HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BEHIND THE FACADE OF OFFICIAL WASHINGTON,
THERE IS A SHADOW GOVERNMENT THAT ALSO CLAIMS TO REPRESENT US THE UNELECTED
GOVERNMENT OF THE MEDIA AND THE LOBBIES. TONIGHT, WE THE PEOPLE GO BEHIND
OFFICIAL WASHINGTON, INSIDE THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT ­p;­p; IN THE PEOPLE
AND THE POWER GAME.
SMITH: HELLO, I'M HEDRICK SMITH. EIGHT YEARS AGO WE DID A SERIES ON HOW WASHINGTON REALLY WORKS. SINCE THEN, PUBLIC ANGER AT GOVERNMENT HAS EXPLODED. AND SO NOW, WE TAKE ANOTHER LOOK TO SEE WHY THE WASHINGTON POWER GAME SO FRUSTRATES AMERICANS AND THEN WE ASK PEOPLE LIKE YOU HOW WE CAN MAKE OUR DEMOCRACY WORK BETTER. WE BEGIN BY EXAMINING THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT: THE LOBBIES AND THE MEDIA, TWO FORCES WHICH CLAIM TO EXERCISE POWER IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE AND WHOSE PERFORMANCE AFFECTS WHETHER THE PUBLIC FEELS WELL SERVED BY AMERICAN DEMOCRACY. AT A TIME OF RAMPANT VOTER APATHY, FOR EXAMPLE, CRITICS BLAME THE PRESS FOR FEEDING PUBLIC CYNICISM. WE JOURNALISTS ARE AS DISLIKED AS POLITICIANS, SEEN AS PART OF A DISTANT, ARROGANT POWER ELITE.
PART OF THE STORY IS THE MEDIA EXPLOSION, THE GROWTH OF CABLE TV, TALK RADIO AND THE TABLOIDS. IN THE RACE FOR RATINGS AND READERS AGAINST THESE NEW COMPETITORS, THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA STANDS CHARGED WITH LOWERING ITS NEWS STANDARDS, BLURRING THE LINE BETWEEN FACT AND OPINION, BETWEEN NEWS AND ENTERTAINMENT. CRITICS ASSERT THAT BY FOCUSING ON SCANDAL AND CONFLICT OVER SUBSTANCE, AND BY OUR INCREASINGLY NEGATIVE TONE, THE MEDIA HAS DISTORTED THE NATION'S AGENDA AND LOST TOUCH WITH THE PUBLIC WE CLAIM TO SERVE.
TOM ROSENSTIEL/MEDIA ANALYST: The press is in a moment of crisis, a state of high anxiety. We feel that our authority has been lost, our ability to decide what is news and what is not.
DAN RATHER/CBS NEWS: You're in this, you know, viciously competitive pit where day to day, week to week, month to month, it's a matter of survival, that is, you know, to keep your program on the air, keep yourself on the air.
ROSENSTIEL: We are losing market share ­p;- economic market share ­p;- to this proliferating spectrum of new outlets out there.
ANDREW HEYWARD/PRES. CBS NEWS: I think the audience, to some degree, is dismissing network news, has found network news less relevant than it was in its heyday, Vietnam and Watergate.
RATHER: Coming up on the CBS Evening News, if you think televisions and home electronics are mostly made in Japan, think again.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: NOWHERE IS THE COMPETITIVE PRESSURE TO HOLD AUDIENCE AGAINST CNN, FOX, LOCAL STATIONS AND INFOTAINMENT SHOWS, LIKE HARD COPY AND INSIDE EDITION, FELT MORE KEENLY THAN HERE AT CBS. ONCE THE TIFFANY NEWS NETWORK, CBS IS NOW IN LAST PLACE, FIGHTING TO HANG ONTO TO ITS NEWS STANDARDS AND NOT SINK TO THE LEVEL OF ITS TABLOID COMPETITORS.
RATHER: We're had this struggle from the beginning, but we're at the point now, where we're right at the brink of being totally overwhelmed and consumed by entertainment values as opposed to news values.
KEVIN PHILLIPS/AUTHOR, ARROGANT CAPITAL: Elements of the press, especially in the broadcast media, are so preoccupied with posturing and these face-offs, and being sort of show biz, that there's very little substance there.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: HERE IN THE SO-CALLED FISH BOWL, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER JEFF FAGER AND THE CBS NEWS TEAM MAKE THE VITAL DECISIONS AS TO WHAT WILL GO ON THE EVENING NEWS. IT'S A JUDGMENT CALL. TODAY, AS ON MANY DAYS, SUBSTANCE VERSUS VISUALS. DAN RATHER, ANCHOR AND MANAGING EDITOR, WANTS TO LEAD OFF THE BROADCAST WITH A SUBSTANTIVE POLITICAL STORY. BUT THE MOST COMPELLING PICTURES COME FROM FLOODING IN THE NORTHEAST. RATHER WORRIES THAT CBS AFFILIATES WILL BEAT THE NETWORK ON THE FLOOD STORY. ONCE, DECISIONS ON WHAT NEWS TO BROADCAST WERE THE MONOPOLY OF THE NETWORKS. TODAY, COMPETITION FROM AGGRESSIVE LOCAL TELEVISION STATIONS INFLUENCES NETWORK COVERAGE.
JERRY NACHMAN/VP, WCBS: Technology changed a lot of things. For a lot of years, the networks could enjoy supremacy because they could withhold pictures, and this is television. There used to be an expression, "net first." The film bags would come in from Vietnam and we in local couldn't see those pictures until they first appeared on the network news. Then came the satellites, and all these pictures are up there.
HEYWARD: The satellite revolution, the rise of CNN, the advent of cheap news-gathering equipment has put everybody into the national and international news business.
NACHMAN: And the great dilemma network has is how do they live in that world where the viewer at 6:30 at night has had an hour or two hours of local television.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: TO KEEP UP WITH THEIR COMPETITION, NETWORKS ARE CHASING STORIES THEY ONCE SHUNNED. FOCUSING PEOPLE'S ATTENTION MORE ON POLITICIANS' PRIVATE LIVES THAN ON PUBLIC ISSUES; AND IN ONE CASE, GOING WITH A QUESTIONABLE STORY THAT ALMOST FELLED A FUTURE PRESIDENT. LET'S WATCH HOW IT HAPPENED.
THE STAR, A SUPERMARKET TABLOID, BROKE A STORY ABOUT GENNIFER FLOWERS, A NIGHTCLUB SINGER AND SOMETIME ARKANSAS STATE EMPLOYEE, WHO CLAIMED SHE HAD CARRIED ON A 12 YEAR AFFAIR WITH ARKANSAS GOVERNOR AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, BILL CLINTON.
ROSENSTIEL: ABC News got an advanced copy Faxed to them. They sent it up to their person in New Hampshire. And as part of a news gathering exercise, correspondent Jim Wooten decided to ask candidate Clinton about the Gennifer Flowers story at a brush factory in New Hampshire where he was making a campaign stop that morning.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, I read the story. It isn't true.
ROSENSTIEL: Wooten called New York and said, "Well, after talking to Clinton, I've decided it's not a story. There isn't enough substantiation of Gennifer Flowers' allegations, so it's unfair.'
PETER JENNINGS/ABC: Well, we were very nervous. It was very hard to substantiate. It came out of nowhere, as a lot of stuff does in this day and age. So there was a great battle royal here about whether you put it on the air.
ROSENSTIEL: The people in New York agreed with their correspondent in the field, Jim Wooten. This was not a story, it was not substantiated and ABC, WORLD NEWS TONIGHT should not put it on that night.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT THE GENIE WAS OUT OF THE BOTTLE. ABC'S AFFILIATES WERE FED FOOTAGE OF JIM WOOTEN'S EXCHANGE WITH CLINTON AND ABC STATIONS FROM LOS ANGELES, TO DALLAS, TO BALTIMORE RAN THE STORY.
GAIL BENDING/WJZ NEWS DIRECTOR: The feed came over and we used it. We reported it and attributed it. We felt the story was out there. It was going to be reported everywhere. We wanted to inform our viewers that it was out there. Also to give them the information that they could use then to draw their own conclusion as to how much they believed it.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BY THE NEXT DAY, ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT, LAGGING BEHIND ITS OWN AFFILIATES, DECIDED TO BROADCAST THE STORY.
JAMES WOOTEN/ABC: All the rumors have been denied by the Governor and his wife, both of whom insist their marriage is now solid.
JENNINGS: We were pretty sure that at least our viewers out there might say, well, the local stations have it. How come the network doesn't have it?
SMITH: But if I hear you right, what you're saying is, the standard, whatever that is, of check it out to your best ability --
JENNINGS: In this one instance?
SMITH: In this instance, you tried it on the first day, and on the basis of that standard you didn't run it.
SMITH: With not much different facts the second day, you did run it.
JENNINGS: Yeah, I think that's a fair and slightly painful characterization for me. But the truth of the matter is that by the second day we were pretty much swept along by events.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT THE GENNIFER FLOWERS STORY DOESN'T END THERE. ON THE FIRST NIGHT, AS ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT DECIDED AGAINST RUNNING THE STORY, ABC'S NIGHTLINE WAS COMING TO A DIFFERENT DECISION.
JEFF GREENFIELD/ABC: When the Gennifer Flowers story broke, NIGHTLINE was going to go on the air that night with a straight piece by me about the Democrats battling for a stake in the New Hampshire primary. When the story began to gather momentum, we were told that Bill and Hillary Clinton were actively considering coming down to Washington and doing an interview with Koppel. At the last minute, they bailed out in favor of 60 minutes. There we were.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH TIME RUNNING OUT, NIGHTLINE DECIDED TO GO WITH A FULL BLOWN VERSION OF THE FLOWERS STORY ANYWAY, BUT TO DRESS IT UP AS A STORY ABOUT THE PRESS COVERING THE STORY.
MANDY GRUNWALD/FMR CLINTON MEDIA ADVISER: Which was just sort of a neat little way to get them out of their own queasiness about covering something that's trashy. And I think I called them on it in the middle of the show.
TED KOPPEL/ABC­p;NIGHTLINE: Once it's out there, Mandy Grunwald, is it ever possible to put it into that kind of perspective, or does it have a sort of momentum of its own?
GRUNWALD: Well, programs like this are not a help, Ted. And you're choosing with your editorial comment by making this program about some unsubstantiated charges that, as Larry said, started with a trashy supermarket tabloid. You're telling people something that you think is important. That's not context. You're setting the agenda and you're letting THE STAR set it for you.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: KOPPEL HINTED AT HIS OWN UNEASE.
KOPPEL: Up until it became quite apparent that the campaign fully intended to address this issue, we, I must tell you, were not going to run this broadcast.
SMITH: Is that a case where the tabloids drove the mainstream and the mainstream dropped its standards?
JENNINGS: Well, it was certainly a case where the tabloid, in the case of the Star, drove the story. And it was a pretty classic example of how there are no gatekeepers any more behind which the mainstream media can sit comfortably until somehow a collective wisdom is arrived at.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: DESPITE ITS MISGIVINGS, CBS ALSO GOT SUCKED INTO RUNNING THE STORY.
SMITH: Why do you think that happens? You've got the judgment. You've got a set of standards. How did that happen?
RATHER: It first came up ­p;­p; I said, Gosh, I don't have the stomach for doing that. And the first day, even the second day, we said, "Nah, not for me." I mean, frankly, I don't care, and I don't think most viewers care. And then somebody came in and said, "Look at this. Last night one of our major competitors, they went with it, they went with it strong" and that bridges over from the sleazy press into the mainstream, it's in the mainstream. The pressure builds. Because somebody else is doing it, you've got to do it. And, too often, we succumb to that pressure.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT ANDREW HEYWARD, THE NEW CBS NEWS PRESIDENT, SEES TABLOID JOURNALISM AS THE WRONG AGENDA FOR THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA.
HEYWARD: By definition, if we do things that other people are doing, in the case of tabloid stories, doing them better, juicier, we're not going to provide anything distinctive and we won't survive.
ROSENSTIEL: The only thing we bring to the party are our standards, and if we lower them, then we're not bringing much to the party at all.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: AT CBS, THE LOG-JAM OVER THE LEAD STORY OF THE NIGHT ENDS WHEN A BIG STORY BREAKS. IT'S BECOME THE SOUGHT-AFTER LEAD STORY FOR CBS THAT NIGHT. IT BREAKS JUST AN HOUR BEFORE BROADCAST, SETTING OFF A SCRAMBLE. IN THE CONTROL ROOM, THE GRAPHICS ARE HASTILY ASSEMBLED. THE STORY WILL BE COVERED BY CORRESPONDENT RITA BRAVER HERE AT THE WHITE HOUSE.
THE WHITE HOUSE IS THE PREMIER BATTLEGROUND BETWEEN THE PRESS AND THE POLITICIANS. HERE MORE THAN ANYWHERE, THE PRESS AND TV AFFECT HOW THE PUBLIC VIEWS THE GOVERNMENT. IN THE WAKE OF THE VIETNAM WAR AND THE WATERGATE COVER UP, THE ONCE COZY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT AND WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS HAS DISSOLVED INTO PERMANENT COMBAT. THE PRESS ETHIC IS TO BE TOUGH. REPORTERS EARN THEIR BATTLE STARS BY CHALLENGING THE MAN IN THE OVAL OFFICE AND ARE REWARDED WITH STARDOM.
DONALDSON [ON TAPE]: Your credibility has been severely damaged.
THOMAS PATTERSON/PROF., SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: I think Watergate and Vietnam led a whole generation of journalists to think that the real news story was the scandal and that in some ways for the journalists, success meant destroying, bringing down someone around the scandal.
TODAY, ABC'S BRIT HUME EMBODIES THE MODEL OF THE COMBATIVE WHITE HOUSE REPORTER.
HUME [ON TAPE]: Are you suggesting that what is supposed to happen here is an agreement will be reached, and then you will find out if it meets the standards of the law?
MIKE MCCURRY/WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC. [ON TAPE]: No, Mr. Panetta suggested ­p;­p;
HUME [ON TAPE]: What you do you mean when you say an agreement is vital?
MCCURRY [ON TAPE]: ­p;­p; on ABC yesterday, Brit.
HUME: There is a sort of a looking for the worst quality in what we do here. Within the journalistic fraternity or sorority or club, being thought soft on the person you cover is the kiss of death. The fashion of the age is you want to be a tough, skeptical reporter, risk even being called cynical, to strike the proper balance between, you know, being the outsider and knowing your stuff and look like a good reporter.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT INCREASINGLY, CRITICS ARGUE, THE BALANCE IS OUT OF WHACK, AND THE TRADITIONAL SKEPTICISM OF THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS HAS SLID INTO CYNICISM, WHERE A PRESIDENT'S THOUGHTFUL DELIBERATION IS SEEN AS INDECISION AND COMPROMISE AS BACKSLIDING.
RUTH BADER GINSBERG/SUPREME COURT JUSTICE [ON TAPE]: Not a law firm in the entire city of New York, bid for my employment as a lawyer when I earned my degree.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WHEN PRESIDENT CLINTON ANNOUNCED HIS NOMINEE FOR A SUPREME COURT VACANCY IN 1993, BRIT HUME WAS ON HIS FEET WITH THE FIRST QUESTION.
HUME [ON TAPE]: There was one question that had to be asked. It was the question off the top of the news that day and I had been confident that if someone other than me had been called on first, the same question would have come in some form which was: What about it, Mr. President?
HUME: We may have created an impression, perhaps unfair, of a certain zigzag quality in the decision-making process here. I wonder if you could walk us through it and perhaps disabuse us of any notions we might have along those lines. Thank you.
PRESIDENT CLINTON [ON TAPE]: I've long since given up the thought that I could disabuse some of you of turning into any substantive decision into anything but political process. How you could ask a question after the statement she just made is beyond me.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS/SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Here was Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a pioneer in the law, really a stellar choice, the first and only question the President got a the press conference was about his decision-making process, not about this woman who was going to be ruling on laws for the entire United States for the next generation. It's frustrating.
SMITH: What did the President say to you privately afterwards?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Pretty much what was on his face when he walked out of the room. I mean, he was angry. He thought it was disrespectful for her, that it just ignored this human being who was before them.
HUME: All I could remember thinking to myself was, boy, I'm sure glad I was polite, almost to the point of obsequiousness, in the way I asked the question. And my second thought is, this was a private thought at the moment, how will I ever thank him enough? The thing would get replayed endlessly and it certainly wasn't going to do me any harm. So, my thinking about it was that my 15 minutes promised by Andy Warhol were about to begin.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: YOU MIGHT IMAGINE THAT WHITE HOUSE REPORTERS ENJOY LAVISH OFFICES, BUT IN FACT THEY'RE STUFFED LIKE SARDINES INTO THESE CRAMPED WHITE HOUSE QUARTERS, SOME IN A BASEMENT, MORE SUITED TO A HIGH SCHOOL JOURNALISM CLASS THAN WASHINGTON'S TOP REPORTERS. INFORMATION HERE IS AS TIGHTLY CONTROLLED AS SPACE. REPORTERS ARE NOT PERMITTED FREE ACCESS TO THE WHITE HOUSE. THEY MUST RELY ON PRESS BRIEFINGS AND CAREFULLY STAGED PHOTO SESSIONS.IN THE HOTHOUSE ENVIRONMENT OF THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS, NEGATIVISM AND CYNICISM SPREAD LIKE A CONTAGION.
PAUL STAROBIN/NATIONAL JOURNAL: This is a group of people who've spent a lot of time with each other. They're in buses. They're in planes. They work in these tiny warrens. And so, yes, there's kind of a group mentality that takes over. And a lot of it is kind of complaining and whining. And I think that helps to kind of color their coverage.
MCCURRY: They are bottled up on this little work area. They've got no one to talk to except themselves, so that kind of creates an in-bred feeding frenzy that really shapes the stories that are otherwise insignificant, and turns them into something overblown.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: CASE IN POINT:
HUME [ON TAPE]: Mr. Clinton certainly seemed in need of a haircut.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE TEAPOT TEMPEST WHEN CLINTON HAD HIS HAIR CUT ON AIR FORCE ONE BY A BEVERLY HILLS STYLIST. ONCE AGAIN, BRIT HUME TRIGGERED THE STORY.
DEE DEE MYERS/FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SEC.: There was an anonymous source at the FAA who said that it had delayed air traffic and thousands of travelers had been inconvenienced. Well, you know, Brit got -- he got into a lather about this.
HUME [ON TAPE]: As the President arrived home later, it was clear that Christophe had done his job. But there were questions today if the busy Los Angeles runway was the right place to do it.
MYERS: He raised the temperature in that room 50 degrees by his own interests, his own outrage. People said if Brit Hume thinks it's a big story, then it must be a big story.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: NOT A BIG STORY BUT IT GOT BIG PLAY BECAUSE OF THE CABIN FEVER ON THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS PLANE.
CNN STORY: Two of Los Angeles' International Airport's four runways were shut down.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: PRESS INTERPRETATION RAN RAMPANT REPORTERS SAW CLINTON'S EXPENSIVE HAIRCUT AS PROOF THAT HE WAS NO POPULIST AND EVIDENCE OF HIS ARROGANT DISDAIN FOR FELLOW AIR TRAVELERS. THERE WAS ONE BIG PROBLEM WITH THE STORY.
MYERS: The story turned out not to be true.
SMITH: The haircut was true, but the traffic was --
MYERS: He got the hair cut story, the traffic was never delayed, he didn't pay 200 dollars for the hair cut. He just got his hair cut, it was like no big deal.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE MEDIA'S PREOCCUPATION WITH CONFLICT IN GENERAL DEEPLY AFFECTS THE BEHAVIOR OF POLITICIANS, ESPECIALLY IN CONGRESS. A POLITICIAN ON THE MAKE KNOWS THAT THE SURE WAY TO COMMAND PRESS ATTENTION IS WITH SENSATIONALISM AND EXTREMIST POLEMICS. NEWT GINGRICH, AS A JUNIOR CONGRESSMAN, BUILT HIS POWER ON MEDIA FIREWORKS.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH/HOUSE SPEAKER [ON TAPE]: It is perfectly American to be wrong. It is perfectly American to have bad judgment.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH C-SPAN CAMERAS RUNNING, HE LOBBED VERBAL BOMBSHELLS AT DEMOCRATIC SPEAKER TIP O'NEILL AND GRABBED HEADLINES FOR HIMSELF.
PAUL TAYLOR/FMR. WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: We're locked in this sort of dysfunctional relationship where everybody brings out the worst in everybody else. And in some ways, the cynicism of the press induces the fakery of the politicians and the fakery of the politicians induces the cynicism of the press. If you want to get into this story, if you want to get on the nightly news, you'd better be wham, bam, thank you ma'am, because the easiest story to write since time immemorial is the story of conflict.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT AS GINGRICH LEARNED, LIVE BY THE MEDIA, DIE BY THE MEDIA. WHEN GINGRICH BECAME SPEAKER, HE USED THE PRESS AS A MEGAPHONE TO PROJECT HIS POWER, BUT THE TACTIC BACKFIRED. SUDDENLY THE MEDIA'S APPETITE FOR CONFLICT, WHICH HE RODE TO POWER AND PROMINENCE, TURNED AGAINST HIM.
FORREST SAWYER/ABC [ON TAPE]: With the same "take no prisoners" style that brought Gingrich to power, may have turned him into a political liability.
JIM LEHRER/PBS NEWS HOUR [ON TAPE]: He denied an FEC charge yesterday that a Republican political action committee called GOPAC.
WOMAN [ON TAPE]: ­p;­p; when you didn't apologize to American women for calling the First Lady a bitch.
COCHRAN/NBC [ON TAPE]: Gingrich shot back at the news media.
REP. GINGRICH [ON TAPE]: Isn't it a fact that you bear some responsibility too.
MEMBER OF CONGRESS [ON TAPE]: Cry Baby. Newt's tantrum.
BOB SCHIEFFER/CBS [ON TAPE]: Well, Dan, just when you thought the level of this debate couldn't get any lower, it got lower.
TOM BROKAW/NBC [ON TAPE]: Gingrich called the Clinton Administration the enemy of normal people.
REP. GINGRICH [ON TAPE]: And I have advised my mother to talk to no reporters because of precisely this kind of exploitation by people like you, next question.
SCHIEFFER [ON TAPE]: One of Gingrich's Republican colleagues also suggested that he might want to get some rest.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE PUBLIC PAID A PRICE FOR THE MEDIA'S FEEDING FRENZY. AFTER FIVE MONTHS AS SPEAKER, GINGRICH CLOSED DOWN HIS DAILY PRESS BRIEFINGS. AND SO THE PUBLIC HEARD LESS FROM ITS THIRD-RANKING LEADER.
REP. GINGRICH: Reporters came in with an axe to grind and with a goal to score points. If you go back and review the videotapes, you'll see case after case where reporters are playing children's games. And it was not worth the effort.
PATTERSON: It's very difficult for those in power to work through this screen that the media has set up, to actually try to talk with the American public, to have their words taken at face value, to mobilize public support behind ideas.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN/AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: We have moved from a healthy skepticism to a corrosive cynicism and now whatever politicians do is portrayed as being done for all the wrong reasons.
PATTERSON: And therefore, I think it's very difficult now to build public support in the long run, the kind of public support that I think leads to successful policy and makes democracy work well.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BACK AT CBS AND ONLY MOMENTS BEFORE DEADLINE. AT PRECISELY 6:30, THE EVENING NEWS BROADCAST BEGINS.
RATHER [ON TAPE]: A subpoena for the First Lady Hillary Clinton is summoned to tell a Whitewater grand jury how missing documents.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: DIRECTOR ERIC SHAPIRO BARKS OUT COMMANDS.
RATHER [ON TAPE]: ­p;­p; promising to deliver on agenda priorities in their so called Contract With America. Tonight, a CBS News "Reality Check."
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: A SHORT WAY INTO THE BROADCAST COMES A REGULAR SERIES CALLED "REALITY CHECK.": THIS NIGHT IT'S A TOUGH SCORECARD ON THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION'S FIRST YEAR. VERDICT: IT'S A BUST.
ENGBERG [ON TAPE]: In fact, thanks to vetos and gridlock, this Congress actually put fewer laws on the books than any in recent history.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: REALITY CHECK IS THE CREATION OF ERIC ENGBERG, A HARD-NOSED CBS VETERAN WHO BEGAN THE SERIES DURING THE '92 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. REALITY CHECK IS PART OF A GROWING TREND TOWARD INTERPRETIVE REPORTING IN BOTH BROADCAST AND IN PRINT. IT'S PURPOSE IS.
ENGBERG: ...to sort of prowl around the dark corridors of the government and to do stories about things that people will say, "I didn't know that," and, "we ought to know that."
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: ENGBERG HAS EXPOSED SCANDALS IN THE AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT
ENGBERG [ON TAPE]: ­p;­p; Videos on such hot topics as how to cook a turkey.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: AND THE PAMPERED LIVES OF MEMBERS OF CONGRESS. BUT CRITICS CONTEND THAT ENGBERG'S REALITY CHECKS HAVE GONE BEYOND INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM AND BECOME SATURATED WITH OPINION, ALMOST ALWAYS NEGATIVE.
ENGBERG [ON TAPE]: And the promise to focus on the economy like a laser seemed to come unstuck in the Washington centrifuge.
SMITH: INSTANT ANALYSIS, THE RUSH TO JUDGMENT HAS BECOME ENDEMIC. AS FASTER COMPETITORS BEAT THE NEWSPAPERS AND NETWORKS TO DELIVER BREAKING NEWS, THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA HAS MADE INTERPRETATION ITS NEW NICHE. INTERPRETIVE REPORTING HAS LONG BEEN THE HALLMARK OF QUALITY JOURNALISM. IN TODAY'S FAST PACED WORLD, PROVIDING CONTEXT AND MEANING IS ESSENTIAL TO AN AUDIENCE BOMBARDED WITH FACTS. BUT THERE IS A PROBLEM WHEN REPORTERS CROSS THE LINE FROM ANALYSIS INTO OPINION. AND WHEN THEY HAVE LITTLE TIME AND LESS EXPERTISE, THAT ANALYSIS CAN BE VERY SHALLOW, NEGLECTING SUBSTANCE IN FAVOR OF THE HORSE RACE, WHO'S AHEAD, WHO'S BEHIND.
TAYLOR: We wind up being a kind of "pundit-ocracy" where we don't separate news from opinion as much as we should, and it seems to me we risk losing our franchise which is to convey what happened yesterday in some sort of balance and perspective but not necessarily with our own opinions.
RATHER [ON TAPE]: Just the first week of the Clinton Administration, but ooooh, what a week !
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: JUST SEVEN DAYS AFTER CLINTON'S INAUGURATION FOR EXAMPLE, ENGBERG WAS ON THE AIR WITH A REALITY CHECK DECLARING THE INFANT ADMINISTRATION A FAILURE.
ENGBERG: Most top jobs at Energy, like the rest of the government, are still vacant, evidence that the new team had hit the ground stumbling.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: ECHOING ENGBERG, SO MANY OTHER REPORTERS PILED ON CLINTON THAT ON JANUARY 29TH, ABC'S JEFF GREENFIELD DID A SATIRICAL PIECE MOCKING THE PRESS FOR DECLARING THE CLINTON PRESIDENCY DEAD ON ARRIVAL.
GREENFIELD [ON TAPE]: Any misstep by the new president is likely to be characterized as a fall off the Empire State Building.
GREENFIELD: And my feeling was, this is just a little bit early. I mean, maybe the guy deserves a week, a month to find out where he hangs his suits.
SMITH: There's also a notion that a new president deserves some kind of honeymoon.
ENGBERG: Yeah, a new President is supposed to get a new honeymoon and this one didn't. He knows it and we know it.
SMITH: Why not?
ENGBERG: Because there a lot of early missteps. And if there's one thing the press knows how to write about ­p;­p; it's not complicated policy matters, which sometimes exceed our ability to get our hands around them ­p;­p; but the one thing we know how to write about is gaffes, is about missteps, is about changes in direction.
ENGBERG [ON TAPE]: Take taxes. He campaigned for middle class tax cut then backed down.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: ENGBERG DID NOT LET UP ON CLINTON. IN JANUARY 1995, HE DID AN UNREMITTINGLY NEGATIVE APPRAISAL OF CLINTON'S FIRST TWO YEARS.
ENGBERG [ON TAPE]: There's a word for political inspired policy shifts and its haunted Mr. Clinton throughout his career, slick.
ENGBERG: Bill Clinton offered a budget proposal that did not attack the deficit at all in his third fiscal year.
SMITH: Eric, that's fair enough, but you didn't give him any credit for the fact that he brought the deficit down.
ENGBERG: My answer to that is that I probably failed to give the dog his due. But I also would tell you that no president has any trouble getting his speech writers and his flacks to go out and make that statement a hundred times a day and it's widely covered and widely reported.
SMITH: Okay, so then your conception of your job is to catch them off base and even if they've done something well, you're not going to include it because it's somewhere else in the broadcast. Is that right?
ENGBERG: Or on a different day that's been covered, that's correct.
PATTERSON: I think good watch dog journalism is important to democracy. I think it protects the public's interest. But negativity per se -- when you're simply looking for what's wrong with politics, what's wrong with our leadership -- I think that needlessly tears down politics and government.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: NOWHERE HAS THE TREND TOWARD INSTANT ANALYSIS BEEN STRONGER THAN IN PRINT JOURNALISM WHERE NEWSPAPERS FEEL THEY HAVE TO ADD EXTRA VALUE TO THEIR REPORTING IN ORDER TO HOLD THEIR READERS.
ROSENSTIEL: Print media is the most fear-stricken of all of the press today. Because we are the last to deliver the news. We are uncertain today of whether we're going to exist in 20 years. So we are floundering around for new methods to tell people the news.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: TO GET A COMPETITIVE EDGE, MANY PRINT REPORTERS NEEDLE A STORY WITH SHARP WRITING. ONE EXAMPLE OF FRONT PAGE EDITORIALIZING WAS MAUREEN DOWD'S REPORT TO THE NEW YORK TIMES ON PRESIDENT CLINTON'S VISIT TO OXFORD UNIVERSITY. IT BEGAN, "PRESIDENT CLINTON RETURNED TODAY FOR A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY TO THE UNIVERSITY WHERE HE DIDN'T INHALE, DIDN'T GET DRAFTED AND DIDN'T GET A DEGREE." THE ACTUAL EVENTS OF THE DAY WERE FURTHER DOWN IN THE STORY.
DAVID GERGEN/FMR. CLINTON ADVISER: That would have been a terrific lead on a Maureen Dowd column on the op-ed page. She just, I think, struck many of us and many in journalism, in fact ­p;­p; is this what we've come to, that the columns are now on the front pages.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: FOR TWO MONTHS IN 1993, TOM ROSENSTIEL STUDIED THE FRONT PAGES OF THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, AND THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.
ROSENSTIEL: What I found was that about 50% of the stories that ran were not straight news stories. They were interpretive, analytical stories of some type or another.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: COMPETITIVE PRESSURES ON PRINT MEDIA ALSO LEAD TO WHAT ONE CRITIC HAS CALLED "SCOOPS OF PERCEPTION," THE RUSH TO BE FIRST, NOT WITH NEWS, BUT WITH JUDGMENTS. READERS OF TIME MAGAZINE MIGHT BE EXCUSED FOR WRITING OFF THE CLINTON PRESIDENCY AFTER JUST FOUR MONTHS, GIVEN THE SUCCESSION OF TIME COVERS PICTURING CLINTON FALLING FROM EARLY HEIGHTS TO THE POLITICAL PITS. IN FACT, CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY, REPORTED THAT CLINTON'S SUCCESS RATE WITH CONGRESS IN 1993 WAS BETTER THAN ANY PRESIDENT SINCE LYNDON JOHNSON IN THE MID-60S.
PATTERSON: So by that indicator, this was a successful president who had kept most of the promises that he had made and had been able to get Congress to go along. But yet it was those two or three broken promises that dominated the news coverage.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: OFTEN, THE PRESS GETS SO FOCUSED ON THE INSIDE BASEBALL OF POLITICAL TACTICS THAT IT FAILS TO DELIVER THE PUBLIC THE REAL NEWS. TAKE THE REPUBLICAN CONTRACT WITH AMERICA, UNVEILED DURING THE '94 ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
STAROBIN: There was very little reporting on the substance of it. It was basically viewed by the press as a kind of political tactic and sort of a marketing gimmick.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: SO PEOPLE VOTED WITH LITTLE INFORMATION ON THE REPUBLICAN BLUEPRINT FOR CHANGING GOVERNMENT.
ROSENSTIEL: Now that is not just a failure of the Republican communication strategy. As Red Auerbach says, "If there is a bad pass, 90% of the time it is the fault of the passer." And we're the passer.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: ORDINARY PEOPLE, GIVEN A CHANCE TO TALK TO POLITICIANS, ARE MORE INTERESTED IN SUBSTANCE THAN THE MEDIA IS. LOOK AT THESE TWO TV APPEARANCES OF FLAT TAX ADVOCATE STEVE FORBES, A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER. THE MEDIA PANEL ON NBC'S MEET THE PRESS WAS PLAYING A GAME OF GOTCHA.
TIM RUSSERT/HOST, MEET THE PRESS [ON TAPE]: You, yourself, Steve Forbes, you would save $150,000 a year in taxes. Is that fair?
LISA MYERS [ON TAPE]: You are the first candidate to go on the air with negative attack ads.
RUSSERT [ON TAPE]: Is this a mid-life crisis you're going through? Is that why you're running?
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT VIEWERS CALLING IN TO CNN'S LARRY KING LIVE ASKED ABOUT ISSUES.
FEMALE CALLER: I have a question about your flat tax.
MALE CALLER: Is the rate going to increase or decrease?
LARRY KING: And how would you make up the difference?
MALE CALLER: How do you feel about NAFTA and GATT?
ROSENSTIEL: Viewers never ask politicians, "How do you feel about the fact that you're dropping in the polls?" or "What do you think about the fact that your opponent just called you a `dirt sucking liar.'" "Are you a dirt sucking liar, sir?" Those are not the kinds of questions that voters ask. They almost, without exception, ask policy questions.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: RATHER'S DAY DOES NOT END WITH THE EVENING NEWS. HE HEADS TO A NEARBY STUDIO FOR A PRACTICE SESSION FOR TOMORROW NIGHT'S STATE OF THE UNION COVERAGE.
RATHER [ON TAPE]: You've heard from the President. You've heard from the Republicans.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: A YEAR EARLIER, CBS AND OTHERS IN THE WASHINGTON MEDIA WERE CRITICIZED FOR RELYING ON INSIDE THE BELTWAY PUNDITRY IN THEIR COVERAGE OF CLINTON'S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS.
RATHER [ON TAPE]: Fred Barnes of the NEW REPUBLIC is also with us. Fred.
FRED BARNES [ON TAPE]: Frankly, I think this is a speech that, with few exceptions, that George Bush could have given. And that's really the problem. It was 50 programs but no plan.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WASHINGTON PUNDITS WROTE OFF CLINTON'S ADDRESS AS RAMBLING AND TOO LONG.
RATHER [ON TAPE]: Joe Klein of NEWSWEEK magazine. Joe.
JOE KLEIN [ON TAPE]: Well, it was a very very long speech. This guy likes to give long speeches.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT POLLS SHOWED THAT THE PUBLIC LOVED IT.
MARVIN KALB/MEDIA ANALYST: The American people were not interested in the length of the speech. They were interested in what he had to say. But the major columnists, the major newspaper people working in Washington, the anchor people were much more interested in the length. They focused on one thing and it was not the substance.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: CBS NEWS TOOK SERIOUSLY THE CRITICISM OF ITS POLITICAL SLANT ON THE '95 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS AND DECIDED THIS YEAR TO RECONNECT WITH REAL PEOPLE.
RITA BRAVER/CBS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT [ON TAPE]: Well Dan, listening to this speech tonight, I really thought it was better said than read.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: IT CUT SHORT THE PUNDITRY OF ITS OWN CORRESPONDENTS AND TURNED TO A STUDIO AUDIENCE, MOSTLY ORDINARY CITIZENS.
JOHN CHALLENGER/OUTPLACEMENT SERVICE: Well I think nobody talked about the layoffs that have been happening.
REV. DR. JAMES FORBES/RIVERSIDE CHURCH: I was very much pleased to hear the President speak about our commitment to children.
KRISTI BARLOW/FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: I was very pleased to hear the President say that we will never shut down the government again.
SMITH: Why did you do that? Is there a point being made beyond that specific piece of programming?
HEYWARD: Interestingly, I think you noticed that a lot of "ordinary people" in that session did dwell on the policy of what the president had said. That's what they're interested in, because that's what people care about, whether their taxes are going to go up or whether they're going to have health care for their ailing parents, and so on. So one reason to do it was to reflect that kind of point of view, rather than round up the usual suspects.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: A LAUDABLE EFFORT BUT CRITICS CONTEND, IT WILL TAKE MUCH MORE TO REVERSE THE CORROSIVE EFFECT THAT A CYNICAL PRESS HAS HAD ON PUBLIC ATTITUDES TOWARDS WASHINGTON.
PATTERSON: When you look at the relationship between the tone of news coverage and what's happening with public opinion ­p;- the ups and downs of public opinion ­p;- the public's mistrust of government, its alienation -­p; all of these things are positively and strongly related to the tone of news coverage.
STAROBIN: To the extent that the press is substituting this kind of negativism and cynicism for real honest skepticism, the public is getting cheated. And it's not at all good. I think it's contributed to the decline of democratic participation in this country.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE ESSENCE OF DEMOCRACY, OF COURSE, IS CITIZEN PARTICIPATION. BUT TODAY, PETITIONING THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT JUST FOLKS COMING IN FROM NEW JERSEY, ILLINOIS OR COLORADO TO SEE THEIR SENATOR OR HOUSE MEMBER. IT'S A HIGHLY SOPHISTICATED INDUSTRY. ORDINARY CITIZENS OFTEN GET SHUNTED ASIDE BY WASHINGTON'S SHADOW GOVERNMENT OF INFLUENCE PEDDLERS: 60,000 LAWYERS, 90,000 LOBBYISTS, AD MEN, TELEMARKETERS, GRASS ROOTS ORGANIZERS, OR BY POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES, THE FINANCIAL ARMS OF SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS THAT FUND A BIG CHUNK OF OUR POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS. IN FACT, TODAY, LOBBYING AND FUNDING CAMPAIGNS ARE THE SIAMESE TWINS OF AMERICAN POLITICS.
FOR DECADES, THE DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS WERE THE MASTERS OF THE MONEY GAME. THEIR FINANCIAL WIZARD, FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMEN TONY COELHO, CONVINCED BUSINESSES LARGE AND SMALL THAT TO GET ACCESS, THEY HAD TO CONTRIBUTE BIG BUCKS TO THE DEMOCRATS. BUT NOW THE REPUBLICANS ARE GOING THE DEMOCRATS ONE BETTER. BEGINNING IN 1993, TEXAS CONGRESSMAN TOM DELAY, A HEAVYWEIGHT REPUBLICAN FUND RAISER, SENT A NEW MESSAGE TO BUSINESS LOBBIES: BUCKS AND BELIEFS SHOULD FLOW IN THE SAME DIRECTION.
TOM DELAY [R­p;TEXAS]: People that ought to be pro-free enterprise ought to be supporting people that are pro-free enterprise. And when they don't support somebody like that, it infuriates me, quite frankly.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: DELAY AND THE REPUBLICANS WERE PROMISING BUSINESS FAR GREATER INFLUENCE. UNDER THE DEMOCRATS, BUSINESS GOT A HEARING FOR ITS POLITICAL DONATIONS, BUT IT HAD TO COMPETE WITH OTHER INTERESTS.
CHARLES LEWIS/CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: In the past, when the Democrats were in power ­p;­p; the Democrats have always reached out to business, but they also had labor and other competing interests as part of their party.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: NOW, WITH REPUBLICANS AS IDEOLOGICAL ALLIES, BUSINESS HAD THE INSIDE TRACK TO ITSELF.
LEWIS: The difference is there is no filter. The interest that would benefit commercially, monetarily, from legislation that would pass are drafting the legislation.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: ONE WAY TO SEE THE PAYOFF FROM THE MARRIAGE OF BUCKS AND BELIEFS IS TO WATCH HOW TOM DELAY HELPED AMERICA'S BIGGEST SINGLE CONTRIBUTOR TO CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGNS, THE UNITED PARCEL SERVICE - FIGHT A FEDERAL AGENCY, THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION, KNOWN AS OSHA.
WE'RE ALL FAMILIAR WITH THOSE FRIENDLY BROWN TRUCKS FROM UPS BUT BEHIND THAT FAMILIAR FACADE, UPS HAS PILED UP HUGE PROFITS FROM A KIND OF MILITARY EFFICIENCY THAT ITS WORKERS SAY STRAINS THEM TO THE LIMIT AND SOMETIMES BEYOND. FOR YEARS, GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE RECORDED MORE HEALTH AND SAFETY COMPLAINTS AGAINST UPS THAN ANY OTHER COMPANY. IN 1995 ALONE, UPS RECORDED SOME 70,000 WORKER INJURIES. A SPATE OF INJURIES WAS CAUSED WHEN UPS SUDDENLY INCREASED THE LIMITS THAT ITS DRIVERS CAN LIFT FROM 70 TO 150 POUNDS. MANY WORKERS ALSO COMPLAINED OF CARPEL TUNNEL SYNDROME FROM REPETITIVE USE OF THIS CUMBERSOME HAND­p;HELD COMPUTER.
THE HIGH INJURY RATE EMBROILED UPS IN A FIGHT WITH OSHA. PRESSED BY THE 1.4 MILLION MEMBER TEAMSTERS UNION, WHICH REPRESENTS UPS DRIVERS, OSHA BEGAN DRAFTING REGULATIONS TO FORCE UPS TO EASE UP.
JOSEPH DEAR/OSHA DIRECTOR: We wanted to develop a proposal which, if implemented, would help employers prevent repetitive motion injuries; would say that if you have somebody who reports symptoms of injury, you ought to look at the kind of job that person's doing.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT UPS AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THE AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATION VEHEMENTLY OPPOSED OSHA'S PLAN.
LAURIE BAULIG/AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSN.: The stakes for the trucking industry on this issue are extremely high. We're talking about possibly billions of dollars for one industry alone to comply.
DAVID REHR: It was driving my people insane that OSHA would come in, tell them, "Hey, you can't have this driver lift this beer," or "You can't have this receptionist use the keyboard so many hours per day." And we felt that we just needed to basically stop them in their tracks.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: TO STOP OSHA, UPS AND A COALITION OF OTHER BUSINESSES TURNED TO TOM DELAY AND DELAY DELIVERED.
REP. DELAY [ON TAPE]: OSHA is so intent on flouting the will of this Congress, in an effort to add to its own regulatory enforcement empire.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WHAT MOTIVATED A SIX-TERM CONGRESSMAN FROM TEXAS TO GO OUT OF HIS WAY TO HELP UPS STYMIE A FEDERAL AGENCY? AND HOW DID HE GET THE POWER TO DO IT? THE MOTIVATION CAME FROM DELAY'S OWN EXPERIENCE RUNNING A PEST CONTROL COMPANY IN HOUSTON DURING THE 1970's.
REP. DELAY: I was trying to build a business from scratch and as you can imagine in the pest control business, all the alphabet soup of agencies regulating ­p;­p; and I just decided that government was the cost of doing business and I better do something about it.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: IN 1978, DELAY GOT ELECTED TO THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE WHERE HE BECAME KNOWN AS "TOMMY DEREG" FOR DEREGULATION. MOVING ON TO CONGRESS IN THE MID-80S, HE QUICKLY WON FAVOR WITH BUSINESS LOBBYISTS.
REP. DELAY [ON TAPE]: Government regulations levied on American businesses cost taxpayers $400 to $500 billion every year.
REHR: Here's a guy who's a businessman, who gets up every morning and literally says, "what regulation is stupid and counterproductive and can I get rid of today?"
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT DELAY AND BUSINESS KEPT GETTING BLOCKED BY THE DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS IN 1994, THEY JOINED FORCES TO GO AFTER POWER TO ELECT A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS AND GET TOM DELAY HIMSELF ELECTED TO THE NUMBER THREE POWER POSITION IN THE HOUSE, MAJORITY WHIP.
DAVID REHR: He saw the opportunity to get into the Republican leadership, and the business community, particularly the small business community, saw a chance to put somebody who had a philosophy of deregulation into that leadership as well.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: DELAY FORMED A KITCHEN CABINET OF LOBBYIST FRIENDS: DAVID REHR, NATIONAL BEER WHOLESALERS; ELAINE GRAHAM, NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION; ROBERT RUSBULDT, INDEPENDENT INSURERS OF AMERICA; BRUCE GATES, WHOLESALE GROCERS ASSOCIATION; AND, DOROTHY STRUNK OF UPS.
SMITH: Is there a symbiotic connection?
JOHN MOTLEY/SMALL BUSINESS LOBBYIST: It's a very symbiotic relationship. There's no doubt about it. The whole regulatory reform effort, you know, originated in the business community.
SMITH: And then Tom DeLay becomes the point man?
MOTLEY: Tom DeLay became the point man, yes.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: DELAY WAS COMPETING AGAINST NEWT GINGRICH'S BEST FRIEND, BOB WALKER OF PENNSYLVANIA. TOGETHER DELAY AND HIS LOBBYIST FRIENDS DEVISED A SIMPLE STRATEGY, BUILD SUPPORT AMONG NEWCOMERS, HELP FRESHMEN REPUBLICANS GET ELECTED. AND THEN, WHEN IT CAME TIME FOR REPUBLICANS TO ELECT THEIR OWN WHIP, THE NEWCOMERS WOULD RETURN HIS FAVOR.
VIN WEBER/FMR MEMBER OF CONGRESS: He campaigned all over the country for candidates, helping them to raise money, giving them money, and then had a whole operation to direct additional money from political action committees that were friendly to the Republican cause and to worthy candidates around the country.
BRUCE GATES/WHOLESALE GROCERS ASSN.: We put a little over $200,000 into the '94 cycle. If I recall, about $185-$186,000 of it went to Republicans.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BY HIS OWN RECKONING, DELAY RAISED, DISTRIBUTED AND DIRECTED MORE THAN TWO MILLION DOLLARS TO 50 REPUBLICAN CHALLENGERS, THE CORE OF THAT MONEY COMING FROM HIS KITCHEN CABINET. HELPED BY THAT FLOOD OF CASH, REPUBLICAN CHALLENGERS SOARED TO A TRIUMPH THAT PUT 73 NEW MEMBERS INTO CONGRESS, THE BEST SHOWING IN DECADES.
ROBERT RUSBULDT/INDEPENDENT INSURANCE AGENTS: Did Tom DeLay build up chits along the way from these candidates? The answer is obviously yes.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THREE WEEKS AFTER THE NATIONAL ELECTION, HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOTED AT A CLOSED SESSION ON THEIR WHIP. DELAY WON. AND HIS MARGIN OF VICTORY CAME FROM AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY AMONG NEW HOUSE FRESHMEN.
SMITH: In the whip race -- I know it's a secret ballot, but I know you're a good vote counter. Out of 73 Republican freshmen, how many votes did you get?
REP. DELAY: It was 54.
SMITH: Pretty darn good.
REP. DELAY: Yeah
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH DELAY AS WHIP, UPS AND ITS BUSINESS ALLIES NOW HAD A FRIEND IN A POWERFUL POSITION. DELAY WASTED NO TIME IN INTRODUCING A BILL TO STOP ALL NEW GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS, INCLUDING OSHA'S. A LOT OF FRESHMEN REPUBLICANS THAT DELAY HAD HELPED JOINED HIS BATTLE AGAINST GOVERNMENT REGULATION.
REP. DAVID MCINTOSH/R­p;INDIANA: Government comes in and has very micro-managed rules about this is how you lift things, these are things you can lift, this is the way you work at a computer-typewriter board, and there is a real sense that at that point you got the Federal Government looking over everybody's shoulder in the work place and it will be very hard to have the flexibility to make changes.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: DELAY MOBILIZED HIS LOBBYIST FRIENDS AND GRANTED THEM RARE ACCESS TO HELP DRAFT AND PASS HIS BILL. THEIR LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT INFURIATED DEMOCRATIC OPPONENTS, LIKE GEORGE MILLER AND DAVE OBEY.
SMITH: Can you say from personal experience or your own personal knowledge that that lobbyists for business were actually drafting legislation that went in neat without changes?
REP. GEORGE MILLER/D­p;CALIF: Amendments were coming clean - in some cases amendments were coming on law office stationary.
REP. DAVID OBEY/D­p;WISC: What they really did was bring about 50 lobbyists into the office of the Republican whip.
REP. MILLER: We had to ask lobbyists to get off the committee hearing dais. They were sitting with committee members in our committee.
REP. OBEY: It was a special interest dream that was rammed through the House.
REP. MILLER: You had the Majority Whip, saying: Come on and get it. You write the bills. You tell us what you need. What can we do to make your job easier? All you have to do is sign up on Mr. DeLay's list of contributions.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH THE NEW SESSION ONLY ABOUT A MONTH OLD, HOUSE REPUBLICANS PASSED THE MORATORIUM ON NEW GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS BY A LOPSIDED VOTE. HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT THE BILL FAILED IN THE MORE MODERATE SENATE, WHICH HAD NO TOM DELAY.
AND SO DELAY NARROWED HIS TARGET AND PERSONALLY KILLED FUNDING EARMARKED FOR OSHA'S PROGRAM ON REPETITIVE MOTION INJURIES.
REP. DELAY: And that's what this amendment does. It goes right to the heart of the bureaucracy and it cuts $3.5 million right out of the heart of OSHA.
DEAR: Since June of 1995, OSHA can't publish a guideline, can't publish a rule, can't even propose a rule for public discussion. In my experience, and I have been a public administrator for 12 years now, I've never seen a direct connection between campaign contributions, election and change in the climate on the agency with this much impact.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUSINESS SPOKESMEN SAY TOM DELAY'S SYMBIOTIC CONNECTION TO LOBBYISTS IS MERELY A VARIATION ON WHAT DEMOCRATS DID FIRST.
MOTLEY: Look at the traditional models with Democratic leadership. It was always the labor unions. And they met with the leadership and the Speaker all the time. They strategized together. They shared tactics. So this is really nothing new.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT NEUTRAL OBSERVERS LIKE TIME MAGAZINE'S JEFFREY BIRNBAUM SAW REPUBLICANS TAKING THE SYMBIOTIC CONNECTION TO NEW HEIGHTS.
JEFFREY BIRNBAUM/TIME MAGAZINE: Now, this kind of hand-in-glove relationship has been hinted at in years past and it's happened occasionally in the long history of lobbying. But never has it been so out in the open, so blatant, so obvious and without any apology.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: FOR THE 1996 ELECTIONS, DELAY, NICKNAMED "THE HAMMER," BY HIS COLLEAGUES, HAS HAMMERED HOME A BLUNT MESSAGE TO BUSINESS LOBBIES: STOP GIVING TO DEMOCRATS OR RISK BEING FROZEN OUT. THE LOBBIES HAVE GOTTEN THE MESSAGE. CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE SWUNG DRAMATICALLY FROM DEMOCRATS TO REPUBLICANS. DELAY KEEPS CAREFUL SCORE. ON HIS DESK SITS THIS BOOK, A LIST, COMPILED BY REPUBLICANS, OF THE NATION'S 400 RICHEST POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES AND WHETHER THEY'RE CONTRIBUTING TO THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION.
REP. DELAY: I never use it. I never open it. But people that come to see me I'm sure see that book laying out there and they know that I know what they've done to further the revolution or not. It's just a nice little hint.
SMITH: THE MUTUAL BACK-SCRATCHING BETWEEN TOM DELAY AND HIS BUSINESS ALLIES IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF THE INSIDE LOBBYING GAME. BUT THE LATEST WRINKLE IN LOBBYING, ONE WHICH MANY LOBBYISTS NOW CONSIDER ESSENTIAL, IS THE OUTSIDE GAME GOING OVER THE HEADS OF CONGRESS TO THE COUNTRY AT LARGE, THE WAY A PRESIDENT DOES FROM HIS BULLY PULPIT AND THEN MOBILIZING PUBLIC OPINION TO SWITCH VOTES IN CONGRESS.
IT WAS A SKILLFUL OUTSIDE LOBBYING CAMPAIGN THAT PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN DEFEATING PRESIDENT CLINTON'S HEALTH CARE PLAN IN 1994 MARKING THE FIRST TIME A POLITICAL-STYLE AD CAMPAIGN HAD DECISIVE INFLUENCE ON CONGRESS. REMEMBER HARRY AND LOUISE. THEY WERE THE WELL-READ WIFE AND THE SLIGHTLY CLUELESS HUSBAND WHO QUESTIONED THE CLINTON PLAN.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: HARRY AND LOUISE WERE THE BRAINCHILD OF WILLIS GRADISON, A SENIOR REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN WHO SHOCKED COLLEAGUES BY QUITTING IN MIDTERM TO BECOME A LOBBYIST, AS HEAD OF THE HEALTH INSURANCE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA.
WILLIS GRADISON/PRES., HEALTH INSURANCE ASSOCIATION: I had a feeling that working on the outside of government I might have a greater opportunity to participate in this major move forward in health care legislation.
HILLARY CLINTON [ON TAPE]: We believe there are savings in both the private and the public systems.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: GRADISON FIRST APPROACHED HILLARY CLINTON'S HEALTH CARE TASK FORCE, WHICH WAS DRAFTING THE PRESIDENT'S PLAN, BUT HE WAS SHUT OUT.
GRADISON: The White House staff had its mind made up. The points that we raised, which we thought were legitimate and valid concerns, weren't being given any attention. We were in what we felt was a campaign for the survival of private health insurance in the United States.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: GRADISON: DECIDED ON A POLITICAL STYLE AD CAMPAIGN AND TO RUN IT, HE TURNED TO BEN GODDARD, A CALIFORNIA CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT, WHO HAD WORKED FOR DEMOCRATS LIKE GARY HART, JESSE JACKSON AND JIMMY CARTER. VERY QUICKLY, THE POLITICAL ODD COUPLE BEGAN TO SEE EYE-TO-EYE.
GRADISON: I had been saying that health reform would not be decided by speeches or by advertising, but over the kitchen tables of America.
SMITH: What was it about the phrase or the idea that popped a light bulb off in your head?
BEN GODDARD/POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I think it was the kitchen table. I grew up with my parents sitting down at the kitchen table to have discussions, whether it was about what crops to plant or how we're going to pay the bills or how much we can spend on the kids' clothes for school or whatever. Those conversations happened around the kitchen table.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH THAT TABLE TALK, GODDARD SET OUT TO WIN OVER WOMEN.
GODDARD: Women were our toughest audience in communicating the problems with the Clinton health care proposal. Thus, Louise is, for lack of a better term, the smart one in the commercial. She has all the answers. She read the book. She knows how it's going to impact their family. She is the spokesperson for the campaign.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: FOR MAXIMUM LEVERAGE IN CONGRESS, THE ADS WERE TARGETED ON DISTRICTS OF PIVOTAL MEMBERS IN STATES LIKE KANSAS, MISSISSIPPI, AND NEW YORK BUT THEIR IMPACT WAS FELT NATIONWIDE.
SMITH: Did you get an extra bump from all the press coverage there was?
GODDARD: We got a tremendous bump from the press coverage. It's physically impossible for more than 35 percent of the American people to ever have seen a commercial that we paid for. But in some polls, over 50 percent said they'd seen them. What they'd seen is all the press coverage.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BY SPRING, THE HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY HAD SPENT SOME $17 MILLION ON THE ADS, AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WERE HEARING FROM MASSES OF VOTERS.
GODDARD: Over 500,000 Americans called the 800 number and about a quarter of a million contacts were made with the U.S. Congress during the campaign.
LEWIS: Congress is not stupid. If there's one thing they read a lot of, it might not be books, it's definitely public opinion polls. They knew that support had dropped 20 points.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: HARRY AND LOUISE HAD SOWN SUCH WIDESPREAD DOUBTS THAT IN EARLY 1994, DAN ROSTENKOWSKI, THEN CHAIRMAN OF THE POWERFUL WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE, OFFERED CONCESSIONS TO THE HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY IF THEY WOULD TAKE THE ADS OFF THE AIR.
SMITH: He's a real pro and he knows that they're very carefully targeted.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He knows the people are talking about them. He knows -- he's hearing from his members that these ads might have power.
DAN ROSTENKOWSKI/FMR. MEMBER OF CONGRESS: It almost destroyed the process. Membership just became so conscious of these things that it looked as though we weren't going to have the possibility of having a bill.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: JUST WEEKS AFTER THE TRUCE WAS ARRANGED, ROSTENKOWSKI WAS FORCED TO RESIGN UNDER INDICTMENT FOR MAIL FRAUD.
LEWIS: The next Monday, the ads come right back, just like that. They don't miss a beat.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: MUCH TO THE CONSTERNATION OF CONGRESSIONAL BACKERS OF THE CLINTON PLAN LIKE WEST VIRGINIA SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER.
SENATOR JAY ROCKEFELLER/D­p;WVA [ON TAPE]: I think that the advertising is probably the single most destructive effort that I can remember in 30 years of public life, at trying to undermine public policy that this country desperately and definitely wants.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: FINALLY, THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF WAS DRIVEN TO RESPOND.
PRESIDENT CLINTON [ON TAPE]: When I put out my plan, the health insurance industry didn't like it. They put Harry and Louise on television. They made something called the Clinton plan unpopular, even though the basic elements still have the support of 60 percent or more of the American people.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: AT AN ANNUAL PRESS DINNER OF WASHINGTON'S GRIDIRON CLUB, THE FIRST COUPLE PUT ON A SPOOF OF HARRY AND LOUISE, THEMSELVES, TESTIMONY TO THE IMPACT OF THE ADS.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: You mean after Bill and Hillary imposed all those new bureaucrats and taxes on us we're still all going to die?
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT ALL THAT DIED WAS CLINTON'S HEALTH REFORM PLAN.
GODDARD: I think what Harry and Louise proved is that the most influential lobbyists don't live in Washington, D.C., They live out here, where the people are.
SMITH: And you can reach them with television.
GODDARD: And you can reach them with television, yes.
LEWIS: The advertising was being used as blunt instrument to try to extract concessions for an industry. It's basically extortion. And that's how lobbying has gotten in the '80's and '90's.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THESE PEOPLE HAVE COME FROM OHIO TO WASHINGTON. THEY'VE JOINED HUNDREDS OF OTHER GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS UNITED BY THEIR PASSIONATE COMMITMENT TO FIGHT SMOKING. THEY'RE LOBBYING MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FROM OHIO, INCLUDING MARCY KAPTUR.
NEYSA SOMPLE: We're looking at a commitment to children to see if you'll sign on to limit the tobacco access for children.
LISA FRERICKS: Her ten-year-old son received this last May, on his tenth birthday, and it's a birthday card from Marlboro Country, unsolicited.
SCOTT GOOD/YOUNG BOY: This is a candy store and they have candy there and there are cigarette advertisements right next to it.
FRERICKS: We don't have a lot of resources but we do have a lot of volunteers, a strong grassroots network. Hopefully that enables us to get in the door.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THIS IS THE FIRST AMENDMENT IN ACTION, AMERICANS PETITIONING THEIR GOVERNMENT EXCEPT THAT JUST GETTING IN THE DOOR IS NOT ENOUGH.
TO PREVAIL ON CAPITOL HILL YOU'VE GOT TO KNOW YOUR WAY AROUND THIS LABYRINTH. AND THE RECORD SHOWS THAT THE CIGARETTE INDUSTRY, KNOWS ITS WAY AROUND AND USUALLY GETS WHAT IT WANTS. IN THE 32 YEARS SINCE THE SURGEON GENERAL OFFICIALLY ESTABLISHED THE LINK BETWEEN SMOKING AND CANCER, POLLS SHOW THAT MOST AMERICANS SUPPORT STRONG ANTI-SMOKING LAWS. AND YET ONLY A HANDFUL HAVE PASSED. MOST HAVE DIED IN CONGRESS. CIGARETTE COMPANIES ARE THE MASTERS OF INSIDE LOBBYING, THE MONEY GAME.
ELLEN MILLER/CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The tobacco industry is an extremely effective political system of giving. I mean, they are among the best and most sophisticated political givers. I can assure you they are giving everywhere that it would make a difference.
REP. DAVE BONIOR/D­p;MICH: In order to get reelected, you need to spend a lot of money to get on television, to get your message out, and that's very expensive. And lobbyists will take care of your concerns. They will contribute heavily to you, if you're attentive to their needs.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY GIVES HEAVILY TO MEMBERS WITH THE MOST POWER AND IN YEARS PAST, THAT HAS MEANT DEMOCRATS LIKE DAVE BONIOR AND JOHN DINGELL, ANOTHER MEMBER FROM MICHIGAN, AND DICK GEPHARDT FROM MISSOURI. NONE OF THEM COMES FROM A TOBACCO STATE, AND YET EACH HAS SIDED WITH CIGARETTE MAKERS AT CRUCIAL MOMENTS.
SMITH: Let me just ask you, tactically, whether or not your position has anything to do with PAC contributions from the tobacco companies.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT/D­p;MISSOURI: Not whatsoever, not in any way. I assume and believe that if somebody gives me a contribution it's because they think I'm in general doing a good job of representing the people that I represent in St. Louis and the area in Missouri.
SMITH: St. Louis and the area in Missouri don't have many tobacco farmers, do they?
REP. GEPHARDT: Probably a few, not many.
SMITH: Yeah not many. Okay.
CHARLES BLIXT/R J REYNOLDS: Certainly we are not going to make contributions to people who are going to attack our industry and attack the issues we believe they should be standing for.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: I think it's safe to say that we've never been able to pass legislation in the Congress of the United States where the tobacco industry has been against it. They've been able to stop it.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT THEY DIDN'T STOP CALIFORNIA'S HENRY WAXMAN FROM CALLING THE CEOS OF AMERICA'S LARGEST CIGARETTE FIRMS TO TESTIFY BEFORE HIS SUBCOMMITTEE IN 1994.
REP. WAXMAN/D­p;CALIF: How many smokers die each year from smoking cigarettes.
JOHNSON: I will explain ­p;­p;
REP. WAXMAN: No. I want you to answer. We have a limited time.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: TO SHUT DOWN REP. WAXMAN'S HEARINGS, THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY POURED $1.4 MILLION INTO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY FOR THE '94 ELECTIONS NINE TIMES WHAT IT GAVE TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY. THAT INVESTMENT PAID OFF WHEN HE NEW REPUBLICAN SPEAKER, NEWT GINGRICH, PICKED THOMAS BLILEY OF VIRGINIA, THE LEADING PRO-TOBACCO MEMBER OF CONGRESS, TO OVERSEE THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY AS HEAD THE COMMERCE COMMITTEE. JUST TWO DAYS AFTER THE ELECTION, BLILEY MADE HIS INTENTIONS CLEAR.
REP. THOMAS BLILEY/R­p;VA.: I don't think that we need any further legislation regarding tobacco. I think it's already more than enough on the books and therefore I don't see any purpose to continuing dragging on these hearings.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BLILEY SHUT DOWN REP. WAXMAN'S HEARINGS.
REP. WAXMAN: "All of that legislation came to a screeching halt."
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: AND SO, THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY POURED A RECORD $2.4 MILLION INTO REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN COFFERS IN 1995. EVEN SO, TOBACCO RAN INTO DIFFICULTIES WITH SOME REPUBLICANS WHO WERE BENT ON CUTTING THE BUDGET. IN THE SUMMER OF 1995, LINDA SMITH OF WASHINGTON LED A FIGHT TO ELIMINATE A 23 MILLION DOLLAR TOBACCO SUBSIDY.
REP. SMITH: Don't spend the taxpayers' money. Please folks, do what is right. Do not do what the tobacco industry wants.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: AS A NEWCOMER, SMITH ASSUMED THAT IN A BUDGET-CUTTING CONGRESS, THIS WOULD BE AN EASY FIGHT, BUT SHE UNDERESTIMATED THE TOBACCO LOBBY WHICH DESCENDED ON CONGRESS AS THE VOTE NEARED.
REP. SMITH: There were tobacco lobbyists everywhere in all the receptions, in the buildings around the Capitol. They'll say, "I was your friend in the last election," they'll use that terminology for giving you money. And they'll say, "you know, are you going to be our friend on this bill?" That's how you're approached, they changed the terminology because they can't say, "I gave you money, you vote for me."
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: AS A BATTLE RAGED OVER THE TOBACCO SUBSIDY, THE REACH OF THE TOBACCO LOBBY EXTENDED RIGHT ONTO THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE, A FORBIDDEN DOMAIN TO ALL BUT MEMBERS AND THEIR STAFFS. FRESHMEN LIKE STEVE LARGENT WERE SHOCKED AT WHAT HAPPENED THERE.
REP. LARGENT: Well, I had heard that that there was one particular member that was passing out checks on the house floor. And I immediately went to that member and confronted them and asked if it were true. And they confirmed it was true and.
SMITH: Who was it?
REP. LARGENT: Well, I'm not going to reveal who it is.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE MEMBER, IT TURNED OUT, WAS THE FOURTH RANKING REPUBLICAN LEADER IN THE HOUSE, JOHN BOEHNER OF OHIO. LIKE TOM DELAY, BOEHNER HAS BECOME KNOWN AS A REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP POINT MAN WITH POWERFUL BUSINESS LOBBIES.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER/R­p;OHIO: Friend of mind asked me to give out half a dozen checks, quickly, before we got to the end of the month, and I complied. And I did it on the House floor, which I regret, should not have done. It's not a violation of the House rules. But it's a practice that's gone on for a long time, that we're trying to stop. And I know that I'll never do it again.
SMITH: Were the checks from tobacco companies?
REP. BOEHNER: I think if my memory serves me correctly, I think it was a tobacco check.
SMITH: How do you feel about that episode, looking back on it?
REP. BOEHNER: It's a bad practice. We've got to stop this. This is just not something that ought to happen.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT IN THIS CASE, TOBACCO'S WELL-TIMED CONTRIBUTIONS HELPED SAVE ITS SUBSIDY.
REP. LARGENT: So the people that were passing out the checks won.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH CONGRESS SO OFTEN AT A STANDSTILL, ANTI-SMOKING FORCES HAVE SHIFTED THE BATTLEGROUND TO STATES LIKE CALIFORNIA, WHICH HAS ENACTED SOME OF THE COUNTRY'S TOUGHEST SMOKING RESTRICTIONS. CIGARETTE COMPANIES HAVE FOUGHT BACK WITH WHAT SOME CALL STEALTH LOBBYING. AND SO, IN THE SPRING OF 1994, WHEN A BALLOT INITIATIVE WAS LAUNCHED IN CALIFORNIA PROMISING TOUGH NEW SMOKING RESTRICTIONS, IT QUICKLY DREW SUPPORT FROM THE PUBLIC INCLUDING PEOPLE LIKE DAVID AND JULIA ISAACS.
DAVID ISAACS: I felt that this was something that I could endorse and I was very pleased to.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: AND PULMONARY NURSE CAROL ARCHIBALD.
CAROL ARCHIBALD: I signed the petition and mailed it in and helped support getting 188 on the ballot.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: LOS ANGELES TIMES REPORTER DAN MORAIN COVERED PROPOSITION 188.
DAN MORAIN: This was the basic brochure. This came out the beginning of the public campaign in favor of 188. It shows smoking is prohibited in restaurants and here it says smoking is prohibited in work places."
DAVID ISAACS/CALIF. BUSINESS CONSULTANT: And something caught my eye. It was fine print on the envelope, and in that fine print, I certainly saw the name Philip Morris and something didn't ­p;­p; ring a bell it ­p;­p; didn't seem clear. Something didn't make sense, that here I was restricting smoking and Philip Morris were behind this.
MORAIN: What the initiative presented itself as being is not, in fact, what it was. Here's an example where it says smoking -- it's circled in red -- it says smoking is prohibited in any restaurant except as otherwise provided in this chapter. And then it goes on to point out one exception. However, the red line goes through that exception making it rather hard to read.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: EXCEPTION AFTER EXCEPTION, LOOPHOLE AFTER LOOPHOLE, PROP 188 WAS A STEALTH CAMPAIGN TO WEAKEN THE EXISTING CALIFORNIA RESTRICTIONS ON SMOKING.
SMITH: How did you find out?
ARCHIBALD: I'm a member of the Occupation and Environmental Health Committee of the Lung Association, and we were sitting in this meeting and it came up as an item, "what are we going to do about this deception?" And I went, "oh my god," you know.
SMITH: And realized?
ARCHIBALD: That I too had been deceived.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH HEAVY BACKING FROM PHILIP MORRIS AND R.J. REYNOLDS, PROPOSITION 188 APPEARED HEADED TOWARD VICTORY.
MORAIN: I remember seeing a poll showing that this was leading. This measure was nearly going to pass.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT A WATCHFUL PRESS BUTTRESSED BY AN INFORMATIONAL CAMPAIGN OF ADS BY ANTI-SMOKING FORCES.
DR. C. EVERETT KOOP [PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT]: Proposition 188 is not for you.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BLEW THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY'S COVER.
ADVERTISEMENT: The Philip Morris Tobacco Company is the largest contributor to the "Yes on 188."
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE SPENDING WAS SO LOPSIDED THAT BY ELECTION DAY, PHILIP MORRIS AND THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY SPENT OVER EIGHTEEN MILLION DOLLARS COMPARED TO JUST FIVE MILLION DOLLARS ON THE OTHER SIDE, BUT EVEN WITH BIG MONEY, CIGARETTE COMPANIES COULDN'T BUY VICTORY.
MORAIN: Once people realized who was backing it, they overwhelmingly rejected it.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT FOR SOME CALIFORNIANS, TOBACCO'S TACTICS LEFT A SOUR TASTE.
DAVID ISAACS: What really got me -­p; it wasn't so much the issue of smoking, it was more that an organization as large as Philip Morris with the kind of bottomless pit of money that they've got out there, could -­p; dupe is a little too strong ­p;­p; but certainly mislead the public like this.
JULIA ISAACS [CALIF. BUSINESS CONSULTANT]: And it was very deceptive, it was very manipulating, and I felt completely misled.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BACK IN WASHINGTON, THE ANTI-SMOKING ACTIVISTS HOPE TO SEE ANOTHER OHIO REPRESENTATIVE.
SOMPLE: Well, we ask that you just take the time to review through the literature we've brought you.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: BUT HE'S BUSY AND THEY HAVE TO SETTLE FOR AN AIDE.
STAFF MEMBER: Thank you for your time. We appreciate it.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: WITH CONGRESS REFUSING TO MOVE, AN UNEXPECTED BUT WELCOME ALLY EMERGES IN THE WHITE HOUSE.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Today I am announcing broad executive action to protect the young people of the United States from the awful dangers of tobacco.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: LAST YEAR, THE PRESIDENT ANNOUNCED A PLAN BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION TO REDUCE YOUTH SMOKING MAINLY BY BANNING CIGARETTE ADVERTISING THAT APPEALS TO CHILDREN: IMAGES ON BILLBOARDS, BRAND-NAME SPORTS SPONSORSHIP AND PROMOTIONAL GEAR LIKE THIS T-SHIRT. AS REQUIRED BEFORE IT ISSUES ANY NEW RULES, THE FDA INVITED PUBLIC COMMENT AND WAS INUNDATED BY MORE THAN 700,000 LETTERS. MANY CAME FROM AMERICANS VEHEMENTLY OPPOSED TO NEW REGULATIONS. IT'S A FIRESTORM OF SPONTANEOUS OPPOSITION. OR IS IT?
SMITH: HERE AT THE FDA, WHEN OFFICIALS LOOKED CLOSELY AT THE RESPONSES, THEY FOUND IDENTICAL LANGUAGE, IDENTICAL PARAGRAPHS, LETTER AFTER LETTER. SOME PEOPLE EVEN SENT IN PRINTED INSTRUCTIONS TELLING THEM WHAT TO WRITE.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: ONE LETTER CAME FROM HARVEY GRIMES OF SALEM, VIRGINIA.
HARVEY GRIMES: The damn government sticks their nose into too much stuff as it is already, to my opinion.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: EVEN THOUGH GRIMES FEELS THAT WAY, THE LETTER WASN'T HIS IDEA, AND IT WASN'T EVEN HIS LETTER.
GRIMES: "I'm a retired american citizen and have enjoyed smoking for 70 years." I haven't smoked for no 70 years, maybe 60. [LAUGHS]
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: GRIMES DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE FDA PROPOSAL UNTIL HE GOT A PHONE CALL.
GRIMES: The man from over in Roanoke called me and wanted to know if he could send me these letters.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: THE MAN ON THE PHONE SENT GRIMES A LETTER FOR HIS SIGNATURE AND A COVER LETTER WITH INSTRUCTIONS.
GRIMES: He mailed me these papers. I signed 'em, sent 'em to DC, to the Food and Drug Administrator down there.
SMITH: BUT HARVEY GRIMES MADE A MISTAKE. HE WAS SUPPOSED TO SEND HIS LETTER TO THE FDA AND THE COVER LETTER HERE, TO LETTER DESK PROCESSING CENTER, POST OFFICE DRAWER L, WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA. DRAWER L BELONGED TO WALT KLEIN AND ASSOCIATES. IT'S A PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM THAT GENERATES GRASSROOTS LETTER AND PHONE CAMPAIGNS FOR THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY AND OTHERS. IT'S PART OF A BOOMING, $400-MILLION-A-YEAR INDUSTRY OF ADVOCACY CAMPAIGNING AT THE GRASSROOTS. WALT KLEIN REFUSED TO TALK WITH US. SO WE WENT TO ONE OF HIS COMPETITORS, JACK BONNER, WHOSE WASHINGTON, D.C. OPERATION HAS ALSO DONE WORK FOR TOBACCO COMPANIES AND OTHER BUSINESSES.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: USUALLY, BUSINESS IS TARGETING CONGRESS.
JACK BONNER/PRES., BONNER & ASSOCIATES: They want 100 phone calls, 20 calls into a senator, 25 letters, 200 letters to a particular member of the House.
SMITH: So you have 300 phone lines, that means you can have 300 people out of here at one time?
BONNER: The biggest thing we ever did ­p;­p; we were doing six thousand patch through phone calls a day to the Hill.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: PATCH THROUGH PHONE CALLS ARE A HOT ITEM FOR BONNER AND LEADING EDGE LOBBYISTS. BONNER'S STAFF PHONES ORDINARY CITIZENS, SELLS THEM ON A CLIENT'S ISSUE, AND WHEN SUCCESSFUL, IMMEDIATELY PATCHES THE CALL THROUGH TO THEIR SENATOR OR HOUSE MEMBER, WHILE THE MOOD IS HOT.
SMITH: If they're on the side of the issue your client wants, they get patched through?
SMITH: if they're on the other side of the issue, what happens to them?
BONNER: What's your guess?
SMITH: They get dropped.
BONNER: That's right.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: MEMBERS OF CONGRESS HAVE CAUGHT ON TO HOW GRASSROOTS CAN BE ARTIFICIALLY GENERATED. THEY CALL IT ASTROTURF. AND SO EXPERTS LIKE MIKE MALIK, WHO GOT HIS START AT PHILIP MORRIS IN THE MID-80S AND NOW OWNS HIS OWN BUSINESS, WORK HARD AT MAKING ASTROTURF LOOK REAL. LISTEN TO AN AUDIO TAPE OF MALIK COACHING CORPORATE EXECUTIVES ON HOW TO MAKE GENERATED PHONE CALLS SEEM SPONTANEOUS.
MIKE MALIK/LOBBYIST: Do it right. Get it spread out throughout the day. You may want to build it so it looks more natural. Start out with 8 calls today, 12 the next, 20 the next. Making it seem real is making grassroots a lot more effective.
SMITH: The implication is it isn't realistic. You don't have to make it look realistic if it is. I mean, how can you say a thing like that?
MALIK: Basically what we do and what all grassroots companies do is try to yes, regulate the flow, even it out and everything, making it look realistic.
SMITH: But you're copying nature. It's an imitation. That's what's artificial about it, isn't it?
MALIK: I still don't think there's anything artificial about a constituent letting their elected official know how they feel about an issue.
HEDRICK SMITH [VOICE OVER]: MALIK AND BONNER ARGUE THAT THEY'RE HELPING DEMOCRACY WORK. BUT IT'S DEMOCRACY WITH A HIGH PRICE TAG.
SMITH: The FDA wants to promulgate tobacco regulations and I'm a tobacco company and I want to get you guys to generate as many letters as you can, for a week, full phones, what's that going to cost?
BONNER: It could cost anywhere from fifty thousand dollars up to a couple of hundred thousand dollars.
SMITH: And if I wanted this for a several weeks, it could be up to a million dollars?
BONNER: Millions! There are grass-roots campaigns where millions of dollars are spent.
MICHAEL PERTSCHUK/ANTI­p;TOBACCO LOBBYIST: It really is as if you had two debaters and you gave one a huge megaphone so that that voice was louder and broader and drowned out the other voices.
SMITH: Is that a level playing field? Some folks in this society have big bucks and some don't. And if it takes big bucks to play this game, how is it fair?
BONNER: In our society there is no level buck playing field in anything.
PERTSCHUK: If one very narrow segment of the population is able to make its views appear to be much larger, much more powerful, much more intense than the general public, that's a distortion - a terrible distortion.
BONNER: There's an elitist anti-First Amendment implication of that. That somehow if you have big bucks, your right to go and communicate your message to the public, to the people back home, should be limited.
FRERICKS: We don't have the resources to telemarket our issue and to call people on the phone and ask them to write letters or make phone calls.
JANET STUDER: This is supposed to be a democracy where everybody has equal access to their elected leaders and that simply is not the case.
SMITH: LIKE THESE PEOPLE FROM OHIO, AN INCREASING NUMBER OF AMERICANS NOW WORRY THAT THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT IS MAKING IT HARDER FOR AMERICAN DEMOCRACY TO WORK RIGHT. WHEN IT COMES TO LOBBYING, MANY ORDINARY PEOPLE FEEL OVERWHELMED BY A SYSTEM THAT FAVORS BIG ORGANIZATIONS WITH BIG MONEY TO BUY ACCESS OR TO FUND ASTROTURF LOBBYING CAMPAIGNS THAT EXAGGERATE THEIR PUBLIC SUPPORT. TO DISCUSS HOW WE MIGHT REFORM OUR SYSTEM TO MAKE OUR DEMOCRACY WORK BETTER, WE HAVE BROUGHT TOGETHER A PANEL OF EXPERTS AND EXPERIENCED PUBLIC OFFICIALS TO THIS LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON ROOM OF THE U.S. SENATE. AND WE HAVE FLOWN IN A GROUP OF PUBLIC CITIZENS FLOWN FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY, YOUR STAND­p;INS AMERICA. THEY ARE CAREFULLY SELECTED FROM ALL REGIONS OF THE COUNTRY TO BE REPRESENTATIVE.
SMITH: I wonder, Mr. Phillips, tell us what your reaction to the lobbying situation is. Do you think it's fair?
PHILLIPS: I'm trying to figure out who the big lobbyists really represent. I mean, in my mind in that film, they don't represent the other people that are here in this room. ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; they represent very specific issues like tobacco ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; which most of us, I would wager to say, don't agree with. I don't think it's a good thing.
SMITH: Miss Brody, what's your reaction?
BRODY: Well, I agree in that ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; I think the PAC committees represent companies, perhaps, that have deep pockets. And I would like to see maybe some limitation to the amount of money to be contributed.
SMITH: Mr. Slater?
SLATER: As a member of a couple small groups ­p;­p; one, I'm a small aviation pilot ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; member of a group which puts forward the views of pilots and also a group of bullet[?] boating ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; as a boat salesman and an owner.
I often find when there's an accident, a mishap, whatever, and often you do need a group that does have Washington's ear and is familiar with the back corridors to really present the facts and really show these are the accident statistics, these are the costs of doing business.
So, I am somewhat hesitant to say they're all bad.
SMITH: I wonder, Mr. Tanner, if I could ask you, isn't this ­p;­p; Mr. Slater is making the point ­p;­p; isn't this democracy in action.
TANNER: I think it's a mistake to confuse what's happening. If one group has more money than the other and can influence public opinion so strongly, especially when it's not public opinion's choice ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; that's a problem and it should be rectified.
SMITH: So, you think there's a distortion here?
TANNER: A very definite distortion.
SMITH: What is it?
TANNER: The distortion is that one group can ­p;­p; can ride its interests over the rest of us and in many cases we ­p;­p; we can't even compete.
SMITH: Miss Stewart, you come from an area where there's a lot of political activity, Chicago. What's your reaction to what you saw in the film?
STEWART: Well, I think it's very basic. It comes down to palm greasing and deep pockets. And we, as American citizens, are not actively involved in what the lobbyists are doing and we don't have the money or the influence or the connections.
SMITH: Mr. Wilson, you're a retired businessman, is that right?
WILSON: Yes, sir.
SMITH: Business needs a voice. How do you get the voice if you don't have people representing you?
WILSON: Well, I think there are certain limitations, parameters, that ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; need to be withheld. ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; in my own estimation, I think it's almost alarming the influence that political action committees and lobbyists hold over the influence of government.
SMITH: Mr. Walker, you're a working man. Do ordinary citizens have a decent voice?
WALKER: No, I don't ­p;­p; I don't believe so. I really feel almost helpless or there's no reason in making your [GARBLED] what good will my one voice do, you know. If I had a ­p;­p; someone ­p;­p; you know, if I wanted to lobby for something by myself, I couldn't get anything done, whereas these guys with big money seem to get pretty much what they want. I think it needs to be reformed.
SMITH: Mr. Perez, what's the guts of the problem?
PEREZ: I mean, if it was me, if someone was giving me money to get elected and to get a job, I would vote for them and what they were saying.
SMITH: But you also suggested something here, quid pro quo. If I give you the money, I'm going to get something ­p;­p;
[SPEAKING OVER EACH OTHER]
PEREZ: How could you not? If someone gives you money to get a job ­p;­p; helps you get a job, how can we not vote with the way they're ­p;­p; they're asking you to.
SMITH: Let's go talk to your Senator, Bill Bradley. The Senator from New Jersey. What is it like to be on the receiving end here. What is like to raise money ­p;­p; What was it like when you began in 1978?
SEN. BRADLEY: I had to make a long list of everybody I knew in my life [LAUGHS] and I got on the telephone and called them. And asked them, gee, I'm running for the Senate, I'm in a tough primary, do you think you can help me?
I had to spend a lot of time on the telephone. I spent 30 ­p; 40 percent of my time in that campaign calling friends, asking for hundred dollars, asking for 500 dollars, asking for whatever they could give me in the campaign.
SMITH: Is that a good use of your time, 30 or 40 percent of your time on the phone raising money?
SEN. BRADLEY: No, it's not a good use of my time.
SMITH: But we're talking about a Senate race in New Jersey I believe, not too long ago, where you raised $12 million dollars. Right. Let me ask Congressman Shays. You're talking about putting a limit on the Congressional races of $600,000. What's it like to raise money, what do you have to do and how do you feel about it when you're doing it?
CONG. SHAYS: My one bad experience was when I came to Washington. I hadn't done any political action committee fund raiser and I did one when I was first elected. I raised 10 thousand dollars and everyone else was raising 40 thousand. So, I went back and said, how come we raised 10 thousand and everyone else is raising 40 thousand and I learned I wasn't doing it the right way.
Now, the right way was to go into an office, the DNC, the RNC, the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, you were given a list, and then you started ­p;­p; you were told to call certain lobbyists. And you were told basically to say, hey, Joe, I'm having a fund raiser next week and I notice you're not on my list. And I know you want to be there.
Well, when I found out how you had to do it, I just simply didn't do it.
SMITH: Miss Czarnecki. As a citizen, how do you feel about the way they're using their time and what they're talking about?
CZARNECKI: It's a waste. It's too bad. I hate that the politicians have to spend so much time and money ­p;­p; our money in many cases ­p;­p; campaigning and ­p;­p; only to start over in a year and a half into office ­p;­p; they're stating over for the next term.
JAMIESON: I think what we're missing is that the politician can't speak to the people in the large districts or in a state race without raising the money. It's because the money is buying advertising time. About two­p;thirds of the average campaign budget is going to spent buying advertising time to reach the public, so that the message can get through to elect a candidate.
And, so, we're placing these folks in an unholy position.
SMITH: Does anybody else have anything to add to that?
WALSH: There's another trend of self­p;financed campaigns that are developing, where people who have the money are spending their own money to run, we saw that in the Presidential race with Ross Perot and Steve Forbes.
SMITH: You have ­p;­p; about half of the Senate today are millionaires.
WALSH: Exactly. That's the other problem.
BURY: We have to be very careful about reform, though, because it has unintended consequences. One of the reasons Senator Bradley is spending so much time raising money is because of campaign finance reform after Watergate, after Clement Stone gave $3 million dollars to Richard Nixon, there's a thousand dollar limit.
SMITH: You're talking about where they put limits on and they put limits on a thousand dollars here or five thousand dollars there, which meant you had to go to many more people in order to raise the money, the 12 million dollars. I think Mr. Tanner up here wants to have a word.
TANNER: Yeah, I ­p;­p; I think we should eliminate the process the way it is. Let's ­p;­p; let's outlaw people donating to campaigns, let's finance a citizens ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; network ­p;­p; public broadcasting channel that would air the politicians and their arguments. They don't pay a thing to get on it. They get their air time, you know. The money is gone from the issue. You can get somebody like me up there that could afford to put my two cents in and maybe I could become a Senator if I chose.
REHR: Except ­p;­p; I'm sorry ­p;­p; except if you do that, you give incumbent member of Congress, who benefit by staying here, newsletters, franking privileges, travel accounts, staff which works for them and challengers, people who want to take on the status quo don't have those resources.
[SPEAKING OVER EACH OTHER]
SMITH: Mr. Rehr, you're the Vice President of the National Beer Wholesalers. Right.
REHR: That's right.
SMITH: You're a very active lobbyist here and you make campaign contributions. What were your campaign contributions in, say, the last cycle?
REHR: I think we ­p;­p;
SMITH: A million bucks?
REHR: We gave about 1.4 million dollars out from the National Beer Wholesalers Political Action Committee.
SMITH: And you think this is an important exercise of your first amendment rights to try to express your opinions and get your views represented.
REHR: Absolutely. In 1991, we saw a federal excise tax increase on beer, 100 percent, 38 thousand jobs were lost. Many of my distributors were put out of business. If we had no input into helping elect people who understand small business concerns ­p;­p; my people are family owned/family operated businesses ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; you know, they would not be in business.
SMITH: Mr. Tanner, what do you say to him?
TANNER: I ­p;­p; you know, I can sympathize with your problem, but I think you're going about it wrong, personally ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; because you're still peddling influence. You give this guy money, it's not ­p;­p; you know, you're not talking issues.
REHR: Absolutely, when we ­p;­p;
TANNER: No, no, no, you're doing a different thing here. You're buying your opinion. You're getting them to agree with you that way. Why not take your 1.4 million and ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; put your ads in the newspaper about your opinion or in magazines and say, this is where we think it's a problem, you know. Stay away from the politicians.
REHR: I mean, I think you raise a good point, but
it's really unfair to say to some people, like my folks, who work 27 hours a day, seven days a week, who can't come to Washington; who, you know, don't have ­p;­p; many of them don't have the financial wherewithal to say raising a beer tax is bad because it will force me to lay off my employees.
They should be able to have the right to have somebody like me go to members of Congress, like the Senator and the Congressman and say, for these reasons this is bad.
SMITH: Let me just ask you. Mr. Belk, you represent the Teamsters Union. This is a gentleman who represents small business. You represent working people. Where would you be today in the political arena if you couldn't make political donations, what does that mean to you and to your workers?
BELK: Well, I think what we do with our PAC fund is we do have a voice for the workers on those shop floors around the country. Unlike ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; what you just heard, we represent 1.5 million working people with our PAC fund. Our contributions come from basically ­p;­p; average $50 per person that's in that fund.
We don't have the big contributors of the board of directors in big corporations, behind the closed doors, saying we want to go in an defeat this particular bill, because it's bad for us.
We speak out for the working people how it will affect the working person on the shop floor.
SMITH:Miss Frazer. What's your reaction to ­p;­p; to this dialogue? Where do you as a citizen come out?
FRAZER: It will always be a question of who's ox is being gored. If ­p;­p; if I were a beer distributor, I would say, certainly, we have this ­p;­p; say this. If I am, on the other hand, an anti­p;smoking advocate and I see the tobacco industry talking very loud with their money, I'll feel that my voice has been drowned out.
However, if I am, for instance, a dairy farmer, I have many friends who are, you might say, oh, those milk subsidies are dreadful, but I might say, that's what's keeping my family alive. So, it's a question of whose ox.
SMITH: Miss Fields, is this the right way to go about it?
FIELDS: If I had a lobbyist to go to the politicians and lobby for education, I'm all for it, you see, because that's going to help me and my children and the children in my community. But if I'm going to pay for someone to ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; speak up for me to sell my new brand of lipstick ­p;­p; that might not be too kosher.
SMITH: Let me ask you, Ellen Miller, you run the Center for Responsive Politics. You track money and politics. What are the trends?
MILLER: First of all there's more money being given to politicians than ever before ­p;­p; 724 million dollars in 1994 and we'll spend well over 1.5 billion dollars in this election cycle on election campaigning.
It's coming from fewer and fewer people. ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; big money donors are dominating the process. Less than one­p;third of one percent of the American people made a campaign contribution of $200 or more to a candidate in the last cycle. Think about that number. It is an infinitesimal group of people who are contributing the big money for politicians. There's no balance in the interest.
Another key trend: We have business out giving labor by a factor of about seven to one ­p;­p;
SMITH: Seven to one?
MILLER: Seven to one. We see environmental interests, for example, out spent by a factor of ten to one or ­p;­p;
SMITH: By whom?
MILLER: By the energy interests.
SMITH: Miss Garriga, what's your reaction to these numbers that you've just seen?
GARRIGA: I kind of ­p;­p; I feel frustrated ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; a little angry, and I feel like the groups that represent more of the people are being drowned out ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; by ­p;­p; by the sheer money and the sheer impact. And it's so hard to figure out how you can make not just your own voice heard, but how you can get democracy to really work in that context.
SMITH:Julie Sung, you're a new American citizen. I can see you mulling this over. What is your reaction to this discussion and ­p;­p; and lobbying and what you've heard?
SUNG:I just think this society is so selfish, you know. Government is supposed to be for the benefit of the people, but from what I've experienced since I've been in this country, I ­p;­p; I just don't see that.
Everybody's out for their own political gain and, you know, money is king, you know. I think there needs to be a big change, big reform in government.
SMITH:So, people have been thinking about that. Congressman Shays, what do we do about it?
CONG. SHAYS: Ideally you'd like to limit the amount that people spend on campaigns and the Constitution, interpreted by our courts has said, you can't do that unless it's voluntary.
And, so, a number of us advocate positions like this, in the House, spending up to 600 hundred thousand and if you agree to that limit, then you get 50 percent off on any message that you have on radio or TV. We would eliminate [unintelligible] Political Action Committee money entirely, entirely. We would eliminate what they call soft money.
Now, soft money is the unlimited [GARBLED] amount of money that can be given to the political parties by labor, business or individuals as long as it ­p;­p; supposedly it's not used on federal campaigns. That's become the new narcotic.
SMITH: Senator, does that go far enough?
SEN. BRADLEY:No, I don't think it goes far enough.
[SPEAKING OVER EACH OTHER]
SMITH: So, what do we do?
SEN. BRADLEY: Well, I think money and politics is a little bit like ants in your kitchen. Right. You've got to block all the holes or some of them are going to find a way in. And I think you need to start with the people who have the money and who are spending all that money on their own campaign.
The Supreme Court says that a rich man's wallet is the equivalent to free speech terms of a poor man's soap box. I think that's ludicrous. But if you're going to say that the Congress and the states may limit what an individual spends on his or her campaign, then you need a Constitutional amendment to do that. I think we ought to have one.
In the general election, what I would do is I would have contributions to the election, not to the candidates, to the election, so you can contribute up to five thousand dollars a year to a Senate election fund.
And on Labor Day or the day after the primary, whichever is later, that fund would be divided equally among Republican, Democrat and/or qualified independent and that's all the money in politics.
[SPEAKING OVER EACH OTHER]
SEN. BRADLEY: No soft money, no PACs. It would put the two parties or the two parties and independent candidate on equal financial footing, so that their ideas would determine who won the election.
One last thing I'd do ­p;­p; this is not popular with the TV industry ­p;­p; the public airways belong to use, the people. They don't belong to the local affiliates or the network. And I'd say, a certain amount of time, prior to the election, should be available to the candidates to make their case to the public. That's what I would do.
SMITH: Let me ask a television guy. Ed Fouhy, you spent a career in television, can you get the television networks to contribute free time to candidates?
FOUHY: Not unless you can get by a very powerful lobby that they have here in Washington.
FOUHY: It depends on the system that's in place right now. But we are the only major ­p;­p; democracy in the world that sells television time to politicians, so that the Bradley idea is a solid idea that's followed in many democracies and it would ­p;­p; it would solve part of the problem that ­p;­p; but it would not solve it all.
I don't want to let the citizens off the hook here. There's a check­p;off box on the tax return. ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; they could contribute all of them. I just wonder how many of them do it. Not all the bad guys are here in Washington. Not all the bad guys are up here lobbying every day. In fact, these lobbyists, it seems to me ­p;­p; maybe it's a little bit inconvenient ­p;­p; but we do have a first amendment that guarantees them the right to say whatever they want to say. But the rest of us also have some responsibility.
BALDWIN: I agree with this gentleman that we need to all check off, when you make out your IRS form, check ­p;­p; give them a dollar off of your tax. It doesn't come out of your refund. Set the terms like you said, after the primaries divide all the money up equally, but you've also ­p;­p; people get tired of listening to the ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; campaign ads day after day and they get to the point where it's like a commercial, you go out of the room to do something. Nobody's listening.
Give them two months before the campaign. You can spend X amount of dollars and that's it. Everybody go on.
SMITH: Glorine, what's your reaction?
ALLENDER: I'd rather see the [GARBLED] candidates themselves out in the community. There are people running, say like from Mississippi, I've never seen. They've never come to my town. And then you'll turn on the television and you'll hear all this dirty campaigning, you know, this one did this and this one did that. And they're spending millions of dollars. Those millions of dollars that they're collecting to run a political thing, they could be educating our children.
We have children who can't read in this country, the richest country in the world and we have kids that can't read. It's sad. Like this gentleman said, he had to collect 12 million dollars for a campaign. How many kids could you teach to read for 12 million dollars.
SMITH: Mr. Prindle, where are you on that?
PRINDLE: There's a need for lobbyists, it's to educate our politicians, our representatives. At the same time Senator Bradley brought up some very good recommendations.
The frustration of the people is why can't we do that. Why can't it happen.
CONG. SHAYS: I want to just put one word in for Tom DeLay, because he really got hit hard on this program. Tom DeLay believes that we have too many government regulations. He has fought that all his life.
The money didn't go change him to be like what he is, the money went with him because they believe in the causes he's fighting on.
And maybe one of the problems is this government has become so large that we have too much influence over your life and maybe if we had less influence over your life, the lobbyists here wouldn't have so much influence over your lives.
MILLER: The reality, however, is that there are two classes of constituents in American politics today. The first and foremost, that you and Senator Bradley and others have to face, are the cash constituents. Those who presented to your campaign.
They give to you for access and access equals clout, much more clout than any of the rest of us in this room or the vast majority of Americans have. And that is a modern day reality of money and politics.
We've talked about ethics. The issue is not whether we have unethical members of Congress, we have a campaign finance system that is so thoroughly corrupting of every person who wants to run for office ­p;­p; it is so thoroughly exclusionary ­p;­p; that we have to wonder whether or not we really have a democracy any more.
PHILLIPS: It's obvious, in our ­p;­p; in our society as it is today. We're in a Catch­p;22. We've got the beer distributors ­p;­p; and he represents a group of people who are honest American citizens. And I believe that.
But then you have people around this room who do not have the same access as he provides to his beer distributors and that's a problem. But in my mind, we need to rectify that problem by understanding and generally all trying to work to reduce the impact of money, as Senator Bradley has said, on the process.
But all of us need to also figure out, even if it's a 50 dollar check, if it's somebody we believe in, we ought to contribute and we ought to make ourselves known and we ought to participate in the process.
SMITH: Thank you. We've talked a good deal about lobbying, let's talk about the media. Now, what you saw in the film were stories that reflected ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; the negativism of the media. And you saw increasing trends towards tabloid news, towards sensationalism and scandal. You saw a sense of combat between the press and the politicians. I just would like to ask a basic question. Do you trust the press?
DOHM: I think the press today is too involved in digging up the little dirt that they can to sell the points or whatever they get on the televisions to make their ratings high and that's what they go after more and I think it's wrong.
SMITH: Mr. Perez, you said you followed the politics [GARBLED]. What's your assessment of how good a job the press does?
PEREZ: I think the press tries to put too much emphasis on politicians being perfect. I mean, they're human just like anyone else, you know. All ­p;­p; you know, digging up stuff from the past. I mean, everyone has stuff in their life that they've done or, you know ­p;­p; I don't think you should put them on such a high pedestal. I think we should concentrate more on the issues than the background.
SMITH: Mr. Walker?
WALKER: I believe that they slant ­p;­p; they're too much into politics. I believe they have too much effect on getting someone elected by slanting the news the way they want.
SMITH: Mr. Cathcart?
CATHCART: Yes, I believe that there is a responsibility that the media has and it is to present to the public what is not their point of view but what is. And in doing so, that will get the information to the public, whereas the public can react more with that information and they can believe that information.
SMITH: Miss Frazer, you're a mother, you're a homemaker. You sit in Upper New York State. From the American media, do you find out what you need to know about medicare, minimum wage, gasoline tax in terms of how it's going to affect your life.
FRAZER: No. I feel if I were grading the media, I'd give them all F's for copying off each other's papers. I watch every night I get the same reports on all three of them. I pick up the paper, it's all AP reports. I can get five newspapers on Sunday morning it is all the same.
I get the same slant from every one of them. If I want a different slant, I put on trash TV. At least it's different. It is the same slant from every resource. I hear the same stories over and over. There's no difference.
SMITH: Jean Laughman, what about you. What kind of grade would you give the press?
LAUGHMAN: On accountability, F. On sincerity, I'd give them an F.
SMITH: We're not doing very well here.
SMITH: How about a D or something ­p;­p;
LAUGHMAN: If you were going to be a reporter, the first thing that they teach in a school is a reporter is supposed to be objective not subjective. And that's the first rule that I've seen broken so many times it is a scary thing.
SMITH: We have two excellent reporters here. One of them is Chris Bury, with NIGHTLINE. If you had to grade the press, Chris, how would you grade our performance in terms of serving these people?
BURY: I think we probably get something like a B­p;minus. I'm not ready to flunk out the entire ­p;­p;
BURY: But I want to make one other point and that is to grade the public and I think they might get a C­p;minus. There's a booming information market place. There is more political information available today than at any time in our history. An intelligent savvy viewer or reader has all the networks, two channels of CNN, CSPAN 1, CSPAN 2. And my pollster friends tell me that in their focus groups, a lot of people can name the Three Stooges. Nobody can name three Justices of the United States Supreme Court.
SMITH: Is that right, Kathleen Hall Jamieson. You run the school of communications at the University of Pennsylvania. Is there more information available today?
JAMIESON: Yes, there is, but the difficulty in that response is that in order to get access to it, you have to devote your life to seeking it and you have to spend your life finding it.
If I have the time, I can, in fact get access to the Congress, to the Senate, to the President's speeches, all the candidates speeches by watching CSPAN, but I have to earn a living, as do the other people in the electorate.
And our problem as citizens is that when we turn to the shorter forms, reading a newspaper, looking at the evening ­p;­p; network evening news, too much of the information there is packaged in a way that doesn't let us see the clash of the issues, the candidate's words and opinions coming through, the affect on our lives being manifest. Too much tells us about the tactics and the game.
SMITH: Ken Walsh, you're the senior reporter for US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT at the White House. Looking at the performance of the White House press corps, and you've just written a book about the White House press corps, FEEDING THE BEAST. How do you grade ­p;­p;
SMITH: An interesting title.
WALSH: We are the beast by the way. Well, I've covered the White House now for ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; for ten years and over that time, I've come to agree with a lot of the critics of our profession. I think there's fundamentally four problems, that we are too negative in the mainstream news media. We have too much attitude, we inject our own voice into things, we're too subjective and I think we rush to judgment about people and events and trends.
I think more important, we are out of touch, especially in Washington, with the rest of the country. I think that ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; we ­p;­p; we don't understand what it's like to live in middle America much any more.
SMITH: You're a reporter, Ms. Garriga.
GARRIGA: A very small paper.
SMITH: Well, no I'm not trying to put you into the Washington ­p;­p;
SMITH: But from your perspective, you're out there in Connecticut, part of the heartland of New England. Right. What's your perspective on how the reporters are doing here in Washington as a professional?
GARRIGA: Well, I think that they seem to interact a lot more with the politicians. You seem to ­p;­p; they're ­p;­p; seem to be buddy/buddy, almost. And sometimes, even though they ­p;­p; you see them in the interviews really taking them very hard. You know that after hours they all get together at the same club and, you know, have cocktails together. You question their impartiality, you doubt it, because, you know, it just doesn't seem to ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; fit.
SMITH: Senator, we have shows now that are called Cross Fire, the whole point of the program is to get two people as strongly as they can to disagree with each other. And we've got lots of other shows that aren't called Cross Fire where the point is just about the same. What is the impact of that kind of media on the performance of a politician.
SEN. BRADLEY: Well, you go armed. You go on with the focus group phrase, which is the only thing you have a chance to say in that kind of combat. Which means faith or conviction or capacity to understand suffering or the deeper knowledge of how the country works or an awareness of the world ­p;­p; does not come though in the focus group phrase.
So, the public is entertained, much as they're entertained in the boxing match. But they are not informed, either about the person who is speaking or about the underlying issues. There's a place for this kind of rat­p;a­p;tat­p;tat, but if it is the only thing that is in the public square, then the people aren't hearing what they need to hear.
SMITH: Miss Stacy, you're from Chicago area ­p;­p; what about, from your perspective ­p;­p; are you getting from the media what you want, what you need as a citizen?
STACY: I think I am. ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; we have two daily papers in Chicago, plus we have all the broadcast news. And the two daily newspapers to present different points of view and it's up to me ­p;­p; my choice to read which paper that I choose and to go with the slant that I want.
And I know whenever I listen to reporters or whenever I'm reading the paper that I am intelligent enough to pick out the slant and the bias.
SMITH: Ed Fouhy, you spent a lifetime in journalism. You're now doing sort of a real self critique of life and journalists. What's the heart of the problem?
FOUHY: ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; well, two things really. One is that the media fighting, as Dan Rather said, in an extraordinary burst of candor, earlier in this broadcast for survival in the face of changing technology ­p;­p; and they have gone to mostly tabloid values in an effort to survive. And that has alienated, obviously, an awful lot of people, even though they watch, as someone said earlier, a lot of trash TV.
I think the second thing is ­p;­p; I heard a woman say recently, the trouble with the news it that they cover stories I don't care about. And they use words I don't understand.
This woman here put her finger on it when she said she wants information that will allow her to make decisions in her life. And that's a perfectly reasonable thing to expect from the news media. Unfortunately, many of the news decisions, including many I made, by the way ­p;­p; and I want to say, I plead guilty to having done a lot of the things that are being criticized around here today.
Many of the news decisions are made for reasons that have an awful lot to do with other journalists decisions and [STUTTER] and opinions of us. Somebody said earlier in the broadcast the worst thing that can happen ­p;­p; I think it was Brit Hume ­p;­p; is to be perceived as being soft on a politician.
So, they [GARBLED] ask an impertinent question, not a question that's going to get information out but a question that sounds tough, so that when they go back in the booth, somebody will say, hey, that was a tough question, you really ­p;­p; you really got to him on that.
And that ­p;­p; that's ­p;­p; and that's kind of a schoolyard game, but, it's ­p;­p; it happens ­p;­p;
[SPEAKING OVER EACH OTHER]
BURY: I think Ed had an important point, there's a culture of coarseness and it's a chicken and egg question. I don't know whether it started in Congress or started in the media, but we've certainly seen ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; stepped up rhetoric, harsher attacks.
And in the news business, covering the Clinton campaign, the worst thing for a reporter during the campaign was to show up in what the ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; the NEW REPULIC magazine called the Clinton suck­p;up watch. Which meant that you're report was a little bit too soft on Bill Clinton. And people were frightened to death that the NEW REPUBLIC that week would put them in the Clinton suck­p;up watch.
SMITH: Let me ask you, I'm going to ask both of you ­p;­p; how honest do you think the politicians are whom you cover.
WALSH: I think that politicians start out trying to be ­p;­p; to be candid. But I think as they're in office longer there's more of a sense of spin. And I think what you have now is a very unhealthy climate where from the politician's you have virtually all spin and propaganda and that feeds the media where we then become more and more cynical. So, the result is I don't think the country is served very well by the existing relationship.
BURY: That means that we're always on the lookout. I mean, it's a ritual dance. They try to spin us and we pretend to be too savvy, too cynical, too worldly to be spun.
SMITH: Now let me ask the politicians. How is the press? The press that covers, Senator, are they pretty fair or not? Do you get a fair shake?
SEN. BRADLEY: Well, I personally don't have any complaints. However, I do have some serious disagreements here. There are too many sources, too many leaks, too many cheap stories, too many cheap thrills, too much personal invasion of privacy. Not enough focus on the real issues [GARBLED].
In fact, the, or I assume the TV editor, who picks the sensational headline in order to sell commercial space or newspapers kind of loses the moral authority to criticize politicians who are pandering to voters, because they're pandering to their customer.
You put all this together ­p;­p; I mean, sometimes I think I'm living in a ­p;­p; in a political media world where what I value most, which is character, is being devalued. What I admire most, humanity, is being demeaned. And what I'm most sensitive about, privacy, is denied.
SMITH: Miss Fields, how do we do better?
FIELDS: This lady and the lady over there there with the white blouse on gave the newspaper F's. I did better than that, I gave them my cancellation.
FIELDS: Because when I don't like what's in the media this is the only way I have of fighting back.
SMITH: Mr. Perez, how do we ­p;­p; how do we get things done?
PEREZ: I think it's sad that you have these newspaper companies that own 12, 20, 30 newspapers all across the country and they're all giving the same slant. You don't have any different ­p;­p; any different perspective on things.
SMITH: Scott Phillips, you had your hand up.
PHILLIPS: I still buy a paper, because I want to get some news. I feel like every day I've got to get some news, so I buy the paper. I go ­p;­p; I really am disappointed often in what I see in he paper. But I do watch the evening news. And I feel sorry for people who are in the media like Mr. Bradley and the Congressman ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; because I think you get a raw deal. ­p;­p; uh ­p;­p; but we have to get the news. We have to get some piece of it and unfortunately, I have to take in what I've been fed.
SMITH: Dean Jamieson, what does the media ­p;­p; what do we in the media do to reconnect with people we're clearly losing.
JAMIESON: Use of polls not simply to tell us who's ahead and behind, but to identify the issues that these people care about, so that the coverage can address those issues. And that's part of what the civic journalism movement is trying to do.
More focus on substance and less on strategy. Strategy activates cynicism by assuming that the gentlemen who are represented here are self­p;interested venal partisans who never act in the public good. When in fact, most of the time, most members of Congress are acting out of the public good and are acting out of their own convictions, at least that's what I believe.
More focus on consensus and less on conflict. There's a tendency in the press to focus on areas of division, not on areas of agreement. And as a result to make it more difficult for us to legislate and get those areas of compromise and consensus.
And, finally, a news structure that realizes that we are not up to speed on most issues when we're reading or watching. And, so, we need to be brought along. We can't assume that we have the level of knowledge that the reporter has or that the politician has about the specifics of issues.
SMITH: Ed Fouhy?
FOUHY: I advocate civic journalism and the heart of civic journalism is to get out there and listen to people to find out what's on the public agenda, to find out what people are interested in.
Increasingly, public affairs has been a dialogue between journalists and politicians, often shouting at one another on weekend shout shows. And that alienates people as it has obviously alienated this person.
And once people are alienated and they drop out of the democratic society, they don't need what journalists are selling anymore.
SMITH: Isn't there a problem here where people who cover Washington with few exceptions just cover Washington.
WALSH: Exactly. I think one thing that would really help everyone, I think, is if the reporters on all these so­p;called glamour beats, the White House, the Congress, the straight political beats broke away from them say every two or three months and just did a story out in the country.
Look at the impact of crime in a neighborhood. Look at how a family is struggling to raise their children. Go to a school and see the problems teachers have.
BURY: There's an assumption here though that somehow we've ­p;­p; we've covered the issues and not covered the politics and the policy. We're going to elect better people. And I think that's a false assumption. And I also think that we would be sued ­p;­p; ought to be sued for journalistic malpractice if we don't report the strategy and the policy.
For example, health care. Health care died because of politics. If we had not reported that as well as the substance, we would not have been doing our jobs.
JAMIESON: No one is suggesting that one not cover the strategy. There's obvious public interest in it. But when you cover it and you cover the scandals and as a result you don't cover the substance, there's a loss.
In the tape where you show the Gennifer Flowers incidents, what is not shown on the tape is what wasn't in the news because of the preoccupation with that story. What wasn't in the news were two major speeches, one by President Bush, one by candidate Clinton on what they would do [GARBLED] with the Soviet Union.
Instead we know a great deal about the allegations of one individual [GARBLED] sex life of a candidate.
ALLENDER: I think the American public has made the press start giving us all this negative stuff we buy it. If there's two articles, one says that Gennifer Flowers slept with Bill Clinton, another one says Bill Clinton passed Social Security Act to give everybody free medication, what are they going to read.
They aren't going to read about Social Security, they'll read about Gennifer Flowers. They want to hear the bad morals of our Congressmen. They don't ­p;­p; a lot of them don't care about what's happening with the bills. And it's sad. We've caused it ourselves and we can get out of again.
All we have to do is write like NIGHTLINE. If he covers something we don't like, write him and tell him. But we don't. We sit back, we're lazy, we've become a lazy country and we sit there and we just let them keep writing these stories, put them on TV, so we can't ­p;­p; we can change it. I'm sure we can.
SMITH: Thank you very much for your comment. That's an excellent wind­p;up. I want to thank our participants, the experts and the politicians who know the system from the inside and the people who've come from across the country who see the system from the outside.
We've shown you some of the problems in our political system. We've shown you a lobbying system where ordinary people feel as though they're at a disadvantage or excluded and where maybe big money has too much of an influence on the way our politics work here in Washington.
We've shown you a media in which negativism, polarization, tabloids, sensationalism is eroding public trust in government and feeding public cynicism about our political system. We've tried to reach beyond the personalities and look at systemic problems.
But ladies and gentlemen, American democracy will not work better unless all of us get engaged and try to make it work better ourselves. I'm Hedrick Smith, thank you for watching.