Dear Democracy Now! Visitor: We are an independent, ad-free daily news program that serves millions of viewers and listeners each month. Our show is special because we make it our priority to go where the silence is. We put a spotlight on corporate and government abuses of power and lift up the stories of ordinary people working to make change in extraordinary times. We do all of this with just a fraction of the budget and staff of a commercial news show. We do it without ads, corporate sponsorship or government funding. How is this possible? Only with your support. If every visitor to this site in December gave just $10 we could cover our basic operating costs for 2015. Pretty exciting, right? Please do your part today. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in 2015.

Your Donation: $
Tuesday, August 15, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Police Beat Demonstrators as Bill and Hillary Speak
2000-08-15

Sen. Russ Feingold Speaks on the Special Interest Money at the D.N.C.

DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

As the Democratic National Convention swings into full gear, a so-called Shadow Convention has been taking place just a few blocks down from the Staples Center. Among those who addressed the convention yesterday was US Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He has been hammering hard at the issue of campaign finance and fundraising. Here in LA we are seeing a major pipeline of corporate and special interest money flowing throughout corporate suites. [includes rush transcript]

Guest:

  • Sen. Russ Feingold, a US Senator from Wisconsin.

Tape:

  • Hillary Clinton Addressing The Convention

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

Last night, after a major concert, or in the midst of one, police moved in on concert-goers, as they told people to disperse within fifteen minutes. The crowds were so large, they couldn’t leave within that time. They moved in with batons and with horses, with tear gas and other equipment and chemical sprays, not yet clear what it all was. We’re going to be doing a segment on that in just a few minutes.

But also, as that was all going on outside, inside the Convention Center, both President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed the
Democratic National Convention. We are now going to hear a clip of what Hillary Clinton, who is running for Senate in New York, had to say.

    HILLARY CLINTON: And everywhere I go, I’ve heard from doctors and nurses, who every day see children with illnesses that could have been treated earlier if their parents had been able to afford health insurance. Now, you may remember, I had a few ideas about healthcare, and I’ve learned a few lessons since then, but I haven’t given up on the goal, and that’s why we kept working, step by step, to insure millions of children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And that’s why it’s time to pass a real patient’s bill of rights and provide access to affordable healthcare to every child and family in this country.

AMY GOODMAN:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, addressing the Democratic National Convention last night. I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez. Juan, as that was going on inside, protesters outside. But first, let’s address some of the issues that we heard her speaking about, like health insurance, and what she didn’t talk about, which was money in the Democratic Party.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Yes, and I think that the reality is that the — as President Clinton tried to give the final farewell address to his party here, he tried to build or talk about the record of his administration, and healthcare and the needs of children were critical in his address.

And we’re joined now by Russ Feingold, a US senator from Wisconsin, who is one who has been critical, repeatedly, over some of the problems that the party, the Democratic Party, has had at being able to meet those needs that both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton addressed. Welcome to Democracy Now!

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Very nice to be on the show. Thank you.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

And, Senator, you spoke at the shadow convention and were well received there, because you raised some of the concerns that you had. Could you talk a little about the major ones that you raised at the shadow convention?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Sure. I listened to the President and the First Lady last night, and, you know, they’re talking about a lot of the issues that all of us care about: education for kids, healthcare, access to healthcare for everyone, AIDS in Africa.

But you know what? We’re never going to get anywhere on these issues if we don’t have fundamental campaign finance reform, taking away the ability of the pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs, the big hospital chains, from controlling the agenda of this country. So you can talk about those issues all you want, but if you don’t take the stranglehold of big money out of American politics, you’re not going to get very far.

So that’s what I talked about at the shadow convention. I was very grateful that there was a forum where I could make my views known, and I was grateful for the wonderful response.

AMY GOODMAN:

I noticed you weren’t at the podium of the
Democratic National Convention.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

I am going to get three minutes tomorrow, during which I’ll mention my concern about the problem with soft money. I also will make the obvious distinction between Gore and Bush, and that’s this: Bush will — Gore will sign a bill to ban soft money, and Bush won’t. But the truth is we have to go much further than that. We actually have to have complete public financing of all political campaigns in this country, if we’re going to really have a principle of one person, one vote, so that is where I want to see us go.

AMY GOODMAN:

That’s not what McCain-Feingold does, the famous campaign finance bill that you proposed.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

The original McCain-Feingold bill, which we would have loved to have passed, would have had voluntary spending limits for candidates, and if they agreed to that, they would get basically reduced television rights. That, to me, is second best to public financing.

But, no. What’s left right now of McCain-Feingold — and we are close to passing it — is simply getting rid of these unlimited corporate and wealthy individual contributions that, to me, have made a little bit of a mockery out of this Democratic Convention and certainly the Republican Convention, because a lot of the action is just behind the scenes at these fundraisers.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, when you say a little bit of the mockery, you’re talking the Democrats have raised $118 million, the Republican $136 million in an eighteen-month period that ended June 30th. How do you respond to the ability of Clinton and Gore to, on the one hand, say that they are in favor of it, but on the other hand, doing a very good job at utilizing the system?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Well, Clinton and Gore did a lot of good things, but one thing they did bad was they helped develop this soft money system in 1996, and that opened the floodgates. Now it’s the responsibility of Al Gore, if he’s elected president, to close it up, and he’s pledged to do that. So, he has said the words. He said them in Milwaukee. He said he’s an imperfect messenger of reform. He is the only one of the two major candidates who is going to get in there and deal with this. But, to me, it should start today.

This convention this week is raising soft money. The Democratic National Committee should stop it right now in its tracks and say that there never will be a Democratic Convention again that allows the fundraising of soft money during the convention. If we do that — and some say it’s a risk. I don’t think it’s a risk. I think what you do is motivate young people and energize people, if you show you’re willing to risk getting away from this big corporate money, so I think it’s a great thing for the Democratic Party to do, and if they don’t, I think they do so at their own peril.

AMY GOODMAN:

What about Hillary Rodman Clinton? We just listened to a clip of her speech last night, where she talked about healthcare, and she referred to a few ideas she once had about them. But the fact is, while the Republicans have painted her basically as a socialist who wanted universal healthcare, she went far away from that. I remember a photograph a long time ago in the New York Times of her with the Jackson Hole Group, and this was the group that she was consulting with. There wasn’t a consumer activist among them. They were CEOs of large insurance companies, HMOs. What are we talking about here? Do you think that if she had put forward truly universal healthcare, we could have a different healthcare picture in this country now?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

We might have had a better chance. The problem there was two things. One was that obviously the insurance companies were going to do anything they could to stop the Clinton proposal. The second problem was — and I think the First Lady was really suggesting this, it was so darn complicated — it was an attempt to appease, in some ways, some of these interests.

I think we would have had a lot better chance of a simple universal single-payer system. That’s what we should have in this country. Now some, like Senator Wellstone, have suggested — and I kind of like the idea — let’s establish a national guarantee that every American will have a card guaranteeing them healthcare, and perhaps we’ll let the states administer it with some flexibility, so they don’t get this fear of a big Washington beauacracy. As long as it is universal and guaranteed for everybody at a certain level, I think that makes sense. And it’s simpler. If it’s complicated like it was in 1994, it’s easy for those insurance companies to run the Harry and Louise ads and say, “What a mess this is going to be from Washington!” So if we try again, I hope the lesson she has learned have to do with keeping it simpler and making it guaranteed universal for all Americans.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

What about the issue of Social Security? Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are trying to stake out positions as being the defenders of the Social Security system. They know that senior citizens in America vote more than anyone else and that both sides are trying to paint themselves as defenders of the system. Are you satisfied that the Democratic Party and that the Gore approach is really defending Social Security?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Well, I’ll tell you this: I am against the privatization of Social Security. And George —

AMY GOODMAN:

Lieberman is for it.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Well, that may be, but I understand he’s not for it anymore, because the position of the Vice President, our candidate for president of the Democratic Party, is very different than Bush’s. He — Bush takes the money for his investment schemes out of Social Security itself. He carves it out of it, which risks Social Security.

But the truth is, the bottom line is, we have to have a guaranteed commitment to Social Security, not as a privatized program, but as a program for every single American that is solvent straight through the next seventy-five years. If you start carving money out of there for a shaky investment scheme, I don’t think it’s like sending a man to the moon, like George Bush said in his speech, I think it’s just foolish. And we have no right to play with that money of the American people. They’re relying on it. For many people, it is the most essential guarantee.

So my view is, it’s a system that basically works. It’s solvent for the next thirty-three years. It doesn’t need to be gutted. What it needs to be is to be treated seriously and to not have its revenues used in a privatized way.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re talking to Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, automatically a delegate here at the Democratic National Convention, well known for putting forward campaign finance initiatives. He’s known for the McCain-Feingold bill. Yet you have McCain standing up also at the shadow convention of the Republican Party, a counter — so-called counter-convention that took place at the Annenberg Center at University of Pennsylvania, and he heartily endorsed George.W. Bush.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Well, look, I like John McCain. He’s a friend of mine. But the fact is, his candidate is going to veto the McCain-Feingold bill, and my candidate is going to sign it. It’s a real simple difference. And let me just say one more time, John and I are close friends, and John and I worked together on this issue, but we differ on something. He doesn’t believe in public financing of campaigns, and I do. I believe that every single campaign in this country should be basically without campaign contributions. What do we need campaign contributions for in this country? So you’re talking about Bush versus Gore, there’s no contest. Gore will sign it, and Bush won’t.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Of course, the side of the money in politics that’s never looked at is increasing looks at the contributions, but very little at the spending. As I often say, most of the money goes for television advertisements —

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

That’s right.

JUAN GONZALEZ: — so it’s no surprise that the television networks pay so little attention to the issue of campaign finance reform, because political campaigns are bonanzas for the major networks and newspapers.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

We should require the television stations to give reduced or free television time as a way to help solve this problem. They have a tremendous benefit from the public of having the airways, and the original McCain-Feingold bill would have done that. And you can do that. We already require —

AMY GOODMAN:

But you were forced to take that out, ultimately.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

At this point. But my view is that what we do is first pass the ban on soft money, then move to that, and then hopefully move to public financing. You have to stay in these things for the long term if you want to overcome corporate money, and the first thing to do is get this unbelievable thing they’ve just been able to do in the last five or six years. They were never able to give these unlimited contributions until just a few years ago. We’ve got to plug that loophole and then move on to public finance.

AMY GOODMAN:

Describe what it’s like to be here at the Democratic Convention, the Convention Center. I mean, I noticed you’re not even wearing your credentials right now to get into the Convention Center. But if you were, you would be a walking billboard for one corporation or another. What is it this year?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Well, you know, I don’t even —

AMY GOODMAN:

United.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

In ’96, it was United Airlines, and they’ve had some trouble lately, so I don’t even have a string this year. I just keep it in my pocket. They let me in anyway.

AMY GOODMAN:

But also the Convention Center itself.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Yeah, I mentioned in my speech here at the shadow convention, it’s right on the Convention Center.

AMY GOODMAN:

Staples.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

You can’t — I even hear people complaining that when they go to their high school football games now, that the scoreboard’s got an advertisement on it for Coca-Cola. The corporate influence in this country is infecting everything, and the idea of separating business from government is really being lost. And I think that’s why some of these protests are occuring. Many of us are beginning to feel that it is intruding on so much of our life and our traditions and our values in this country, that it’s becoming what I called here a corporate democracy, not a representative democracy. And we’ve got to stop that somehow.

AMY GOODMAN:

In just a minute, we’re going to be joined by a number of people who went to a concert last night with Rage Against the Machine, and what they faced afterwards were police moving in on them with teargas, with batons, with horses trampling people. What is your response to the growing resistance movement and to the police repression that we’re seeing here?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Well, I haven’t seen this kind of activism by people, in general, and young people since the ’60s, and I am impressed by it. I think it is wonderful that the young people are taking the lead on issues like corporate domination of our culture, opposition to the death penalty, freedom for the people of East Timor, environmental protection. And I think those who are in power should recognize it as sincere, and their gut reaction shouldn’t be to crush it. Their gut reaction should be to listen.

And so, I don’t know the specifics of exactly what happened on the streets, but the first thing you should do is understand that people don’t do this, especially young people don’t do this, if they don’t feel that something is wrong. Listening to the people, and especially young people in the country, should come first, not shoving them out of a street .

AMY GOODMAN:

Would you condemn the LAPD for what they did?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

I don’t know exactly what the LAPD did, but if I took a look at it and it looks like it was unreasonable, I certainly will condemn it, but I simply don’t have the information yet to know for sure what happened.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

And what do you say to those young people who, analyzing the corporate control and influence on the two parties, see the same thing you see, but decide that neither party is worth the effort of getting involved in or supporting.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Well, if both parties continue to swallow vast quantities of soft money and do not reform this campaign finance system, I can’t blame anybody for turning away from both parties. So it’s up to the parties now, and that’s why I tell the Democratic Party to do it now.

AMY GOODMAN:

Do you support Nader being in the debates, Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Oh, I think it’d be better for the country if these folks were in the debates, you bet. The more, the merrier. I think it’s better to have a broad debate.

AMY GOODMAN:

Russell Feingold, we want to thank you very much for being with us.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: A US senator from Wisconsin, one of the delegates here at the Democratic National Convention, will be speaking at the podium of the Democratic National Convention. We’ll see how much attention you get from the corporate media.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD:

Don’t hold your breath. Thank you.

Show Full Transcript ›
‹ Hide Full Transcript

Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.