falling (ph). That and more ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES.

NGUYEN: A lot of issue there is to tackle and we're looking forward to it, thank you.

KURTZ: A lot of stuff.

HOLMES: Ali is just an excitable guy.

NGUYEN: Yeah, he's like that all the time.

HOLMES: He's just like that.

All right, of course all the troubling economic news he's been talking about a lot. There is a silver ling, at least.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And I like it. There is something out there that is dropping like a rock and you're going to like it, too.


HOLMES: And, again, you just heard from the McCain campaign, a member of the RNC a short time ago about what we have to look forward to in the next 23 days with McCain. Well, a representative from the Obama campaign is going to be sitting down, putting on a mike and earpiece, going to be chatting with us about the Obama campaign. Stay tuned for that.

NGUYEN: Well, let me tell you what you can look forward, T.J. and this is a good thing, well, for your pocketbook, that is. The gas -- the price of gas going down. AAA reports the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded dropped a little more than four cents overnim to $3.24.

HOLMES: Wow, 25th straight decrease at the pumps. Now, over the past 25 days, gas prices are going down by more than 56 cents or 14.5 percent.

NGUYEN: More than a billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water and I'm taking to you the top now to meet one man on a mission to quench the thirst.


SCOTT HARRISON, CHARITY WATER: We're here today at the Abenea School in northern Ethiopia. About 1,200 students attend and now they had no clean water to drink when we first visited a few months ago.

Nguyen (voice over): After having spent a decade working as a nightclub promoter, Scott Harrison, now promotes now, clean water.

HARRISON: I had everything that I thought I wanted and I just realized that it didn't make me happy.

NGUYEN: Needing a change, Harrison volunteered in Africa where he came face to face with poverty and illness.

HARRISON: I've never seen anything like this in my comfortable sheltered life. I just really felt like I was supposed to start a charity.

The water just stood out, it was responsible for 80 percent of all disease.

NGUYEN: In 2006, Harrison started the nonprofit organization, Charity Water, to provide developing nations with clean and safe drinking water.

HARRISON: A hundred percent of the proceeds of everything Charity Water raises publicly goes directly to the water project.

NGUYEN: In two years, he's raised almost $7 million and funded more than 800 water projects in more than a dozen countries.

HARRISON: Water touches all those things we wanted to do. You know, we've started building wells in schools. The water is so directly related to education. We started building wells in health clinics, so by bringing clean water to the hospital, you know, we've been able to directly make impacts on healthcare.


HOLMES: All right, and we've been talking about the economy a lot the past, what, two week, and this weekend, as well, But we were downstairs, I was downstairs, you called me smoky...

NGUYEN: You smelled like you've been down by the barbeque pit.

HOLMES: We were down with these guys, here. Tailgating going on for the Atlanta game happening today against Chicago. Well, yes, you see, it's 9:00 in the morning and she's drinking beer. Hope my momma's not watching. But still, they're talking about the economy, a lot of things on their minds. You know, it's not cheap to put gas in those SUVs to get to a game...

NGUYEN: Look at that setup, that's not cheap, either.

HOLMES: that is serious. So, we'll talk to them again, check in with them about the economy and football.


HOLMES: All right. We're going to go back downstairs.

NGUYEN: Can't get enough of tailgating.

HOLMES: You can't get enough of tailgating. But, it's not just about the tailgating. There's my man...

Travis, you couldn't put the beer down long enough to talk to us, here.

NGUYEN: You are on national television, come on, you're a financial planner, hide the beer. A;; right, now talk to us about money.

When it comes to games like this, do you think fewer people are going simply because they got to tighten that belt?

TRAVIS: I can't hear.

HOLMES: Oh, Travis can't hear us.

NGUYEN: Obviously, we're tightening our belt on some of our audio issues, at least trying to.

HOLMES: You know, the economy is affecting us all. We've been meaning to replace that ear piece for quite some time.

NGUYEN: A long time.

HOLMES: I don't think Travis there, hopefully now, we can at least show the picture, at least, of what's going on down there, even if we can't hear. If we can go back to the picture, at least, and show the tailgating that is taking place. And we can look around there. This is what we've been -- you know, I was down there just a minute ago and again...

NGUYEN: Well, how was it? I know it's only, what, almost 10:00 in the morning, but did you see a lot of people or...

HOLMES: They get going early. Some have been down there since 6:00. There's our satellite truck. It costs a lot to put gas in that thing. But it's expensive. One guy spent 500 bucks, you know, just to get there to the game, the tickets and the gas and the food. That's a lot for one day for one weekend.

NGUYEN: Absolutely, it's a luxury, no doubt.

Well, the economy proving to be a real win-win situation for second-hand clothing stores and their customers. Our Thelma Gutierrez has the story.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): While some businesses across the country are struggling to stay afloat, others are booming, even expanding in the slumping economy.

JOHANNA MELAMED, THE CLOSET: We've been really fortunate, we're doing well.

MONICA DECLAY, BUFFALO EXCHANGE MANAGER: The store alone, we're almost 20 percent up than we were last year.

GUTIERREZ: The reason? Resale retail, translation, second-hand brand-name clothes, shoes and accessory that are in excellent shape and trendily at a fraction of the cost. Exactly what the retail exchange, Buffalo Exchange, specializes in. A pair of True Religion jeans that would retail for $300 new, would run about $100, here. Store manager, Monica DeClay, says business couldn't be better.

(on camera): You're actually expending during a recession.

DECLAY: Oh, yeah, we have 33 stores now in 13 different states and now we're going to open our second New York store, our second Chicago store has opened.

GUTIERREZ (voice over): The same for Johanna Melamed, who's opening her second resale store, The Closet outside of Los Angeles.

MELAMED: I think we're doing well because we provide our customers with what they're looking for in this economy. They have less money, we have lower prices and sell the same great stuff.

GUTIERREZ: High-ed designer stuff like this $1,600 Luella bag that is selling for $158. Or these $300 DVB jeans, they've never been worn before that are now priced resale at $69. Big savings if you're not opposed to pre-owned labels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a really nice quality clothes at just at a discounted price. There's nothing to frown upon for that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would be for me. I'd rather just go myself to the Gucci store and buy what I want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this economy, come on. You want to do something like that. You want to save money wherever you can. I don't care how rich you are, you didn't get there by spending money, you got there by saving it.

GUTIERREZ: And selling it. Brandon Goldberg brought three garbage bags of clothes to Buffalo Exchange hoping to make some cash. What they won't buy goes into the donation bin which the store donates to charity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won $50.05 in cash.

BRANDON GOLDBERG, CUSTOMER: Well, at least you're getting something instead of it going in the trash.

GUTIERREZ: Brendan says it's recycling. DeClay and Melamed say it's a winning business model.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Los Angeles.


HOLMES: Tough times. You got to do what you got to do these days.

All right, stick with us, we're about to wrap up this hour of CNN SUNDAY MORNING, but come back and say goodbye to us.


HOLMES: All right. Want to turn now to Bill Burton of the Obama campaign. Talking to him a little bit on what's happening the last few days of the campaign. There he is.

Glad we finally got to. I know the Chicago marathon going on causing you some problems. So, we're going to get in a few questions here, if we can. Are you willing to give, and Obama did for a little while, the past couple of days -- gave John McCain credit for toning down this campaign for just a little while, played nice for a little while. Can we see that the last 23 days?

BILL BURTON, COMMUNICATIONS DIR DCCC 2006: Well, we give John McCain credit for what he did at his rally when he said the rhetoric was getting a little too hot. The problem is that there's an overall message issue with John McCain and that his campaign is going out there and saying if they talk about the economy, they will lose. Another advisor is saying that they want to turn the page from the economic crisis. Well, the American people don't have that luxury and they're worried about losing their jobs and their homes and their healthcare and they want a president who's got their priorities straight. HOLMES: An advantage to McCain. You know he's been out there talking about the economy day in and day out and he dose not turned the page, he has said as much. I know you're hanging on to one statement that was made. But in fairness to him, everybody's talking about the economy and fairly so.

BURTON: No, actually, it's not just one statement, there have been advisors all over the newspapers, some named, some unnamed who have been saying that they just don't want to talk about the economy. And I know that there is this effort on their part to make this about the distractions and the character attacks that have nothing to do to face the challenges that face the middleclass and so Senator Obama is going to keep doing what he's been doing.

HOLMES: And you brought up distraction and character attacks. I will bring up Governor Palin's situations with an investigative panel that came out and said, in fact, she did violate some ethics laws and didn't break any laws in that investigation up there, this whole situation of trying to pressure to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. Do you think that is fair game for this campaign? Is that an issue that should be talk about, an ethics violation and investigation into an old matter?

Just lost Mr. Burton. Had him there, sorry we missed him. Lost that signal, not exactly sure why, but sorry we missed him. But, we got in a couple questions to him at least, there. This morning.

NGUYEN: And maybe we can talk to him next weekend.

HOLMES: We hopefully will.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, though, RELIABLE SOURCES begins right now.