Bill Moyers Journal, July 25, 2008, PBS
BILL MOYERS: .... The two mortgage giants, (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,) survived scandal and crisis over the years by spending nearly $200 million on lobbying and campaign contributions. We've posted on our website a story by Politico's Lisa Lair, on how insiders helped Fannie and Freddie stave off scrutiny and avoid taxes even as their top executives pulled down multi-million dollar paychecks. THE NEW YORK TIMES also reported, bluntly, that "their rapid expansion was, at least in part, the result of artful lobbying." What a lovely term: 'artful lobbying.'...I talked with FRITZ HOLLINGS: at a Senate office building on Capitol Hill just before his book party.
BILL MOYERS: Why did you write this book now?
FRITZ HOLLINGS: I wrote the book because I could see what was wrong. I was raising money. I wasn't running for reelection.
BILL MOYERS: As a senator in your last term.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: As a senator in the last two or three years that's all I was doing was raising money. And working for the campaign and for the party. The hardest working people in the world are the congressmen and senators. We work from early morning 'til late at night and all weekend and everything else. But we are working now, not for the country, but for the campaign.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?
FRITZ HOLLINGS: All the time is fundraisers. All the time is money, money, money, money. In 1998, ten years ago, I ran and had to raise 8 an a half million. The record is there. Eight and a half million is 30,000 a week. Every week for six years.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean, it's not working? You say you can't get anything done in Washington anymore. What's not getting done?
FRITZ HOLLINGS: Legislation. Anything meaningful. They fill up the tree both sides, it's nothing wrong with Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell, they're durn good leaders and they're doing what the senators want done. And they're all smart senators and they're all responsible people. But they're playing the game and the media hadn't exposed. That's why I wrote it. I'm trying to expose-
BILL MOYERS: The game? What's the game?
FRITZ HOLLINGS: The game is money. I got to get the money to heck with constituents, I gotta get contributors.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: I've talked to the senators; you ask 'em, they know they're not gettin' anything done. And they grown men and they're conscientious women and everything else, they're outstanding. But they know that all they're doing is on a money treadmill. That's all it is.
BILL MOYERS: You write, "When I first came to the Senate 40 years ago, Senator Mansfield," he was the majority leader then.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: Yessiree.
BILL MOYERS: "Had a vote every Monday morning to make sure"
FRITZ HOLLINGS: To get a quorum.
BILL MOYERS: "To get a quorum. And we worked until five o'clock on Friday every week."
FRITZ HOLLINGS: That's right. We didn't go home on the weekends. We tried to get out Thursday afternoon or night or at least early Friday morning to go to the West Coast for fundraisers. That's why Hollywood and that's why Wall Street has got that much influence. I'm not going to South Carolina. They got no money for a Democrat. I have to travel all over the country.
BILL MOYERS: A constant permanent campaign.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: That's exactly what it is.
BILL MOYERS: Commercial television is the big winner in this because that's where so much of the money goes.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: That's right; the rich have got all the speech they want. The poor got lockjaw. He can't articulate out onto the television. And-
BILL MOYERS: The poor can't. They have no voice.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: Yeah, and that's the trouble. They tell you, don't go waste time and don't go see people and everything. Get on television and get a little tricky television and everything else like that. All these artists have got all kinds of different ways and different things like that to bring up and tricks to play.
BILL MOYERS: The clear message is money has a stranglehold on our democracy.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: You gotta untie that money knot and then begin the government will begin to work.
BILL MOYERS: So, you conclude therefore, if we limit the money, Congress will have time to work for the country, rather than--
FRITZ HOLLINGS: The campaign. That's exactly right.
BILL MOYERS: What do you make of the fact, as you point out in your book, three days before the first presidential primary in Iowa; The New York Times listed the positions of all the candidates on eight important issues. Not one of them on trade or outsourcing of jobs.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: That's right. And they came way out. We had, in South Carolina, since President George W. Bush has been in; we have lost 94,500 manufacturing a net loss. We're getting' some more jobs in BMW in Spartanburg, but a net loss. And they never mentioned it in the early Democratic primaries. They're-
BILL MOYERS: Why?
FRITZ HOLLINGS: Because they gotta get the money.
BILL MOYERS: And who gives them the money?
FRITZ HOLLINGS: Wall Street, the banks, and business
BILL MOYERS Yeah, you say presidents negotiate trade agreements not to open markets, but to protect corporate America's foreign investment. That's how you see it.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: Well, I know it. I mean look at the Congress. Under article one, section 8, the Congress shall regulate. Not free-
BILL MOYERS: Regulate--
FRITZ HOLLINGS: Congress regulates trade both domestic and foreign.
BILL MOYERS: And you say in your book that Congress is not doing that.
FRITZ HOLLINGS: They can't do it because they've gotta get the money. You put in a trade bill and down on your head comes THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and the big banks and The Business Round Table and The National Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures they're not for domestic. They're for Chinese and Indian manufacturer even The National Chamber of Commerce is not worried about Main Street, Peoria, Illinois; Main Street, Shanghai.
You see, Henry Ford built up the middle class along with organized labor. He said I want the fellow making the car to be able to buy the car. So, he doubled the minimum wage. He put in health care and retirement costs and everything else of that kind, benefits. And so we had a good working relationship between labor and that-- now, all of these trade agreements for the investors to protect their investment in China and India, but, uh-uh forget about labor.
There is wide-spread acknowledgment, even within the party itself, that the Republican brand is currently poisonous. Faced with massive losses in November, GOP leadership has green-lighted a save-yourself mentality, allowing its endangered members to go against the party line if it means helping their electoral chances.
"There is a phenomenal arrogance like a fog that has clouded people's thinking and ability to see what is real," said Nicole Sexton, a longtime Republican fundraiser and former Director of Finance for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "We have to go down in history as some of the worst messengers. And President Bush has been horrible. Everything he does deems calculated and insincere. The same was true with Bill Clinton but he at least had the ability to seem sincere. With Bush, people are throwing stones and tomatoes at him [and he hasn't changed]."
Sexton, the author of the new book, "Party Favors" (a fictionalized look at the life of a GOP fundraiser), offered a fairly dire assessment of the party in which she used to be a major figure. A native of New Orleans, much of her scorn was saved for Bush, who she derided for his ignorance of the scope Hurricane Katrina's devastation.
As the chief financial officer for the NRSC, Sexton did not put the blame for the GOP's current problems strictly at Bush's doorstep. She talked openly (later admitting that her former colleagues weren't too pleased with her frankness) about how political figures she had once admired had become consumed by the prospect of reelection.
"We need some new blood in the party," she said. "But the problem is that the younger candidates, like John Sununu, are real in danger of losing their seats."
The GOP's outreach is also aging. "We are a direct marketing and a direct mail party and that's a dinosaur in the fundraising world," she said. "Just look at our presidential candidates [this cycle]. Huckabee was the only one that came close to have an Internet presence like Obama. All his money came from the web and he was able to stay in the race till the final hour. Giuliani, I don't know if he was seeing straight... For McCain to literally have imploded twice and still be the candidate is a phenomenal statement about the party."
She also grew wary of the role that fundraising played. Noting that politicians were spending disproportionate amounts of time raising cash, she called for the system to be scrapped in favor of caps on the amount candidates could raise as a whole (not to be confused with a cap on the size of the individual donations) and restrictions on the time period during which they could raise cash.
Now employed by the ONE Campaign, Sexton still is connected to, and eagerly following, the GOP. Before ending the interview she predicted that her party would lose five seats in the Senate this cycle -- an optimistic estimate in a down year. She also projected that McCain would eventually best Obama though her admiration for the latter's political prowess were clearly evident.
"Usually the youth will go to politically rallies and concerts and never show up and vote and they certainly never contributed" she said of the Illinois Democrat's appeal to younger voters. "These people now are leaving college and giving to Obama. It is phenomenal. If you are giving up your beer money for three nights it means you are invested in the guy."
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