Bill Moyers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson discuss the upcoming Presidential debates, the political ads on abortion that are shaping the campaign but have nothing to do with the candidates, and lobbyists and special interests influencing the presidential campaigns with hidden campaign contributions.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: I hereby challenge my opponent to a debate on every Sunday evening-
CBS NEWS REPORTER: The idea here now is to keep the pot boiling, stir things up.
ANN COMPTON, ABC NEWS: It’s a roll of the dice.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Let’s get it on!
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: President Bush tonight gave the presidential campaign a kick start and appears to have caught the Clinton campaign off guard.
BRIT HUME, ABC News: He’s trying at once to get the debate monkey off his back-
MARK PHILLIPS, CBS News: Yet another theory, though, is that anything that reshuffles the deck in this race has to help George Bush, who hasn’t been able to do much with the hand he’s been dealt thus far.
TIM RUSSERT, NBC News: And now he has thrown what they call a “Hail Mary” pass, a political ploy-
Governor BILL CLINTON: But he said yesterday, he said, “Let’s get it on.” Now, I said, “Let’s get it on.” The first debate was scheduled.
POLITICAL ANALYST: They are afraid of a long bomb. They’re afraid of something happening late in the game. They’re ahead. It’s the – it’s the guy who is ahead does not want something that could shake things up late in the game.
TIM RUSSERT: Hey Mitch – I like those football analogies. You’re coming on, I tell you. It’s pretty impressive.
BILL MOYERS: “Roll of the dice”? “Kick start”? “Long bomb”? What are they talking about? Join us for more of campaign ’92 on Listening to America.
Welcome. I’m Bill Moyers. In a democracy, politics is supposed to be the way we compromise on issues that would otherwise tear us apart. We’ll look tonight at how politics has overwhelmed a possible compromise on abortion. And we return, this time by train, to the subject of our very first broadcast, ”The Money Trail.”
First, though, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, is here again to read between the lines of what we’re seeing and hearing on the campaign trail. Kathleen, what are we journalists doing to politics when we refer to it constantly as if it were the World Series?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, Dean, Annenberg School for Communication: Well, an interesting question this week, since the debates are going to be running against the playoffs in the World Series, is will you be able to tell the difference between the color commentary about the sport and the commentary about the debates? The problem with addressing the debates as if they are a sport is first that we create an audience of spectators instead of an audience of viewers who are trying to become informed. Secondly, we assume that the debates are designed to be won or lost when, in fact, usually both candidates walk away from a debate with the public perceiving them both better qualified to be president. And then finally, all this sports talk and this strategy talk gets in the way of asking the substantive questions. So I wish we could segment the two channels, take the sports talk and reserve it for the World Series and have a different kind of language for the debate.
BILL MOYERS: It seems to me it makes of politics a kind of inside game where the pundits and the commentators, the journalists, the scribes and the players, the politicians themselves, control the language.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yeah, it – what it basically does is to say to us our role as viewers is a role of spectatorship. It’s also very cynical as a language because what it assumes is that everything each candidate is doing in the debate is done for tactical reasons, not because the candidate actually has an interest in putting forward a position that might benefit the country.
BILL MOYERS: Well, all the candidates were busy this last week trying to lower our expectations of their performance. I thought at times it was as if they were doing their best to make us anticipate their worst and accept it. Look at this.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: And I’m no Oxford debater. I didn’t spend a lot of time over in Oxford, England, in the debating society. But I say let American people decide. Let’s get up there and get it on side by side.
GOVERNOR BILL CLINTON: Mr. Bush is a good debater in spite of all of his talk about being at a disadvantage to me because I went to Oxford. I never studied debate at Oxford. Mr. Bush went to a country day school and to Yale. I think he can take care of himself in debate.
VICE PRESIDENT DAN QUAYLE: He has a big advantage over me because he grew up in Washington, D.C., and he’s the son of a wealthy United States Senator. He went to the most expensive private schools in Washington, D.C. I’m a product of the public schools.
BILL MOYERS: What’s going on there? I mean, it’s become a sin if you matriculate at the wrong place.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, and isn’t it silly? Here we’re in the middle of a campaign. The electorate’s starting to pay attention and we’re wasting news time with candidates poor-mouthing about their abilities. But what they’re doing is adapting to the language that the journalists are using. If the goal in the debate is to win, then you want to lower your expectations so that you’re better able to win. You can exceed low expectations. If the goal is to win, then what you try to do is to find, in the language of sports, that single decisive moment that turns the game.
And so at the end of debates, what journalists typically tell us is first who won, who lost. That’s silly. It usually simply ratifies what the polls told us going in. But secondly, “Here was the decisive moment” and in that “decisive moment” one candidate or the other demonstrated that he should be president. Now, tell me what you remember about “decisive moments” in the past and let’s ask how relevant they are to who should be president.
BILL MOYERS: I remember Ronald Reagan carefully referring to Mondale’s “youth and inexperience.”
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Uh-huh. It was a joke. It was a throwaway. And in the process, what we didn’t remember from the debates, since that’s the moment that was repeated and repeated and repeated, was that the candidates showed very different philosophies of government, had very different plans. One of them had a plan for dealing with the deficit. The other one said we didn’t really need to, the country was going to take care of itself.
BILL MOYERS: So we have two debates now coming up in the next few days. How should we citizens watch them?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: We should set aside all the sports language and reserve it for our talk about the World Series and should instead say, “What is it that matters to me that the president of the United States is going to do in the next four years?” What that assumes is that some issues are more important than other issues to individual voters. Abortion may be more important to one voter than to another. Whether or not the president supports ethanol may be very important if you live in Chicago. And so voters ought to begin by asking what matters and then watch the debate for differences on those issues. Similarities also tell you something. They tell you that’s not an issue you vote on.
Secondly, we ought to ask, “Is this issue that people are making so much fuss about actually something a president can do something about?” There’s a lot of talk in politics about what are called “symbolic issues.” They don’t actually change the way we live when that person gets into Washington because the person can’t do anything to affect them.
And then third, and this is not unimportant, do you trust this person to make decisions that we can’t discuss yet because we don’t even know that they’re going to occur? You know, that’s the unanticipated circumstances a president faces. And we bring to that all the responses that we’ve developed across our years of living. They’re the kind of responses that we use when we marry somebody, when we pick somebody for child to – to take care of our children, when we loan somebody money or don’t loan somebody money. All those kinds of experiences come together in the debates and we say, “You’re right on the issues. I like the way you’re going to take the country, these are not largely symbolic issues, but maybe I don’t trust you enough to cast my vote yet.” And in 90 minutes we get a lot of evidence of that sort that we also use to frame voting decisions.
BILL MOYERS: Well, as you predicted in this spot several weeks ago, there will now be a third man in Sunday’s debate.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And he’s going to start advertising this week.
BILL MOYERS: Look at the TIME magazine cover. “Here He Comes.”
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Now, don’t put your finger on his nose. Be careful.
BILL MOYERS: OK. He’s back. The Washington Times headline I loved, last Friday, “Perot answers own call,” prompted us to put together a little piece that raises, even though it’s funny, a serious question. Look at this.
ACTOR: [“Saturday Night Live”] [singing] Perot. Es candidato-
ROSS PEROT: [“Larry King Live,” February 20, 1992] If you want to register me in 50 states, number one, I promise you this, between now and the conventions we’ll get both parties’ heads straight.
ACTOR: [singing] No. No candidato-
ROSS PEROT: [July 16th, 1992] So therefore I will not become a candidate.
ACTOR: [singing] Si. Candidato-
ROSS PEROT: [October 1, 1992] You, the people, own me. If you elect me, I go as your servant.
BILL MOYERS: I feel for him, in a way. That is, he has become the object of such ridicule, did it to himself, and I ask you, can a man who has made himself the object of such ridicule be expected in the next three weeks to be taken seriously with his ideas?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: If anybody ever could, it’s Ross Perot because he has the money to be buying massive amounts of television time. If you have a half hour of uninterrupted time, which most candidates haven’t wanted to purchase because you can’t get audiences for it, you have a chance to layout your program unfiltered by any media commentary. And then the other candidates are letting Ross Perot come into at least the first debate, which means that he’s got 90 minutes in which he’s treated as the equal of the other two candidates. And although there are likely to be some questions about ”Whom did you investigate? How much money did you pay your volunteers?” across that period there also is the likelihood that his substance will have a chance to get through. So we’re seeing here the power of the purse.
BILL MOYERS: Were you watching 60 Minutes Sunday night?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Then you saw Bill Clinton put in double jeopardy by an ad that cost President Bush $350,000. Let’s look at it.
ANNOUNCER: [Bush campaign TV commercial] The presidential candidate on the left stood for military action in the Persian Gulf while the candidate on the right agreed with those who opposed it. He says he wouldn’t rule out term limits while he says he’s personally opposed to term limits. This candidate was called up for military service while this one claims he wasn’t. One of these candidates is Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, so is the other.
GOVERNOR BILL CLINTON: There is a simple explanation for why this happened.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: That ad is trying to ask the third question we ask of debates: “Do you trust this person in those unanticipated circumstances that’ll come before a president?” The ad, however, is using a visual technique we usually see in trials to obscure the faces of, oh, Mafiosi who’ve turned government informant or of rape victims.
BILL MOYERS: William Kennedy Smith’s trial in Florida last year.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And so there’s a visual association there that may play sympathetically to some and may, you know, play out as a very hostile visual image to others.
BILL MOYERS: So what are they doing here?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Potentially they’re suggesting that he’s got something to hide. They’re trying to invite an association with the court atmosphere of indictment, you know, corruption, ultimate conviction.
BILL MOYERS: Both candidates have been swinging hard the last few days in their commercials. Let’s look at a couple and see if there’s a pattern developing.
ANNOUNCER: [Bush campaign TV commercial] Bill Clinton says he’ll only tax the rich to pay for his campaign promises, but here’s what Clinton economics can mean to you: [on screen: “John Canes, steamfitter”] $1,088 more in taxes; [“Lori Huntoon, Scientist”] $2,072 more in taxes. One hundred leading economists say his plan means higher taxes and bigger deficits – [”Julie and Gary Schwartz, Sales Rep”] $1,191 more in taxes; [“Wyman Winston, housing lender] $2,072 more in taxes. You can’t trust Clinton economics. It’s wrong for you. It’s wrong for America.
ANNOUNCER: [Clinton campaign TV commercial] Nineteen eighty-eight –
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Read my lips, no new taxes!
ANNOUNCER: Then George Bush signed the second biggest tax increase in American history. [on screen: “Congressional Budge Office, 1991”]
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Read my lips!
ANNOUNCER: George Bush increased taxes on the middle class. [“1990 Congressional Quarterly Almanac”] Bush doubled the beer tax and increased the gas tax by 56 percent. [“1990 Congressional Quarterly Almanac”] Now George Bush wants to give a $108,000 tax break to millionaires – $108,000! [“Based on Department of Treasury data] Guess who’s going to pay? We can’t afford four more years.
BILL MOYERS: Both sides are cooking the numbers, right?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yes. And they’re in fact doing it because neither side has provided enough detail for us to answer the question, ”Where are they actually going to get the money in order to pay for their promises?” In Clinton’s case, promises for spending. In Bush’s case, a promise to create an across-the-board 1 percent tax cut. But what’s happening in this ad is that the specificity of the numbers associated with what appear to be real people is inviting you to say, “Oh, somebody reputable has determined that a steam-fitter, someone like me, is going to pay $l,000-plus in increased taxes.” And by tying that picture to the claim that 100 leading economists have forecast, you know, higher taxes in the Clinton plan, what the Bush people are inviting you to assume is the 100 economists looked at the plan and said, “Ah, this amount of increased taxes for the steam-fitter.” They said no such thing. This is inviting a false inference by putting two things that don’t belong together together in an ad.
BILL MOYERS: And then Clinton says that George Bush wants to give rich people a tax break equal to $108,000. Not necessarily true, is it?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: No, and it’s been calculated the same way. Take the worst assumptions about every facet of the Bush plan and then project out a number across the board.
BILL MOYERS: The networks are all now looking at the ads, analyzing the ads just like we’ve been doing here every week. Do you think that this is helping people to make a more sophisticated reading of this new grammar?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The networks are concentrating on the factual inaccuracies in the ads and that is helpful. But when they look at too many ads at the same time, it ultimately becomes confusing. I think it would be more helpful to say there are some basic moves that deceive. Here’s what they look like. First, watch out for specific numbers if they’re imputed to the other person’s plan. Secondly, when two things are juxtaposed on the screen, they’re put together, ask whether they belong there. And then third, when you see really evocative pictures, ask “Are these pictures distracting me from what the words are saying? Do I really want to accept those words?” because usually the more visually evocative the picture, the more likely the words are deceiving.
BILL MOYERS: Speaking of which, you brought an ad with you this week that has nothing to do with either candidate, but is creating quite a stir out there among some people. In fact some markets refused to carry this particular ad. It’s done by an outfit called the Christian Action Network, which is a spin-off of the Moral Majority. Let’s look at this.
ANNOUNCER: [TV commercial] Bill Clinton’s vision for a better America includes job quotas for homosexuals, giving homosexuals special civil rights, allowing homosexuals in the armed forces. Al Gore supports homosexual couples adopting children and becoming foster parents. Is this your vision for a better America? For more information on traditional family values, contact the Christian Action Network.
BILL MOYERS: As a scholar, does this ad appall you?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yes. The ad is using visuals in order to vilify. At the beginning of the ad, you see Bill Clinton associated with the flag, which is one of the most common political visuals you’re going to see. And then his image is vaporized down to a skeleton which is held on the screen for just fractions of seconds. They’ve basically torn Bill Clinton away from the American flag and at the end recaptured that flag for the Christian Action Network.
BILL MOYERS: What are they trying to persuade us?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: What they’re trying to persuade us is that Clinton supports job quotas for gays and that he favors adoption by gay couples. He hasn’t taken either of those positions. Instead, he has said that gays should be able to serve in the military, and that area of this ad is accurate, and he would favor non-discriminatory policies against gays in housing and in employment. What the ad does not show you are the lawyers, the doctors, the dentists, the teachers, the journalists, the sons and daughters of high government officials who are gay and who are being discriminated against because there’s no protection for employment and there’s no protection for housing. You’ve got no protection right now.
BILL MOYERS: There are a lot of other ads out there in the atmosphere that have nothing to do with the candidates, with the presidential candidates, although they are shaping the presidential campaign and the debate about the election. And some of those ads have a lot to do with that continuing burning issue of abortion. Look at this.
ANNOUNCER: [TV commercial] [on screen: ”Abortion is a mortal sin,” “Abortion is between a woman and her doctor,” “Abortion is murder”] No matter which side of the abortion issue you’re on, [”Abortion is a constitutional right”] we’ve got news for you. [”Abortion is not available in 83 percent of the U.S.”] It may already be decided. Why Roe versus Wade is moot. If it’s important to you, you’ll find it in TIME.
ANNOUNCER: [TV commercial] Think of all the songs yet to be sung, all the games yet to be played, all the ideas yet to be imagined. Think of all the hopes and dreams and promise yet to be realized. Of all the arguments against abortion, these are the most compelling. Life, what a beautiful choice.
ANNOUNCER: [TV commercial] With our fundamental right to choose under attack, the NARAL Foundation is working to protect our freedom and more. We believe our nation’s goal should be to make abortion less necessary, not more dangerous, not more difficult. Instead of taking away our right to choose, America needs policies that help reduce the need for abortion. Americans deserve better sex education, effective birth control, improved contraceptive research. Join us. We’re fighting for real choices and working for real solutions.
ANNOUNCER: [TV commercial] Due to the graphic nature of the following message, viewer discretion is advised.
1st WOMAN: It’s just a blob of tissue!
2nd WOMAN: Her heart’s been beating since the 18th day.
1st WOMAN: It’s my body!
2nd WOMAN: Brain functioning, 10 fingers, 10 toes.
1st WOMAN: It’s a woman’s choice!
KEN LOWNDES, New Jersey Congressional Candidate: As your Congressman, I will meet the propaganda of choice with the truth, that abortion is murder of the most helpless among us.
ANNOUNCER: Vote for Ken Lowndes for Congress. Paid for by Lowndes for Congress ’92, Delwin Amarin, treasurer.
BILL MOYERS: There’s a complex set of ideas in those four ads, right? And they’re all run by independent – by TIME magazine, by a foundation, by NARAL, by an independent candidate for Congress. But there’s a complex set of ideas there.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Yeah. And what I think we’re seeing is two very different tendencies in the rhetoric. The TIME ad is showing the bipolar extremes you know, “Abortion is murder,” “Abortion is a fundamental right.” The ad that’s being aired in New Jersey is showing the most visual elements and elements that are very controversial and, as a result, evoking in people a sense of outrage, disgust or profound identification, but also that’s a rhetoric that’s pushing to the extremes.
The NARAL ad and the DeMoss ad, one a pro-life, one a pro-choice ad, are attempting to seek common ground. No one that I know thinks abortion is good. Everyone would like to find a way to decrease the number of abortions and no one I know thinks it would be undesirable to bring children into the world if they could have the kind of world shown in the DeMoss ad. Those children are well-fed. They’re well-clothed. They’re happy. They live in a warm, nurturing environment. It’s that center tendency in the abortion debate that found some expression in the Pennsylvania decision in the Supreme Court.
But unfortunately, our tendency in political discourse is to pull to the extremes, not to find common ground. The American people are actually in the middle of the abortion discussion. They don’t like the idea of abortion, but they see it necessary in some unfortunate circumstances and that’s really where we should start the debate, not where we should end it.
BILL MOYERS: Even though some of those ads are trying to reach for a middle ground, the fact of the matter is the rhetoric, as you said, and a lot of the demonstrations we’ve seen in the streets, show just how hard it is to find common ground on abortion. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of people compare the struggle over abortion to the struggle over slavery that early in our history brought on the collapse of politics as the art of compromise.
Well, as Kathleen just said, people of good faith are desperate to find a way around the impasse. Some of them think the answer may be a pill called RU-486. It would end abortion as a surgical procedure. Now, whether that happens depends on whether the government allows the pill to be researched and tested and even this possibility is a casualty of politics. Producer Gail Pellett prepared this report.
NARRATOR: More than 100,000 women in France and Britain have taken what’s commonly called the French abortion pill. RU-486 must be prescribed by a doctor and taken in a doctor’s office. It works by causing a miscarriage when taken in the earliest weeks of pregnancy and so far it’s had a 95 percent success rate.
CYBILL SHEPHERD: RU-486 is the most important development in contraceptive technology in 40 years. It’s the most important development since the original first birth control pill. And since my daughters will probably be on some form of the pill, I really – I want this drug in this country and I want it-
NARRATOR: Cybill Shepherd, along with other American abortion rights activists, is lobbying heavily for the importation and testing of RU-486.
CYBILL SHEPHERD: [Congressional hearing] It has been said that RU486 is the moral property of women. It is more than that. It is the moral property of all Americans.
NARRATOR: RU-486 also shows promise for the treatment of female infertility and preliminary research suggests it has potential for treating other serious diseases like breast cancer, brain tumors and glaucoma.
REPRESENTATIVE RON WYDEN (D-OR) : [Congressional hearing] RU-486 may be the forerunner of an important new line of hormone-blocking medicines known as anti-progestins.
NARRATOR: Despite research excitement about RU-486, the Food and Drug Administration has placed a ban on it, or what’s called an “import alert ruling” against personal use.
ARTHUR L. CAPLAN, Center for Biomedical Ethics, University of Michigan: [Congressional hearing] Mr. Chairman, let me be blunt about the basis for the de facto ban on RU-486 in this country. It’s politics. The poison of abortion politics is the sole reason why biomedical research involving RU-486 is being stifled.
REPRESENTATIVE PAT SCHROEDER (D-CO) : If you lift the import alert, it’s going to be much easier for researchers to get adequate supplies of this drug to look at it in a whole range of areas and it also will be much easier for individuals to bring it in for their own personal treatment under doctors’ order. Whether you’re talking about a brain tumor or other tumors or things that appear to have no other hope, they can bring it in as they now do with other drugs.
LEONA BENTEN: [news conference] I’m angry. I’m stressed out. I’m, you know, figuring out how I’m going to deal with having an abortion now, since I can’t take the pill.
NARRATOR: This summer Leona Benten was a test case for abortion rights advocates wanting to challenge the FDA import alert. Benten was stopped by Customs officials at Kennedy Airport when she tried to bring enough RU-486 into the country to end her pregnancy. Her pills were seized and confiscated. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
REPRESENTATIVE RON WYDEN: [Congressional hearing] In the chair’s opinion, RU-486 has now been effectively blocked for all use in this country because one use doesn’t pass the administration’s anti-abortion political litmus test.
NARRATOR: Oregon representative Ron Wyden held hearings on Capitol Hill this summer to see how the FDA’s import alert affects medical research on RU-486.
REPRESENTATIVE RON WYDEN: [Congressional hearing] The anti-abortion forces have successfully lobbied the Reagan-Bush administration to maintain and impose the import alert, to send a message to the drug’s French manufacturer. That message is clear: Don’t try applying for a general drug approval for RU-486 in this country. You won’t get a fair shake for this drug.
NARRATOR: RU-486 was a political story from the time it was created in 1980. Its inventor was Dr. Etienne-Emile Baulieu, working at a French pharmaceutical company called Roussel Uclaf. When clinical trials proved the drug effective as an abortion pill, anti-abortion forces protested its use. Despite their opposition, the drug was approved for sale in France in 1988. The American right-to-life movement was already lobbying against the new drug. California Congressman Robert Dornan proposed legislation banning RU-486.
Rep. ROBERT DORNAN, (R-CA) : [press conference] The church will be teaching that abortion is the killing of human beings until the end of time!
NARRATOR: In the spring of 1989 Dornan wrote a letter to the commissioner of the FDA, asking why an import alert had not been imposed on RU-486, stating, “The U.S. government should not be involved in abetting abortion.” A month later the commissioner replied, announcing that an import alert had been “recently issued.”
REPRESENTATIVE RON WYDEN: My staff did an extensive review of the Food and Drug Administration’s files. What we found was the FDA had no evidence of a safety problem. The evidence indicated that there was no problem with a black market. And the evidence indicated that there had been no incidents of illegal importation. When you look at the FDA files on the import alert, what you find is a whole batch of letters from anti-abortion lobbyists who were pushing for this rule.
NARRATOR: An FDA spokesperson told us that “politics has never played a role here,” but the FDA is not the only target in this new drug war. The French company that owns RU-486, Roussel Uclaf, and its German parent company, Hoechst AG, also became the focus of attention because they control research access to the drug. During a six-month period in 1990 the executives of these companies were lobbied by both sides of the American abortion war. First, California Congresswoman Barbara Boxer sent a letter signed by 70 members of Congress to the president of Roussel Uclaf requesting the company introduce RU-486 to the United States. Then Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, led a delegation to meet with Roussel’s executives. She delivered 800 pounds of petitions signed by American supporters of RU-486. Then yet another delegation from the United States went to meet with the same executives.
RICHARD GLASOW, National Right to Life Committee: And the representatives included the Southern Baptist Convention, the Knights of Columbus, the Focus on the Family, the National Right to Life, of course, Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America. The objective of our meeting with them was to show that millions of Americans, tens of millions of Americans, strongly oppose bringing the abortion technique to the United States.
NARRATOR: Both sides in the tug-of-war now threaten boycotts of Roussel Uclaf and Hoechst AG products in the United States. For the multi-national Hoechst Corporation, that means a wide range of chemicals, plastics, pharmaceuticals and agricultural products.
RICHARD LAND, Executive, Southern Baptist Convention: I’m convinced that if RU-486 were brought into this country, that there would be probably the broadest boycott against Hoechst products that has been experienced by any boycott movement in my lifetime.
RICHARD GLASOW: [Congressional hearing] The pro-RU-486 campaign is a classic case of disinformation and misrepresentation by abortion advocates who want the public’s eye off of abortion. In addition to all of this, the RU-486 technique has already caused one death and two life-threatening heart attacks in the first 60,000 women who used it in France.
ARTHUR CAPLAN: After all, to be honest and fair, RU-486 may not pan out. We’re talking about research. Maybe it won’t deliver. In the research arena, the challenge to the private companies, to the pharmaceutical industry, is they have to put up a lot of resources at the front end in the hopes of getting a big winner at the therapeutic end. But a lot of times the gamble fails. This one could, too. The faster they can find out, the more comfortable they’re going to be. If you delay them, then they’re not going to push forward with the research because they’ll know that other companies have a leg up on them. They’ll just move on to other things.
RICHARD GLASOW: It is true that abortion politics has played a role in the company’s decision not to bring RU-486 into this country for abortion and we applaud that. We say, “Don’t bring it here. It’s dangerous.”
RODERICK L. MacKENZIE, Chairman, GynoPharma, Inc. : [Congressional hearing, December 1991] Business large or small absolutely abhors controversy. Controversy is unpredictable. It’s scares the devil out a businessman and they get out of it. And what has happened here in the United States is we’ve moved from having nine major pharmaceutical companies doing research in female reproductive medicine to only one.
REPRESENTATIVE PAT SCHROEDER: I represent an area that has lots of researchers and they would love to get into this, but they also want to get future government grants and they don’t want to do something that’s considered politically incorrect and they’re also angry that they have to think about political correctness rather than scientific results.
ARTHUR CAPLAN: To be honest, I can’t think of anything that parallels that, with the possible exception of the use of fetal tissue for research. There are large-scale trials going on in Sweden using tissue from elective abortions to see whether there is any efficacy in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. While no one proposes to ship the tissue in here, the fact is that those research projects are not underway here because of a ban similar to the one on RU-486 on research involving fetal tissue in this country. The only areas, I think, where there are any parallels at all have been in the areas of reproductive health or areas that touch upon the topic of abortion. And it’s clear to me that it’s abortion that’s driving the ban, nothing else.
BILL MOYERS: We did that report because we wanted to take just one example of how politics, which is a lot of sound and fury, leads to government and government makes choices. So that whatever your position, whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, you see that your vote gives you a choice in November between two different positions. Clinton has said he will endorse RU-486, at least the research and testing of it. Bush doesn’t.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And what we tend to forget is the President is able to nominate to the Supreme Court, but the President also appoints the heads of the regulatory agencies and often it’s in the act of regulation that real people’s lives are changed. And that is an element in deciding who ought to be president for those in both the pro-choice and pro-life movements.
BILL MOYERS: Well, we’ll see how they handle this issue, abortion and others, this weekend on the debates. So I look forward to seeing you next time to talk about the debates.
As we just saw, the abortion debate is about the politics of passion and its power to influence government. Our final report tonight is about the politics and power of money. When money talks softly, both parties listen. Producer Martin Koughan reports from “The Money Trail.”
NARRATOR: Normally, Amtrak charges $89 for a round-trip ticket between Washington and New York City, but not on this train. A lot of the people who crowded into Gate D at Washington’s Union Station the day before the Democratic convention were eager to pay a little bit more for a special ride. And not everyone was welcome.
PARTY OFFICIAL: This is a private function.
CNN REPORTER: We’re in a public area.
PARTY OFFICIAL: But it’s a private function.
NARRATOR: This enterprising crew from CNN couldn’t even get close to the train. This is the Democratic Party’s Victory Train, carrying members of Congress and Party officials to the convention in New York City. Special guests were invited too, provided they could cough up $10,000 for the ride – one way.
PASSENGER: Happy days are here again.
SHEILA KAPLAN, “Lelal Times”: For $89 you don’t get to spend five hours with members of Congress and ambassadors from all over the world – lobbyists for the New York Stock Exchange, for hazardous waste companies, for the Smokeless Tobacco Council, for lots of different trade groups and lobby firms.
NARRATOR: Sheila Kaplan of Legal Times was the only reporter to slip on the train with her notebook and camera.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see a lot of lobbying going on while you were on the train?
SHEILA KAPLAN: Well, yes, I did, although the lobbyists wouldn’t call it that.
INTERVIEWER: What do they call it?
SHEILA KAPLAN: Well, let’s see. Tommy Boggs called it “socializing.”
NARRATOR: To Tommy Boggs, known around Capitol Hill as “the king of the lobbyists,” socializing with Congressional leadership is business. His firm, Patton, Boggs & Blow, has represented clients as diverse as tobacco companies, the chemical industry and Japanese auto dealers. And on the Democratic Party Victory Train, there was plenty of what Tommy Boggs calls “socializing” going on.
GOVERNOR BILL CLINTON: Join us, work with us, win with us and we can make our country the country it was meant to be.
NARRATOR: Bill Clinton says he believes that lobbyists and special in-terests are a problem that President Bush ignores.
GOVERNOR BILL CLINTON: He won’t break the stranglehold the special interests have on our elections and the lobbyists have on our government, but I will.
RON BROWN, Chairman, Democratic National Committee: America needs change. Bill Clinton knows that. He’s going to be a president who creates change and who makes America all it can be.
NARRATOR: But you have to wonder what kind of change Ron Brown means when he is a partner of master lobbyist Tommy Boggs, a partner who was still on the payroll even while he served as chairman of the Democratic Party.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: And I see something happening in our towns and in our neighborhoods – sharp lawyers are running wild.
NARRATOR: President Bush hammered away at this coziness with lawyers in his acceptance speech.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: After all, my opponent’s campaign is being backed by practically every trial lawyer who ever wore a tasseled loafer.
LARRY MAKINSON, Center for Responsive Politics: If you looked down the list of contributors to Clinton’s campaign, you’re going to find the biggest and most influential law firms in the country, many of them based in New York, in Chicago and almost all of them with Washington offices. These are offices that, though they’re legal offices, they’re very much involved in the business of lobbying, trying to pass laws and influence legislation in Washington.
NARRATOR: Larry Makinson is the research director at the Center for Responsive Politics. His team is trying to track who is giving money to the candidates. President Bush was right about the lawyers and Clinton, but he forgot to mention something.
LARRY MAKINSON: Well, not all the lawyers are giving their money to Bill Clinton. In fact, lawyers and lobbyists were the number one contributor to the Bush campaign as well as the Clinton campaign. He didn’t mention that.
NARRATOR: There’s a lot both candidates aren’t telling the voters.
LARRY MAKINSON: The candidates are not working very hard to illuminate the American public on where their campaign contributions are coming from. They might work hard to tell you where the other guy’s campaign contributions are coming from, but they’d rather not talk about their own, thank you.
NARRATOR: Even though Federal Election Commission rules require the campaigns to identify their donors, more than half of the contributors to the Clinton campaign hide their occupations and two thirds of the President’s donors don’t want voters to know where their money comes from.
LARRY MAKINSON: We shouldn’t be sitting here looking at these computers, looking up all these people and trying to be detectives to find out who’s giving money to the Bush and Clinton campaigns. They’re supposed to be filling in the blanks and telling the American public who’s funding their campaigns. They’re not doing it.
INTERVIEWER: Why aren’t they doing it?
LARRY MAKINSON: Why should they do it, if you look at their point of view? It makes it easy for their opponents to see where there’s money coming from. It makes it easy for groups like ours, who’s trying to be monitoring the stuff and getting it out to the news media. It makes it difficult for us to do our job if we have absolutely nothing but a name, you know, and an address to go on.
BILL MOYERS: And the givers have found ingenious ways of disguising their contributions. One is called “bundling.” That’s where corporate officers and their spouses give legal individual contributions and then bundle them together for the candidate.
LARRY MAKINSON: Two groups in particular tend to do this sort of bundling of contributions and that’s lawyers and lobbying firms and also the securities industry, Wall Street.
NARRATOR: For example, Makinson looked at the contributions reported to the F.E.C. by the investment bankers Goldman Sachs. The number came to $37,000. Then the detective work starts.
LARRY MAKINSON: For instance, if you looked at an F.E.C. report, you’d see that this particular person considers themself to be a homemaker and they are a homemaker. But what they don’t tell you is the person they’re married to works for Goldman Sachs and Company. Here’s an example here – “investment banker.” That’s what they put down for their occupation. It’s not wrong, but it’s just not complete. That’s what they do for a living. Well, they do that for a living. Guess who they work for? Goldman Sachs and Company.
NARRATOR: When you add it all up, that $37,000 Goldman Sachs reported giving to the Clinton campaign was, to be charitable, conservative.
LARRY MAKINSON: In fact, it was over $90,000. I think it was almost $100,000 that Goldman Sachs delivered just through its partners and their spouses.
INTERVIEWER: To Bill Clinton?
LARRY MAKINSON: To Bill Clinton. Now, I don’t know
INTERVIEWER: Were they trying to hide that money?
LARRY MAKINSON: Well, let’s say that Goldman Sachs was not exactly being forthcoming about the fact that they were giving all this money to Bill Clinton. For that matter, neither was the Clinton campaign.
HOWARD BAKER: And, as most of us in this hall know, he has moved us to our checkbooks with his –
NARRATOR: And the Democrats are not the only bundlers. Just this past April at a million-dollar fundraiser for the Bush campaign in Dearborn, Michigan, bundled contributions were not only gratefully accepted, the corporations were actually listed on the programs even though direct corporate contributions have been illegal since 1907. With enough money, you can actually buy a seat in the circle of power, like at this special affair called the “President’s Dinner,” held last spring in Washington.
VICE PRESIDENT DAN QUAYLE: Ladies and gentlemen, first let me congratulate Senator Howard Baker on another record event. That makes it two in a row.
NARRATOR: Forty-five hundred loyal Republicans paid a minimum of $1,500 each to show their support for the ticket, a total of $9 million. Important Party leaders shared the head table with the President and his wife – Senators and Congressmen, administration officials and their wives, and Michael Kojima.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: And it’s wonderful to be officially over the top, but I want to start-
NARRATOR: Michael Kojima? Who is this man just five seats away from the President?
CHARLES LEWIS, Center for Public Integrity: This is a very shadowy figure who came out of nowhere, gives half a million dollars to the Republican Party and disappears. At the time of that dinner, he was a fugitive from justice. He had two ex-wives who each were looking for $100,000-plus in child support. There were five corporations suing him, all in excess of six-figure sums.
NARRATOR: This is the best photograph we could obtain of Kojima. He hasn’t been seen since. How did Michael Kojima come up with $500,000? No one seems to mind, including the dinner’s chairman, Howard Baker.
CHARLES LEWIS: Howard Baker is a former U.S. Senator for several terms, very respected, is Everett Dirkson’s son-in-law, chief of staff to the president of the United States with Ronald Reagan and during Watergate he’s very famous for asking about Richard Nixon, ”What did the President know and when did he know it?” He’s not asking these questions about Michael Kojima.
NARRATOR: Even though each party gets $11 million in taxpayer money to spend on their conventions there are still lots of ways that corporations can help out, like receptions and hospitality suites for delegates and elected officials and, even more influential, the loan of key corporate officers to help organize the convention.
Philip Morris Company was a major contributor to the Republican convention, just as it was at the Democratic convention and that fact has some health care advocates hopping mad.
Dr. ALAN BLUM, Doctors Ought to Care: The irony that a party that touts a drug-free America is being in great part financed by the leading tobacco companies in the United States, the leading alcohol companies, speaks for itself.
CRAIG FULLER: [to staff meeting] The President and I got a chance to talk this morning and-
NARRATOR: Craig Fuller was the chairman of the Republican National Convention. He was in charge of stage managing the convention for maximum media impact to create that bounce to get the President reelected.
CRAIG FULLER: The President is excited. He and I talked this morning.
He liked a lot what he saw.
NARRATOR: Fuller and the President talk a lot. They’re old friends. In fact, Fuller was Bush’s chief of staff while he was vice president. But Fuller no longer works at the White House. His real job is director of corporate affairs for the Philip Morris Company.
SHEILA KAPLAN: Fuller was working the convention for the Republican Party and for Philip Morris. Perhaps the Republicans feel that he did a good job for the Party. I’m sure Philip Morris feels he did a good job for them.
CHARLES LEWIS: How can your very professional existence, predicated on your relationship with the president of the United States – how can you separate that from your commercial interests when that’s why you have a commercial interest, why you have a career in the private sector? How can you separate these things? His commercial interest exists because he’s Craig Fuller. This is not a man who’s ever been a CEO of a company or has extensive MBA-type background in business. He was brought in for one reason and one reason alone, his talent in the inner political sanctums of Washington, D.C. From Philip Morris’s standpoint, it’s brilliant.
CRAIG FULLER: [at Republican National Convention] It gives us a chance to talk to 14 or 15 million people.
LARRY MAKINSON: I mean, who can criticize that company? They’re very shrewd. They know how to get the job done. They know how to make sure they can get heard at the highest levels in government. You don’t think that someone at the Secretary of State’s office or the U.S. Trade Representative’s office or the Secretary of Agriculture’s office – you don’t think they know that Craig Fuller coordinated the G.O.P. convention in Houston when they call? Of course they know. Even if he never met them in his life, they know the name. And why do I think that phone call will get returned, like, within 10 minutes? And that’s how this town works.
NARRATOR: Volunteering personnel to help at the convention is only one way corporations make new friends and talk business with elected officials. Welcome to a hospitality suite. Forgive the shaky picture, but we had to use a hidden camera because the media – and the public are not invited.
LARRY MAKINSON: The great thing about hospitality suites, where you really get a chance to schmooze with the candidates and everybody else who’s party officials, is they’re tax-deductible.
INTERVIEWER: Taxpayers are underwriting a corporation’s ability to schmooze with a politician?
LARRY MAKINSON: That’s the system we have. That’s the American way.
NARRATOR: The schedule for the convention included dozens of these special parties. One was open 24 hours a day for the duration of the convention. It was sponsored by Philip Morris. But when reporter Sheila Kaplan showed up at the Regal Suite, this is what happened.
PHILIP MORRIS OFFICIAL: It’s not a hospitality suite.
INTERVIEWER: It is not?
PHILIP MORRIS OFFICIAL: It’s a working office.
INTERVIEWER: Is there a hospitality suite open?
PHILIP MORRIS OFFICIAL: No.
SHEILA KAPLAN: If Philip Morris’s business at this convention was socializing with delegates and other officials who are important to them, then you could say, yeah, that was their office.
NARRATOR: And here’s what happened when Kaplan visited the National Republican Congressional Committee media room and merely asked which corporation was paying the tab for that evening’s fundraiser.
SHEILA KAPLAN: Now, who’s the sponsor?
MEDIA ROOM OFFICIAL: I don’t have that information, honestly.
SHEILA KAPLAN: Do you have it or do you not want to release it?
MEDIA ROOM OFFICIAL: I don’t have the information. I don’t know.
SHEILA KAPLAN: OK. How come earlier today you said you knew, but you didn’t want to say?
MEDIA ROOM OFFICIAL: I thank you. I thank you. I thank you.
[slams the door]
SHEILA KAPLAN: Obviously she knew but, you know, there are enough people who are raising questions about the sponsorship of these events that the Republicans and the Democrats are sensitive enough to want to hide it, although not sensitive enough to want to turn it down.
NARRATOR: Sometimes there are good reasons to be sensitive. Take this expensive gathering at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It was invitation only and the press and the public weren’t invited, but we managed to slip inside with our hidden camera.
1st SPEAKER: -here in the city of Houston committed $4.3 million and Findlay and I assumed the job to go to our wonderful corporate community and to raise that money.
NARRATOR: There were plenty of elected officials and even more of the Republican Party’s biggest givers.
2nd SPEAKER: -the investment bankers have taught some of us, and that is-let me tell you something, boy. Put your money where your mouth is.
NARRATOR: The room was filled with members of Team 100. To join the team all you have to do is give over $100,000 to the Republican Party. There’s Bob Mosbacher, Team 100’s captain and former Secretary of Commerce.
2nd SPEAKER: We’re eating high on the hog.
NARRATOR: Eventually the hosts figured out that we didn’t look like $100,000 donors.
PARTY OFFICIAL: Oh, well, you’re not invited to this party. This is a private party and so I’d like to ask you to leave.
NARRATOR: No surprise there, but we were surprised to learn who was paying for all that shrimp and champagne.
3rd SPEAKER: Thank you Peter and all the people from Goldman Sachs. Thank you so very much.
NARRATOR: Goldman Sachs? But weren’t they the top contributors to the Clinton campaign?
LARRY MAKINSON: Wall Street isn’t going to lose anything, no matter who wins the election. One of the things we find, in fact, is that when we look at the top contributors to the Bush campaign, number five on the list, Goldman Sachs and Company. They’re covering their bets. They’re giving to both sides. They’re hosting hospitality suites in both the Democratic convention in New York and the Republican convention in Houston. Whoever wins, Goldman Sachs is going to be covered.
NARRATOR: The conventions were non-stop parties and many of the party-goers were both.
SHEILA KAPLAN: Did your companies both contribute to the Democratic convention, as well?
BUSINESSMAN: Yes, we did.
NARRATOR: But why spend lavish amounts of money on both candidates? Isn’t the idea behind democracy to choose?
BUSINESSMAN: That’s not the idea at all.
SHEILA KAPLAN: What’s the idea?
BUSINESSMAN: The idea is to support the political process.
NARRATOR: Of all the parties in Houston, this was the one to be seen at, the R.N .C. fundraiser sponsored by ARCO. The givers were proud to show their colors. An Eagles badge says that you gave at least $15,000 to the Republican Party and this coveted badge says you had an extra $100,000 to help “support the political process.” To the people at ARCO there were good reasons to spend all this money.
JIM MORRISON, ARCO: Well, we go back to Washington and visit people from time to time.
SHEILA KAPLAN: And will they remember that you were here?
JIM MORRISON: I hope so.
NARRATOR: The ARCO gala raised over $4 million for the Republican National Committee. Not for the reelection of President Bush, mind you. Presidential campaigns are publicly financed so that would be illegal. But it did permit ARCO chairman Lodwrick Cook to share an intimate lunch with the President. We don’t know what they discussed.
LARRY MAKINSON: These are the kind of “real people” that candidates meet along the campaign trail, but there’s a price that we all have to pay for those friendly smiles and those hospitality suites and those handshaking after the election is over. And you can bet that these people who are giving $1,000 contributions and $10,000 contributions and $20,000 and $50,000 and $100,000 and, in one case, $1 million contributions – do you think they’re going to go home after the election and say, ”Well, that feels good. Now we can go back and go about our business and let the government go about its”? No, no, no. They’ll be knocking on the government’s door and they’ll be wanting to get some kind of a return on that investment.
LODWRICK COOK, ARCO: Thanks for 80 much what you are doing to make sure that President Bush and Vice President Quayle stay in the White House for four more years. Let me hear it – four more years!
NARRATOR: Of course, what chairman Cook meant to say was, “Thanks for giving all that money to the Republican Party” because contributing directly to the president’s reelection is against the law.
EMCEE: Oh, now, ladies and gentlemen, I think I hear a train whistle. Yes, this is the 1992 Republican Victory Train with a full head of steam for the White Housel
NARRATOR: Only one party’s victory train can make it all the way to the White House, but for some people it doesn’t really matter which one. Most voters can’t afford to buy a ticket on either victory train, but for the big money givers who can, no matter who wins in November, they win.
BILL MOYERS: You’ll hear it said, “So what? Campaigns are expensive and candidates have to find the money somewhere, otherwise only billionaires like Ross Perot will run, buying office with their personal fortunes.” But that begs the question. Twenty years ago just about everybody was shocked and ashamed when the Watergate scandals revealed how big money had polluted our politics. We put our collective foot down, declared “Never again” and provided a check-off on our tax returns so that presidential elections would be financed by modest contributions from millions of citizens and not by the big rich. Well, the parties found a loophole in “soft money,” money that circumvents the federal laws in order to influence federal elections. Democrats and Republicans alike invite it and the money rolls in. Here’s just a small sample of soft dollar givers. [on screen: RJR Nabisco, $778,650; Archer Daniels Midland, $712,000; Atlantic Richfield, $652,914; US Tobacco Co., $515,504,’ American Financial Corp., $465,000; Edgar M. Bronfman, $450,000; Michael Kojima, $400,000; United Steelworkers of America, $397,325; Philip Morris Co. Inc. $394.580; Merrill Lynch & Co., $377.200; Dwayne Andreas, $300,000; Alida Rockefeller Messinger, $300.000; National Education Association, $284,202; Swanee Hunt. $250,000,’ Peter B. Lewis, $231.300; AFSCME. $226.272; Agenda for the ’90s, $210,000; Peter & Eileen Norton. $210,000; Merle C. Chambers, $208,000; Bruce D. Benson. $157,400; Jerome Kohlberg, $150,000; Sony Corporation of America, $130,650; Paine Webber Group Inc., $129,300; David Geffen, $120,000; Lew R. Wasserman, $110,000; Henry L. Hillman, $102,400; Gabriel & Pauline Petre. $102.400; Craighead Investment Co. Inc., $100,000; William S. Leach, $100,000; Peter Morton, $100,000; Jamie B. Coulter, $100,000; Milton Petrie; $100,000; Michael C. Williams, $100,000]
The list goes on and all the players know that they’re thumbing their noses. at the rules. They’ve adopted the philosophy of Mae West. “It ain’t no sin if you crack a few laws now and then,” she said, ‘just as long as you don’t break any.” Maybe so, Mae, but even if the laws aren’t broken, can we say the same of democracy?
Next week I’ll be back with Kathleen Hall Jamieson and others, listening to the debates. See you then.
This program was part of the series, Listening To America.
This transcript was entered on April 9, 2015.