Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention,
Moderator Evan Semerjian has just called
tonight's meeting to order.
Good evening, and welcome to The Advocates.
Tonight's program focuses on the role that money plays or should play in
political campaigns, and specifically our question is this: Should the
federal government subsidize political campaigns and limit individual
contributions? Advocate Allard Lowenstein says, "yes." Mr. Lowenstein?
I think everyone knows that at the heart of
democracy are elections. And if elections become corrupted, then democracy
is in bad shape. Tonight, to discuss two major efforts to change the
corruption that everyone now realizes has eaten away at our democracy, we
have two of the most committed fighters in Congress for fair elections, two
of the most honest men there, Congressman Anderson of Illinois and Senator
Biden of Delaware.
Thank you. Advocate Tom Bourdeaux says, "no." Mr.
Any proposal to subsidize campaigns and limit
contributions—and there are many such bills lurking in the wings of
Congress—are not only ineffective but dangerous. To support the structure of
our political process, I have with me tonight George Webster, a Washington
attorney who represents many trade and business associations, and David
Wilson, a columnist for the Boston Globe.
Thank you, gentlemen. Now, tonight we welcome two
new advocates. Allard Lowenstein is an attorney from New York, who served
one term as a Congressman from Long Island district from 1968 to 1970. He is
now a member of the Democratic National Committee. And Thomas Bourdeaux is
an attorney from Mississippi and was President of that state's Defense
Lawyers Association. He is a member of the American College of Trial
Lawyers. We'll be back to these gentlemen for their cases in a moment, but
first this word of background on tonight's question.
Perhaps more than any election campaign in the history of
our democracy, the 1972 Presidential election and Watergate related scandals
have raised concern over how we elect public officials. Since then, more
than seventy bills have been introduced in Congress to reform various
aspects of election procedures. These bills raise several essential
questions. Should the federal government subsidize in full, or in part, the
cost of campaigns for federal office? Should private contributions be
abolished or limited? And should there be an absolute ceiling on campaign
expenditures? Tonight our debate will focus on the principles underlying one
of these bills introduced by Congressman Morris Udall of Arizona and John
Anderson of Illinois. It provides a limitation on contributions by
individuals or organizations: $1,000 for any Congressional or Senate race
and $2,500 for a Presidential campaign. There would be no limit, however, on
the total amount any candidate could spend. This Anderson-Udall bill calls
for federal subsidy, using taxpayers' money to match contributions of up to
$100. It would be limited, however, to a sum of 10$ per eligible voter for
every candidate in any election year. The merits of these
principles—limitations on individual contributions and a partial government
subsidy—are what we will be concerned with tonight. Current laws governing
elections prevent unions or corporations from contributing to campaigns,
although officers are allowed to give in their own name. Current laws also
place a limit on how much candidates can spend for television or newspaper
advertising, a limit on how much they or their families can contribute, and
they require disclosure of contributions over $100. And now to the cases.
Mr. Lowenstein, why should the federal government subsidize political
campaigns and limit individual contributions?
Well, if you were to set out to create a country
in which you would have one man-one vote, free speech guaranteed to
everybody, and then you'd have candidacies in which one side would be able
to spend $22,000,000 and the other side $500,000, you'd realize that that
kind of democracy was a hoax. Nobody would even argue about it. Yet those
instances in our society have become frequent, and the fact that they don't
always occur doesn't mean that they're right when they do occur. What we're
proposing tonight is that there be a way in which everybody, even if they
are not born rich, have a fair chance to be elected to public office. Today
in the United States 90% of the political contributions come from 1% of the
population. What we hope we can do is to amend the law so that there will be
a guarantee that people will have access to funds so they can run if they
have enough support to merit it, and then to put a limit on how much any one
individual can give so nobody can purchase through wealth an undue share in
the decision-making process. To start the testimony for the evening, I call
Senator Biden of Delaware.
Senator Biden, welcome to The Advocates.
Thank you. Good to be here.
Senator Biden, it's nice to have you here, as
the youngest member of the Senate, the one, therefore, who may expect the
longest career there. I wonder if you'd say to us, since it's clear you're
not corrupt, and you got elected, why should people think that the system
produces corrupt results when there you are?
Well, I'm not sure you should assume I'm not
corrupt, but I thank you for that. The system does produce corruption—I
think implicit in the system is corruption. In fact, whether or not you can
run for public office—and it costs a great deal of money to run for the
United States Senate, even for a small state like Delaware—you have to go to
those people who have money. They always want something.
Well, I wonder whether you would feel that
there's some virtue in forcing candidates to go out and try to raise money.
I've heard people—probably people who didn't run for office—say that it's
uplifting to go out and try to get money. Do you think that there's
something un-uplifting about putting a limit to how much you can ask one man
to give you?
I think it's the most degrading experience in the
world to have to go out and ask for money because you know that unless you
accidentally agree with the position taken by the person or group that has
the money, that you run the risk of deciding whether or not you're going to
prostitute yourself to give the answer you know they want to hear in order
to get funded to run for that office. And it's coincidental in many
instances when in fact you happen to agree with where they are, and you run
the risk, by the way, of rationalizing, of saying, "Well, if I compromise on
this one—give them one—I get ninety percent of what I want, and I don't have
to give in too much."
So you feel it's a difficult temptation not
only for the candidate, not only for people who give the money, but for the
people trying to raise it.
Well, you know, we were told that we politicians, as
the young kids say, rip off the American public. I think the American public
in a way rips off we politicians by forcing us to run the way they do. To
raise $300,000 is no mean feat, and unless you happen to be some sort of
anomaly like myself, being a twenty-nine year old candidate, who can attract
some attention beyond your own state, it's very difficult to raise that
money from a large group of people.
Well now, some people who agree with the
problem—or our definition of the problem—turn around and say, "If you just
have full disclosure, that would solve it." Do you think that would have a
major effect on the problems you're describing?
I think full disclosure is essential. We have that
now, allegedly, but that's not going to get to the question of how you have
to raise the money and the influence of those who come forward with the
money, whether they be a labor union or a corporate executive.
Well, if we put a limit on what individuals can
give, and if we have public assistance for candidates, do you think that
would work, as someone suggested, to make incumbency even more powerful,
that there would be no way, then, that challengers could succeed?
No, I don't, but I do think you run the risk, in
limiting the amount that can he spent, of continuing the tyranny of the
incumbent. For example, I'm on this show for one reason: I'm an incumbent
United States Senator. Were this an election year, this would be, allegedly,
votes for me back home. A challenger of mine would have to pay a great deal
of money to get this kind of TV time. We have a lot going for us when we're
incumbents, and we use it.
Well, but this process that we're suggesting
tonight, in your view, would not make it more difficult for people to
Absolutely not. As long as you have a bill like the
Anderson bill which doesn't limit the amount that can be spent, but limits
the amount that an individual can contribute, and that way you further
broaden the process, further broaden the participation, because why does a
guy want to give $50 when he knows Clement Stone is giving $7,000,000? What
influence is his $50 going to have?
Now, you might say, what makes it clear that a
person is more effective at raising funds if he happens to know one man who
can give him a million, while someone else may know a hundred who can give
$100 each? That problem of access to money, rich people tend to know rich
people. Would you say that's a fair statement?
I think that's correct, and those who aren't rich
tend to move toward people who have ideas that can raise a lot of
And in the present atmosphere would you say
that with Watergate that we're reacting hysterically to this problem?
Make this very brief.
I don't think so at all. I think this is the single
most important issue that can be resolved by this Congress, to clean up the
All right, I'm sorry. Let's go to Mr. Bourdeaux.
I think he's eager to ask you some questions,
Senator, I know that you said that it was
degrading to go out and raise money. Does this mean that you are not in
favor of the Anderson bill, which does permit contributions up to
No, it doesn't. I think it's degrading to have to go
out and know that that is your only source of money, when the man you're
talking to, for example, knows that, in fact, he's the only means by which
you can even begin to run for office . . .
But are you in favor of the Anderson bill?
Yes, I am in favor of the Anderson bill.
All right. Now, let me ask you this question.
The Anderson bill provides a $1,000 limitation on contributions. Is—are you
saying that going out and asking for $1,500 is degrading?
No, I think you missed the point, or else I haven't
made the point properly. If, in fact, you know that the only way you can
raise any money to get to run for public office is to go to vested interest
groups, then, in fact, you're put in the position that you have to begin to
wonder whether or not you prostitute the ideas that you have about
government in order to get the money to begin to run.
Of course you've had recent experience with
this, having been elected in 1972.
And I believe that you just said that your
campaign cost some $300,000.
All right, sir, and you raised that money by
public contributions, did you not?
And you raised that money in a race against an
incumbent, did you not?
Yes, and Senator, I'm sure that you would agree
that your service in the Senate up to this point has not reflected any
particular concern for the larger contributors.
Well, the fortunate thing is that I didn't have many
larger contributors and the only reason…See, I went to the big guys for the
money. I was ready to prostitute myself in the manner in which I talk about
it, but what happened was they said, "Come back when you're forty, son." And
so I had to go out . . . so I had to go to a number of small
Well, I think we all are grateful, son, that you
didn't take no for an answer. Now, in this Anderson bill there's a provision
for the federal government to match, dollar for dollar, contributions, small
contributions up to $100, is that correct?
So that means that federal tax moneys are going
to be used in political campaigns in Delaware, or Illinois, or Mississippi,
or wherever. Is that correct?
Now, Senator, isn't it the history of this
country that federal control follows federal money? A recent example: Didn't
the President decide it was expedient to have a 55 mile an hour speed limit
on all the highways, and didn't he get the Congress to pass a bill that says
to a state that "You get no more federal money unless you pass a 55 mile an
hour speed limit"?
Can't blame it all on the President, but yes, he
Well, but, and the fact is that in any instance
where federal money goes into any given area, there is federal control as to
how that money is going to be spent.
There is federal control right now, sir, in exactly
how the money can be spent, what manner in which it can be raised. The only
question is whether or not there will be taxpayers' money involved
Who is going to exercise the control over the
spending of this taxpayers' money?
The control will be exercised by, as you point out,
the federal government In terms of whether or not the means of
distribution—in terms of how it can be spent, whether or not you can buy a
balloon or a billboard with that money, there is no control in this
legislation or any that I am aware of.
That is correct, but doesn't history tell us
that ultimately there will be that control?
Well, that sort of smacks at the argument always
heard about civil rights. You know, once we get into that field, we . . .
You know, that foot-in-the-door argument that you're making applies to just
about every means of legislation, every particular piece of legislation,
that we pass.
Well now. Senator, I haven't been in many
political campaigns, but . . .
. . . the few I have been in, there's always
somebody that comes up with what I call a damn fool idea. Now . . .
I've got to say the same.
You going to have any protection in these bills
against the "damn fool" factor?
No, I think that's human nature. There are an awful
lot of damn fools in the Congress and the Senate and those who want to get
there. There's no way you can legislate against that.
Right. But you think in the long run the
American people are going to put up with their money being squandered on all
sorts of wild political notions.
The question is, how long is the American public
going to put up with a small group of men and organizations determining the
political process by deciding who can run and who can't run.
But, Senator, aren't you a living example of the
I'm an anachronism. I'm a twenty-nine year old
oddball. The only reason I was able to raise the money is that I was able to
have a national constituency to run for office, because I was twenty-nine.
I'm like the token black or the token woman. I was the token young
We're talking about this national constituency .
. . some of the money . . .
That's not an announcement for office, by the
I'm going to have to interrupt here. Let's go
back to Mr. Lowenstein for a question.
I just wondered. Mr. Bourdeaux seems worried
about that $1,000 limit. If Mr. Bourdeaux would agree to support our
principle, would you agree to go to a $1,500 limit?
I'd agree to go to a $3,000 limit, which is a bill
that I, in fact, co-sponsored. When I said I'd support Congressman
Anderson's bill, I do; it's better than what we have now. I'd like to see
some slight amendments to it, but I think the principle has to be
All right, let's come back to you, Mr.
Senator, aren't there some First Amendment
problems in telling somebody that you can't give but $1,000 to a
Quite frankly, I think there are, but we've already
in the Federal Corrupt Practices Act broached that question, and if, in
fact, we agree that it's legal to do what we're doing now, and that does not
violate the First Amendment, it seems to me this is a natural transition,
and if we haven't violated them now, I don't think we'll violate them with
Well, let's see if I understand you. As an
example of the First Amendment question, if, let's say, I give $1,000 to a
candidate of my choice, I take it I am limited, under this bill, from giving
any more, is that right?
That would be correct.
And if something happened during the campaign
that I wanted to speak out on and spend some money to put a newspaper ad in,
I couldn't do that, isn't that right?
And I take it that's what you mean, isn't it, by
There are similar restraints that exist now, though,
in terms of how we can spend our money. For example, we say now you can only
spend up to a certain percentage, 10% per capita on media, 6% of that on
television. I mean, we've already restricted it in that regard.
But there are no statutory restraints on the
amount of giving by an individual at this time, are there?
No, there are not, but I fail to see the distinction
between the amount and the means, but there may be, I . . .
Well, Senator Biden, I want to thank you very
much for being with us tonight.
Thank you for having me.
I call now Congressman Anderson of Illinois,
Chairman of the House Republican Conference.
Congressman, welcome to The Advocates.
This is probably the grandest coalition since
the Christian Democrats and Socialists were together in Bonn. I'm so glad
that you're here. Congressman Anderson, because you're recognized as one of
the great spokesmen for fiscal conservatism in the House of Representatives.
How come you feel it's worth using taxpayers' money to finance public
Well, actually, Mr. Lowenstein, we're talking
about a relatively small amount of money. Based on 1972 figures, the average
subsidy under my bill would be about $25,000 in the case of a Congressional
campaign. There wore about 850 serious candidates for the Congress in 1972;
that means we're talking about $21,000,000 to partially subsidize the
campaigns for Congress in this country. Now, if you throw in the Senate
campaigns and the Presidential race, you might get up to an overall figure
of about $125,000,000. That's far less than the advertising budget for
almost any major corporation in this country. We're talking about a very
small sum in relation to the very important job that we've got to do, namely
to try to cleanse the political process of the influence of too much money
and big money coming from special interest groups.
But aren't you worried about what Mr. Bourdeaux
calls the "damn fool factor," that every loose nut in the country would
start running for office to get his share of the loot?
Well, in the first place, of course, our bill
makes some provision for this by providing for a threshold amount. A
candidate would have to raise $1,000 on his own—as a candidate for Congress,
he would have to raise $1,000 on his own before he could begin to match from
this federal matching entitlement fund. So I think this is going to screen
out some of the obvious kooks who might otherwise be tempted to run just to
see whether they can get some federal money. But, you know, I'm not nearly
as alarmed about the kooks or the nuts who might be enticed into becoming a
part of the political process as I am about the present situation, the fact
that I think the evidence is overwhelming that there is corruption in the
political process when we leave candidates at the mercy of a system where
it's big money that speaks.
Is there a problem from your point of view that
rich people will be denied their right to contribute all the money they
want? Do you think that's a violation of some sound conservative doctrine
that we ought to be worried about?
Well, frankly, I don't think that rich people
ought to have a disproportionate voice in the political process. Merely
because a man was born wealthy, or was able to make a fortune, doesn't mean
that he ought to be able to that extent have a greater voice in the election
of candidates any more than when we decided a few years ago on the one
man-one vote principle, that we don't want weighted voting in this country.
Every man's vote ought to be entitled to the same weight. I think the same
principle applies in the field of the financing of political
Of course, Vice President, at least in his
post-felonious period has come to that conclusion also, so maybe it isn't an
ideological question. I wonder if you'd develop for a moment the problem
that may arise if funding is given on an basis that is open to everybody in
terms of whether that means that incumbents will in fact gain great
advantages. Senator Biden talked about that, but you're an expert also in a
district where there has not been too much of a competition for you. What
are your experiences along those lines?
Well, quite to the contrary, I think under the
present system we have what might be called an incumbent security system.
Any analysis of recent elections will show that about 93% of the members of
Congress were re-elected, in 1972 over 901 of the incumbents were
re-elected. Over half of the members of Congress were re-elected by margins
of more than 60% of the vote. There were 12% of the contests in this country
where they didn't even slate an opposition. I think incumbents do have an
overwhelming advantage today, and the only way to redress that imbalance, to
give the challenger a chance, to make our elections more competitive, is, I
think, to try a mixed system of public and private financing, to let that
fellow who wants to challenge an incumbent go out and raise his money in
small amounts of $100 or less and then go to a federal fund and have that
matched by an equal amount. Then I think he has some crack at the political
process that today he has been denied.
All right, thanks, Mr. Lowenstein. Let's go now
to Mr. Bourdeaux.
Congressman Anderson, you're not really
advocating that all the rascals be turned out in 1974, are you?
Well, I'd like to make at least one exception to
that general rule myself. No, I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong
with being an incumbent. I'm not suggesting that all incumbents are venal. I
do think that, given the statistics that I quoted to Mr. Lowenstein that our
political process today is really less than as competitive as it should
And the purpose of your bill is to try to
equalize things. Is that not correct?
I think it would serve partially, I think, not
completely. There are some advantages of incumbency, as Senator Biden
pointed out, that are there like Mount Everest is there, they can't be
removed. I don't think you're ever going to completely get a situation where
everybody is on the identical plane.
The way you are going to try to equalize things
is by providing some matching funds from the federal government for people
who get out and raise $100 from their sources.
I believe you already said that it's easier for
an incumbent to raise money. Isn't that true? That's one of the advantages
I think that to some extent that is true.
So there are going to be more matching funds
available to that incumbent than there would be to the challenger.
No, I don't think so for this reason: that I
think that the advantage that the incumbent enjoys in raising funds all too
often comes from special interest groups who contribute more than $100, who
may contribute $1,000 or more. It's the challenger . . .
But if they contribute more than $1,000, they'd
be a crook under this bill, wouldn't they?
It would be violating the limits of the bill,
that's true. But to go back to my point if I may, Mr. Bourdeaux, I think
that the challenger, the fellow who's less known in the district, who hasn't
served the district and therefore built up the whole network of contacts
that the incumbent has, he, to a greater extent, I think, is going to be
able to interest the relatively small contributor in putting some money on
his candidacy and promoting his cause. So, I think that although there is
some imbalance inevitably, and I wouldn't deny that. I think that under my
bill, the bill that Congressman Udall and I and 140 others have co-sponsored
in the House, that challenger would have a better chance than he has
But there's nothing in the bill that's going to
give that challenger more money to offset some of these built-in advantages
that an incumbent has, is there?
I'm not sure that I read your question entirely
accurately. I can only repeat that your…
Let me make myself clear. There's nothing in
the bill that says that a challenger is going to get $200 for every
No, he would be limited to the same matching
formula that the incumbent would have.
Now, Congressman Anderson, your theory is that
by limiting contributions and by providing this federal subsidy, that you
are really going to get more folks interested in the political process. Is
that not true?
Well, the statistics, I think, show that only
about 6% of the American people today ever donate to a political campaign,
whereas about 35% of them would give if they were asked.
But your purpose is to attract more people to
the political game.
And I think that this would provide the
incentive. If a candidate knew that he could have those small contributions
of $100 or less matched from a federal fund, he would have added incentive
to go out and raise that money from more people in small amounts, thereby
involving a greater number of people in the political process.
But, Congressman, isn't it true that in Puerto
Rico, for example, where they have tried the full subsidy of elections, that
there has been a decrease in citizen participation rather than an
That could well be, and I am not for total
public financing of political campaigns. I think to totally divorce the
candidate from the necessity of going out to the grassroots and interesting
people in his campaign to the point where they're willing to contribute
money would be bad. I'm not advocating total public financing. Rather, what
I would describe as a judicious blend, or mix, of public and private
But, Congressman, isn't it true that if we take
the first bite of the apple, we're ultimately going to eat the whole
Well, I suppose your question assumes that if we
go to this system, that ultimately it will be total public financing. I
don't think that . . .
I guess that's just like being a little bit
pregnant, isn't it?
I don't think that totally follows at all. And I
think the analogy is not particularly apropos, and I just believe that this
system would involve more people, give the challenger a better chance and be
far more satisfactory than the present system, which I think has been proven
to be corrupt.
Let me ask you a question, Congressman. In the
bill there are ceilings of $2,500 for Presidential campaigns and $1,000 for
Congressional campaigns, isn't that right?
What was the reason for choosing those figures
rather than something else?
Well, frankly, any limitations, I suppose, have
a tendency to be somewhat arbitrary, and, as Senator Biden said, I'm not
going to be absolutely rigid about that. If somebody wants to amend that and
make it a somewhat higher figure, I suppose that I would agree. But the fact
is in the last campaign we had contributions ranging up to a million
dollars. I think I'm correct that at least one person gave a million
dollars. I'm not suggesting that he did that with any venal motives, but I
think inevitably the taint of suspicion has to attach itself to a gift of
that size, that that person somehow is going to have a disproportionate
influence on the political process.
All right, excuse me. Let's go back to Mr.
Congressman, isn't the central point of a
matching proposal that the federal government only matches contributions up
to $100, which means that small contributions double and larger ones
Exactly. There is no matching for any
contribution over $100.
All right, Mr. Bourdeaux.
You mentioned something about a million dollar
contribution. Under a full and complete disclosure program, the voters would
know that this candidate got a million dollars from somebody, wouldn't
Theoretically that's true. Unfortunately,
however, under the present Campaign Finance Act that we passed in 1971
became effective April 7th of 1972. There are literally tons, I suppose, of
those reports lodged in the Clerk's office, the Secretary of the Senate's
office, and they really don't have the kind of expertise, or the kind of
experience, to deal with those reports and get that information out to the
public, so I don't think that just reporting things is enough. I think we've
got to have an absolute limit.
But that bill could be amended to make the
reporting more specific and more definite, couldn't it?
And then, Congressman, once that reporting is
made full and complete, isn't it the right of every man to vote for the guy
that takes on a million dollars if he wants to?
No, I don't think so. I think, again, that to
give any person that disproportionate degree of influence, because you'll
never convince me, and I'm a politician, have been for fourteen years,
you're never going to convince me that a politician isn't going to listen a
little bit more closely, a little bit more attentively, to the voice of that
person who has given a million dollars than somebody who has given a very
All right. Congressman, I want to thank you
very much for being with us tonight.
I think the simple truth is that the
fundamental corruption that we're dealing with is not even touched by
disclosure because the fundamental corruption has to do with the fact that
if you want to run for office and you're not rich, with costs soaring, with
population soaring, you can't do it, and therefore you eliminate as
candidates an enormous number of very qualified people if you don't make
public funding possible as part of the process of running for office. And so
I hope that we understand that unless we substitute for our national credo
of one man-one vote a notion of one dollar-one vote, we better get around to
doing some public funding.
Okay, thank you. For those of you in our
audience who may have joined us late, Mr. Lowenstein and his witnesses have
just presented the case in favor of the federal government subsidizing
political campaigns and limiting individual contributions. And now for the
case against, Mr. Bourdeaux, the floor is yours.
Ladies and gentlemen, we contend that tonight's
proposal is both ineffective and dangerous. We agree that there is a crisis
of confidence in our political process. People are appalled at what they've
been seeing and hearing, and they are fearful of what they are going to be
exposed to next. Something must be done to restore confidence, to stir the
voters out of their apathy and their indifference that we all sense today.
The trouble with Mr. Lowenstein's approach is that it doesn't really reach
the real problem. Instead, subsidizing a campaign with tax dollars attacks
the very structure of our political process. The idea of limiting campaign
contributions makes the outrageous assumption that there is a price tag on
corruption, and it will certainly make worse some of the problems it seeks
to correct. These problems are real enough. There are people in and out of
government who are dishonest. Let's prosecute them and convict them. There
are illegal and secret contributions. Let's expose them. But let us not
abandon confidence in the American people to make sound decisions when they
have the facts. We all have the right to express ourselves politically
within the law to any degree that we choose. We have the right also to
resist supporting with our tax dollars the candidacies of people that we
don't agree with. To speak to the real problems of money in politics, I call
Mr. George Webster.
Mr. Webster, welcome to The Advocates.
Mr. Webster is a practicing attorney in
Washington, D.C. He represents many trade and business associations in their
dealings with government. Mr. Webster, the allegation has been made by the
proponents of the Anderson bill that special interest groups get things done
in Washington by making contributions during campaigns. You've been there
for a long time representing various groups. Tell us how you do get things
done in Washington.
Mr. Bourdeaux, let me say this. Making
contributions is not the way to get things done in Washington. I've watched
it for over twenty years, and business and professional groups, unions, they
get things done by doing their homework.
What do you mean by homework?
Homework means they do the research, they get the
economists, the accountants, the lawyers, the people from business, or
unions, or whatever they want, and they make the case, just like you do
before a judge down in Mississippi. It's a matter of persuasion, and that's
the way things are done in Washington.
Well, now, you'll have to admit, of course,
that we do have a problem, a crisis of confidence, in our government, in the
integrity of the people that we sent to Washington.
Yes, sir, I think that's correct.
Well, what are we going to do about it?
I think there are several things. One is not to
adopt what I consider a fake bill because this bill would lead you to
believe that it would help clean things up. It won't do anything like that.
The way to get things done—I was amazed also that a man that I went to law
school with, the head of the Watergate Committee, Archibald Cox, didn't
prosecute some of those people in Washington that made the corporate
contributions, because that's been...
How long have corporate contributions been
Since 1907, and there has not been one person
that has ever gone to jail for violating that provision, so if you had some
people who were tough and would go down there and prosecute, instead of
going down there and making speeches, you would be a lot better off. That's
What about full disclosure?
Full disclosure is something, I think, that does
a lot, and I think that if you really have full disclosure, that that would
go a long way towards making honesty in elections. And I heard Congressman
Anderson say that we didn't really have full disclosure because you'd have
to go dig through all those papers. I've read the Mew York Times very
carefully, and the Washington Post and the Washington Star during the last
couple of years, and they have guys down there every day at the General
Accounting Office going through those documents, and if you read those
papers carefully, you'll find it has all been reported right in the
It has also been said that we need to get
government money into these problems, into these campaigns, so that the
people who don't have money still have an opportunity to offer themselves
for office. What do you say about that?
Well, I don't think that makes any difference.
Most of the people in public life today started out without a nickel. They
started out like all of us. I'm a lawyer, I started out with nothing, I've
had to work my way through school, went to law school, and like you, I
didn't get clients when I started working, but eventually you have to build
yourself up. Fortunately, Senator Biden got to be a Senator at twenty-nine;
that's unusual. But ordinarily the guy who's successful in politics, in
business, in any profession, it takes a long time. But if you look at the
records of almost anybody in Congress or in business today, somebody that
really amounted to something, they started out with nothing, and that's the
way that the American dream is.
In other words, to be a chief you've first got
to be an Indian.
That's right. And maybe they don't want to put in
the ten years, but most of us have had to put in ten or twenty.
Now, Mr. Webster, this bill says to you and me
that we can't make a contribution of more than $1,000 in any one year.
Suppose I went down to the bank and borrowed $1,500 and wanted to help out a
friend of mine get elected; I'd be a crook, wouldn't I?
That's right, under that bill, if it
Are there any Constitutional questions involved
Yes, I think that Senator Biden is a very fine
man, but he obviously hasn't been reading the cases in the last couple of
years he has been in the Senate. There's a case now pending in the United
States Supreme Court in which the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., the
United States Court of Appeals, held that there are many First Amendment
violations in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, passed by Mr.
Anderson and his colleagues, and that the bill is essentially
unconstitutional. That's the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York
Times both argue that the bill is unconstitutional in its main aspects. If
you read the cases through the years, you will find—and who knows what the
Supreme Court will eventually decide—you will find a lot in those cases
which indicates that any restraint on freedom of speech in this country is
going to be stopped. And I'm frankly shocked—and particularly here in
Faneuil Hall—that somebody would suggest that we're going to start down that
terrible road of having a restraint on freedom of speech.
Well, it sounds formidable. Let's go to Mr.
Lowenstein. I think he wants to ask you some questions.
Mr. Webster, I don't want to get on a
sidetrack, but was I dreaming that Mr. Cox was fired by President Nixon for
whom you raised funds? Was this not, in fact, occurring in your mind? He
should have prosecuted before he was fired, is that your point?
I've restricted my comments to the fact that
there were a number of people that Mr. Cox apparently found who had made
corporate contributions and apparently they started cutting a deal with all
those guys, so that only the corporation would be penalized. And I think
that somebody ought to go to jail.
But don't you think that's part of the reason
why he was fired, because he was moving into that? In any case . . .
That's not the way I read the newspaper.
I wonder why you think Mr. Vesco contributed
his suitcases of hundred dollar bills. Was he afflicted with a Santa Claus
streak? Was he so generous with his private means that he wanted to give
Nixon money even though he wanted no influence?
I think people outside of Washington have a
strange concept of what goes on there. As I said, I just don't . . .
Strange things go on there.
I think what Mr. Vesco thought he was buying was
influence. What he was really buying was a one way ticket to jail.
I see. What about Mrs. Farkas, when she gave
her $300,00 after the campaign ended up in Luxembourg. She wasn't purchasing
anything with that $300,000?
All I know is if you pay $300,000 to be an
You should have . . .
. . . There's something called the United States
Senate, and if you have to disclose that contribution, and they're willing
to still give you the job, that means the Senate must decide that you're
In other words, when the milk prices go up and
the milk lobby pledges money, and the President and the Secretary of
Agriculture sit there and agree to raise price supports, we're supposed to
say, "Well, that's none of our business. The Senate can handle it." Why
can't we have a law that says that there's no temptation? Why put a cat in
charge of guarding milk? Why don't you simply say there's not going to be a
time when people can purchase influence? Why put that temptation there? Just
say no, you can't do that, your limited contribution is this. How does that
infringe on First Amendment rights?
In the first place there has been no showing that
I've seen, or finding, that that contribution solved that problem of the
milk prices. One way to solve that is to do away with price supports, and
you wouldn't have the problem; that's one way to go at it.
You should tell that to the President you
campaigned for. I'm just simply saying that when the President raises price
supports on milk products and gets contributions, and the ordinary citizen
pays 3 cents more a bottle of milk, I think he's paying more that way than
he'd be paying if we financed out of public funds the campaign of all
candidates equally. Instead of having government intervene on one side in
the campaign, namely to keep itself in office, what's wrong with having
government intervene impartially for all candidates who meet certain minimal
standards? Why doesn't that meet the First Amendment requirements?
Well, as I've said, there are a number of cases
which hold that it's a violation, if I want to go spend $10,000 on an
election, or you do—and you probably spent $10,000 on an election—and if
there's any restraint on that, it's a violation of our freedom of speech,
and I think that's a very bad road to start down; even to restrict it to
$2,000 or $2,500, we're starting down that road and you'll end up in
socialization, or still worse. In Russia you can't give a campaign
contribution, and that's between here and there.
Nixon could. He gave them a quarter of our
grain supply at half the price we have to pay for it. All I know about it is
that at this point there's a very real desire on the part of the American
people to stop influence peddling and purchasing in government. You raised
First Amendment objections which I'm trying to understand. You say there's a
case—there is a case, but the case hangs on vagueness. What that means is
that you make the law less vague. It doesn't mean you abandon the principle
of trying to stop corporations and wealthy individuals from using their
extra resources to purchase, or try to purchase, influence at the cost to
the ordinary citizen. What's wrong with that on First Amendment . . . Isn't
the First Amendment strengthened . . . ?
I'm not going to argue with you, but there are
many cases. There are many cases that hold it's a violation of the First
Amendment. But let me go back to what I originally said, and I think . .
Let me ask you this is it a violation…
... as a Washington lawyer, I've watched for
twenty-two years many things be done in Washington, and they way you get
something done is the way most good lawyers and most good Congressmen, most
good Senators do it: they listen to the arguments—most good judges, there
are a lot of crooked judges—but most good guys will sit down and listen to
those arguments, and if you want something done in Washington today, the big
corporations, by and large, hire good people to go do it, and they do it on
So why should they be opposed to preventing
them from trying other procedures? The President of American Airlines said
he was intimidated into giving that money to Nixon. Why is it wrong to
prevent the President from intimidating . . . ?
Well, that was the excuse for doing a criminal
act for which he probably should have been sent to jail.
Do you want to keep the law that says
corporations can't contribute and labor unions can't contribute funds?
Corporations can't contribute funds, but labor
unions can, of course, through their members.
Do you want to keep the law that prohibits
labor unions and corporations from contributing campaign funds, or do you
want to repeal that law too?
No, corporations are not individuals and are not
entitled to ... in the First Amendment, as you well know.
If corporations shouldn't be allowed to
contribute, why shouldn't there be a similar limit so that officers of
corporations can't contribute and then get bonuses to get the money back
that they gave to avoid that law? Why can't we close that loophole?
If that's what they do, then they've committed an
illegal act because that's a corporate contribution, and people have been
sent off to jail for that one, because that itself is an illegal act, if you
can prove that that's the reason they got the bonus.
But if you're prepared to accept the fact that
there can be a limit on contributions, why can't you see that if there's
merit to limiting it further, the First Amendment doesn't get violated to do
Make this very brief.
As you well know, the First Amendment doesn't
apply to corporations. That's very easy. It does apply to individuals, and
as I say . . .
All right, let's go back to Mr.
Mr. Webster, the truth of the matter is that if
these large contributions that Mr. Lowenstein has been talking about were
immediately announced, and the public knew about them, they wouldn't be
given in the first place, would they?
I think that's probably true of most of those
contributions, if not all.
All right, let's go back to Mr.
I'm just curious. If we could stop influence
purchasing and peddling, since you say that good corporations don't want to
do it that way anyway, why is it against the interests of free speech or
corporate influences to stop them from doing what good ones wouldn't do to
Because if Mr. Anderson can have a bill which
says I can give $1,000 this year, you can have an amendment next year which
knocks it down to $50. Eventually it's at zero, and the whole government
machinery then becomes in charge of it, and I can assure you if Mr.
Anderson's bill passes, that I, as a lawyer, can go in there and tie up
anybody's government money because of violations—we can get injunctions.
I've been down that very carefully, and we could tie up anybody's money so
that he would have been elected or defeated two years before the court
finally decides whether or not he's entitled to the money. That's one main
problem with that bill.
Mr. Webster, let me ask you a question. Do you
think it's a good thing or a bad thing that a wealthy person can give
$5,000,000 to a candidate of his choice, while most people can't even
Well, I think again you're back to the matter of
free speech, but to address that directly, I see nothing wrong with that
because it depends on the point. Somebody who is the President of Alcoa, for
example, is a wealthy man today, and he started out with nothing. If you had
talked to him twenty-five years ago, he'd give you nothing. Today he can
give you a lot of money.
Should there then be a limit on very wealthy .
Wait a minute, Mr. Lowenstein. I'm sorry, we
don't have any more time. Mr. Webster, thank you very much for being with us
I call as my next witness David Wilson.
Mr. Wilson, welcome to The Advocates.
Mr. Wilson is a columnist with the Boston
Globe. Tell me, Mr. Wilson, why do you think that so many distinguished
people, authorities in both parties, have taken a stand in favor of public
financing of elections with our tax money?
Well, I think when you have a question like that,
you have to approach it from the old cui bono point of view. Who will
benefit from this thing? The fact of the matter is that Mr. Lowenstein
suggests that there's something inherently pure about public money and
something inherently corrupt and dirty about private money. I submit that
that's not necessarily the case. Rich people disagree diametrically about
the purpose in which they wish to place their financial contributions. Now,
public interest groups, like Common Cause and the Center for the Funding of
Political Financing—or whatever that outfit is in Washington— they benefit.
Contributors benefit. Private contributors benefit from public funding
because they don't have to make the contributions. Rich candidates, they
benefit. They don't have to make disclosure of their rich friends which
sometimes damage them in their political contest. Rich, a whole lot of
candidates don't wish to face the disclosure problem. There's no disclosure
problem with public funding. Finally, of course, politicians, political
managers, television cosmeticians, political consultants, all the people
involved in the business of electing candidates to office benefit from
public funding. Udall-Anderson would be a little of it. Eventually there are
other approaches which would make it entirely a public function.
Well, don't you think, though, Mr. Wilson, it
would be a good idea to try to equalize things a little bit so that the
fellow without any money could run for office?
Well, I see no objection to the fellow without any
money running for office. I do see an objection to taking my taxes and
requiring me somehow to pay money to support the candidacy of a man with
whom I may not only disagree, but whom I may personally detest and abominate
his principles, which, of course, public funding would do.
Well, but what these people say is that the
Anderson bill would bring the people a little closer to the political
process. What do you say to that?
I suspect that it's a kind of a foot-in-the-door
matter. Once the money starts flowing from Washington, people wouldn't be
anywhere near as close to the political process as they are now, when a man
seeking to stand for office has to go to the people and get support from his
friends, associates, and the community in general.
I've always thought that one of the
responsibilities of an elected official was to have to go to the people and
talk to them and find out where they stood and where they were willing to
put their support. Do you agree with that?
And would this bill deter that sort of a
I think that ultimately the Udall-Anderson bill is
a bill which is very carefully and intelligently drawn to meet the kinds of
objections that I've made to it here. But it also was drawn to meet those
objections in order to get the very important principle, and revolutionary
principle, of public funding established in law. Once you get
Udall-Anderson, you're going to get Kennedy-Scott and some of the more
generous public funding bills.
Kennedy-Scott is another public financing
That's the one that didn't quite make it over
That's the one. Now, Mr. Wilson, are there any
problems in our political system?
Certainly there are problems in the political
system, and the problems do, to some degree, flow from the availability of
money. Now, adding to private money additional public money isn't going to
change the problems of the charismatic candidate who fails to deal with the
issues, the theatrical nature of the game as it has become, the problem of
the candidate who uses pollsters to find out where the crowd is so then he
can get out in front of them later on, the sort of thing Joe McGinness wrote
about in The Selling of the President.
All right, let's go to Mr. Lowenstein.
First I want to thank you for coming, and I
think it's important that this position be discussed, but I'm curious; I
heard Archibald Cox blamed because Nixon fired him, but now you're opposing
the Anderson-Udall bill on the grounds that you don't like the Kennedy-Scott
bill. It seems to me that we're getting off the subject. Are you opposed to
the idea that people should go out and raise small contributions from the
community and then have that matched?
I'm opposed to having the government of a free
country hire people to run for public office, which is what public financing
of candidates is.
In other words, if this, you call it a
revolutionary principle we're adopting—I don't know how it's revolutionary,
since Theodore Roosevelt proposed it, unless he was a revolutionary…
Well, it hasn't been done, Congressman.
It's revolutionary in the sense that, with
what we have now, it would prevent the kinds of things from happening which
have had the country in upheaval over its political process.
That's your conclusion.
Well, I'm asking you, how is it revolutionary;
that's what I'm asking. What is revolutionary?
Well, at the present time persons who wish to
raise money for the purposes of getting themselves elected to office have to
raise it privately and not from tax funds. I think that's a substantial and
Suppose I said I thought it was revolutionary
to have a system in which small numbers of people could purchase elections,
and that was not true when we started. But that's become
I think the burden of proof rests with the person
who makes that charge.
The revolutionary charge.
The charge that people are purchasing elections. I
can suggest to you that up in the fifth district of Massachusetts in 1972
the heaviest spending candidate of all the 435 Congressional fights was a
fellow named John Kerry, who had nine Democratic primary adversaries, and
was beaten by a Republican in a Democratic district. Now, how does this
stack up with the position that somehow people are buying elections with
The fact that one can cite instances where
people who spent more money lost doesn't change the general problem, does
it? The exception in a situation such as you've cited, does that change the
basic fact that for most people to run for office is now impossible because
they cannot engender the kind of support Mr. Kerry with a national
constituency could, or Senator Biden could.
Well, I assume those nine fellows who ran in the
primary against Kerry had a shot too. Some of them were Mayors, members of
the state legislature, individuals . . .
Well, I don't want to quibble.
How is it exclusionary? How . . .
I'd just like to understand what you're
saying. In the country in which Abraham Lincoln once could campaign for 759,
he could shake hands with every voter in his district, when you now have
districts with a half a million people, with technology that means you can't
even get on television or mail to your voters anything about yourself unless
you have enormous sums of money, why isn't it right to say that we now need
to provide the wherewithal so that people can be seen and know their own
constituents when they're running, rather than rely on the luck of having
wealthy friends or wealthy mothers or whatever else. Why is that not part of
the American process?
This is probably kind of a curve on my part, but I
think the American process was rather well demonstrated in New Hampshire in
1968, a matter that you're quite familiar with. Senator McCarthy certainly
had substantial funding in New Hampshire in 1968, and you were there.
You and I understand that there are times when
virtue can triumph even without lots of money. What I'm asking about is not
. . .
Well, he bought all George Romney's billboards,
I'm not asking whether it can occur. I'm
asking why the framework and structure and legal set-up shouldn't make it
fairer. Why is it fairer to depend on those exceptions, rather than to say
we want a system in which equal access to funds is available within the
limits of what we can do, given the fact that we know that incumbency goes
in certain advantages, given the fact that if you have a beautiful wife, you
have a certain advantage. There are obviously other factors we can't
equalize. But why is it anti-American, antidemocratic, revolutionary,
whatever adjective you want, to say that in this country a person's capacity
to run and to have his views heard, to meet his constituents, to mail to
them, to get on television ought not to be limited to the question of
whether he knows a few well-to-do people or has national prominence that
will get him funds from around the United States? Why is that not a step
towards fairness in your mind? You're a very fair-minded man.
Well, I don't think that's entirely true. I mean-
Dan Walker in Illinois, Reuben Askew in Florida, a person with great funds,
Ottinger in New York, Metzenbaum in Ohio have failed. I don't see that you
establish the case that a poor man of merit cannot find friends, cannot find
supporters who will not corrupt him. I've read an awful lot of campaign
disclosures in Massachusetts—that's a very stiff and careful depository
system—and I know those names, and they aren't people trying to corrupt the
process. Most of them are people trying to assist it and strengthen
All right, let's go back to Mr. Bourdeaux for a
Taking the big view of the whole thing, Mr.
Wilson, what do you see is the biggest danger of this bill?
Well, I think once again you start hiring people
to run for office. The public's going to want to know what you do with the
money you pay them.
Is that going to bring about federal
Well, there was once in this country a U.S.
Attorney General's subversives list. It's conceivable that in a different
political climate the Congress might be moved to change the law so as to
exclude persons of extreme views of some kind, persons who had in some way
damaged themselves physically. Now, there would be a constitutional
challenge, I don't say it's that simple. But I say that where you spend
public money the questions of responsibility and accountability do arise,
and the government controls that money.
All right, back to you, Mr. Lowenstein.
Is it proper in a society like ours that if
you happen to be born wealthy, or happen to have access to a very wealthy
person who either agrees with you or sponsors you, that you should be able
to get an enormous advantage over other people in your community by having
unlimited resources to use in a campaign, while everyone else has to grub
around and try to find small amounts of money. Is that democracy?
I guess it is. I don't think, Mr. Lowenstein, that
it really is possible to legislate an equality between, let's say, Nelson
Rockefeller and myself, nor is it necessarily just that it should be
legislated. I think we've got a very substantial ideological
Right. You've summarized our difference right
there. That's exactly it. I can't say take away his money, but I can say
don't let his money purchase elections where other people don't have that
opportunity. I think that's democracy.
All right, Mr. Wilson, I want to thank you very
much for being with us tonight. Thank you, gentlemen. That completes the
cases, and now it's time for each of you to present your closing arguments.
Mr. Bourdeaux, could we have yours, please.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have identified what I
see as two problems here. I submit to you that we've shown that Mr.
Lowenstein's proposal solves neither of them. First, the problem of large
campaign contributions influencing government. I think we've demonstrated
that you don't have to burn the barn down to get rid of the rats. Full
disclosure of all contributions will effectively deal with that problem if
it exists. Secondly, the problem of access to the political arena, both for
candidates without money and for the small contributors. Now, our political
history is full of examples of good men without much money who have been
successful politicians, have been elected to office and served their
government well. They have attracted the support they needed because of what
they stood for, and they were their own men in office. We see tonight a
proposal which can only end in total federal control of our elections, the
shackling and discouraging of our participation in this election of our
elected federal officials. Stand firm with me on this most basic proposal
and vote "no."
Thank you. Mr. Lowenstein, could we have your
I really find myself wondering what country
you gentlemen have been in since the last election and since the disclosures
since then. I wonder if anyone believes there will be anything left of
democracy in the United States if we don't fundamentally overhaul the way in
which money affects political process. I can't believe that at this stage
we're going to permit people to say that because there may be flaws of one
sort or another, quibbles over detail, or argument over some sort of
historical route that we're on in the future, that we should not take at
least the first step toward democratizing the elections in the United States
so far as money is concerned. If we don't do that, I'm very concerned about
whether in fact we will have elections in which the ordinary citizen has a
fair way to influence his neighbor and to run for office. And I hope that
all of you who are listening to this program will see the basic importance
to our whole system of writing to support the Anderson-Udall bill and of
summarizing these arguments to your neighbors so that they too see that this
juncture we're at must be used to overhaul the political process so we're
not for sale as a country.
Thank you. Thank you. And now it's time for you
in our audience to get into the act. What do you think about tonight's
question? Should the federal government subsidize political campaigns and
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Now, recently The Advocates debated the question, "Would
the nation be better off if fewer people went to college?" Of the more than
2,300 viewers who sent us their votes, 55% said yes, that emphasis ought to
be placed less on a Liberal Arts education and more on a junior college,
vocational school job training, or education through work or travel. 45%
said no, the liberal, humanizing effect of a four year Arts course is so
important that it ought to be encouraged even for reluctant students.
And now let's take a look ahead to next week's program.
And now, with thanks to our able advocates and their
distinguished witnesses, we conclude tonight's debate.