Since The People & The Power Game first aired in September 1996,
we have been tracking the issue of campaign finance reform. Hedrick Smith
Productions has produced three separate programs for the PBS NewsHour
that deal with Campaign Finance. We will add links to the full transcripts
of each segment from The NewsHour
site as they become available.
Segment 1 "The
Niagara of Money" (Listen to the RealAudio
Against the current atmosphere of the scandal and investigation, this
segment shows how the campaign system has been overwhelmed by the volume
of money, which is at a record level of more than $2 billion dollars. The
program illustrates how the 1974 campaign finance law has broken down over
the years, after having worked fairly well for the first three presidential
elections after the law was passed. The Federal
Election Commission (FEC) ruling which allowed "soft" money-that
is uncontrolled money- to flow to the political parties for "party
building" and for "issue advertising." The Clinton campaign
exploited this loophole and used soft money to finance ads for reelection.
The Republicans also used this loophole for the Dole campaign. Exploiting
a Supreme Court ruling that equates campaign spending with free speech,
independent organizations such as the AFL-CIO
and the US Chamber of Commerce spent
heavily on the battle for Congress in 1996.
Segment 2 "Big
Sugar-Sweet Deal" (Listen to the RealAudio
This segment looks at the use of political donations to Congressional
campaigns to influence the outcome of legislative votes in the Congress.
We focus on the sugar industry's
lobbying to maintain sugar price supports through import restrictions. There
was a huge battle in the last Congress, largely unnoticed by most people,
although the price support costs most consumers roughly 8 cents per pound
more for sugar than the current world market price, according to the General
Accounting Office. In this battle, Big Sugar wanted to maintain the price
supports, but Republican free-market reformers in the House wanted to get
rid of the agricultural subsidies and price supports. One of the biggest
political givers was the Flo-Sun
Sugar Corp. owned by the Fanjul family. Flo Sun and its allies gained
influence on the political process through campaign giving to both political
parties, and in the end, Big Sugar won.
Segment 3 "Reform-As
Maine Goes...?" (Listen to the RealAudio
This final segment focuses on various efforts at reform in Washington
and the states. The boldest action so far is the the referendum passed last
fall in Maine for public financing of state elections. We go into that battle
and the response by the politicians in Maine, peppered with the comments
of Maine citizens. The segment then shifts to Washington to examine two
1) The McCain-Feingold proposal which calls for banning soft money to
parties and offers free and discounted airtime on television to candidates
if they will accept voluntary spending limits.
2) Bill Bradley's call for a Constitutional amendment to put firm limits
on all campaign spending. We also quote foes of campaign spending such as
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who argues that according
to Supreme Court decisions campaign spending is like free speech and cannot
be regulated in American elections.
Center For Responsive Politics:
The Center's Website offers a wealth of information on Campaign Finance.
The Center is a non-partisan research group that specializes in the study
of the role that money plays in federal elections and actions. Contact the
Center for campaign finance profiles of members of Congress, industries,
and interest groups and for information on which campaign contributors are
"cashing in" at public expense and how. The Center also follows
activities of the campaign finance regulatory system, holds seminars and
workshops for issue activists and journalists, and offers trainings on how
to undertake research. The array of Center publications on the problem of
money in politics ranges from reference books to a free bimonthly newsletter.
is not the official site of the Federal Election Commission, though it offers
useful FEC data on the 1996 elections.
out FECInfo's list of all individuals who have made contributions of $200
or more: http://www.tray.com/fecinfo/indiv.htm
also has the scoop on who's on top, money-wise, in each congressional race:
you don't recognize a name on a list of big givers, you may find more about
that contributor on Mother Jones magazine's MoJo 400 site, which gives a
detailed portrait of the top 400 political contributors. http://www.mojones.com/coinop_congress/mojo_400/mojo_400.html
where there are big givers, there are big takers. Mother Jones picks the
"dirtiest dozen" (in terms of campaign contributions) in the 104th
Get Involved: This is a
link to a list of various groups that are working on Campaign Finance Reform