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CNN Today

Does a Gore Campaign Finance Reform Proposal Have Any Credibility?

Aired March 27, 2000 - 1:48 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Listening carefully along with us to Al Gore's campaign finance reform proposals is our CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

You just heard Senator Bennett say all of this would lead to another mish-mash, just like the mish-mash we're now operating under because of the Watergate reforms. What do you make of it all?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's cynical but it's not entirely unlikely. Every time we try to reform the system there are a lot of loopholes, and even Senator Gore's proposal says -- proposal which he's putting out today has a lot of problems. The incentives for corporations -- why would they want to contribute to this foundation? You don't get any influence by contributing to a nonpartisan foundation. The basic incentive that he supplies is a tax deduction. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn't.

One could also be cynical about the chances of passing Congress. This would provide equal funding for incumbents and challengers. How in the world are you going to get incumbents to vote for that? Because one of their biggest advantages over their challengers is that they can raise more money.

Broadcasters would have to give free time. They've always resisted that. So this is a very easy thing to get cynical about, not to mention the thing that Vice President Gore mentioned himself, which is his own credibility on the issue. WATERS: More than campaign finance reform itself, this would appear to be a bold political play for the independent and crossover voters who voted for John McCain. Senator Bennett says they voted for McCain the war hero, not McCain the campaign finance reformer. What do you make of the play for the independents with this move by planting his feet firmly in campaign finance reform by Al Gore?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Senator Bennett was right that very few McCain voters voted cited the issue of campaign finance reform as driving their vote, but they did associate McCain as an outsider, someone who really wanted to shake up the system, because on a number of issues he challenged his party, he challenged Washington, and campaign finance reform really was a kind of symbol of his courage and bravery.

Now Al Gore is a rather different sort of figure. He doesn't have quite the biography that John McCain has. He is the complete professional politician, the Washington insider who spent all of his career and most of his life, actually, in Washington. So what gives him the credibility to take on this issue? Well, he mentioned the irony that he should be talking about such a thing. What he's really trying to do is inoculate himself in the upcoming campaign against what is the most potentially damaging issue that his opponent can raise against him, which is his involvement in the fund-raising scandals of 1996.

He has already said what he's going to tell us. He's going to tell us, I have a campaign finance reform proposal. Governor Bush doesn't. He want s to protect the status quo. And whether you believe Gore or not, it's undeniable he's made a bold proposal.

WATERS: And how vulnerable is George W. Bush to these attacks, like the one we heard today, that George Bush may get results, but he's certainly is not a reformer because he's against campaign finance reform -- says Al Gore.

SCHNEIDER: You know, that's a reasonable criticism for two reasons: One is that he doesn't have a large-scale sweeping proposal on the books. He wants disclosure. He's talking about better publicity for people who give money, but he doesn't have any kind of serious reform proposal on the table.

And second of all, he raised $70 million, which means he gets a lot of money from a lot of people, and a lot of voters are going to say who is he fronting for? I mean, he looks like a guy who's fronting for a lot of big money interests. So I don't think either Gore or Bush particularly has credibility on the issue. The problem for Gore, of course, is there is a taint over for him because of his own involvement in the 1996 fund-raising scandal, which Bush mentions again and again. You can be sure that Bush's main charge against Gore is going to be: If you elect him president, he has a shadow over him. Do you want another four years of these kinds of investigations and possible indictments? Americans are very tired of that.

WATERS: We haven't heard anything yet.

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely not.

WATERS: Bill Schneider, thanks again, senior political analyst in Washington.

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