Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen

Sept. 3, 1998

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen
on Campaign Finance Reform Poll

This poll is a red alert to those Senators who think their constituents don’t understand what goes on in Washington. These numbers show most voters know only too well that the Congress operates on a system of legalized bribery, where wealthy special interests and politicians engage in expensive bouts of mutual back-scratching that dearly cost consumers.

While certain politicians in Washington put up a false smokescreen of protecting “free speech” to oppose reform, Americans know they are really interested in protecting free spending.

Americans know that the $20 million Big Tobacco gave to the Republican Party and its candidates over the last 10 years helped defeat a bill that would have dramatically reduced youth smoking and would have held tobacco companies accountable for their decades of deceit.

Americans know that Congress failed to pass a national drunk-driving standard after its members and political parties were plied with $26 million in contributions from the alcohol industry over the last 10 years.

Americans know that the Patients’ Bill of Rights is being held hostage by wealthy HMOs and even wealthier insurance companies that have contributed more than $5 million since 1995 to federal candidates and parties.

Americans know all about campaign contributions from wealthy special interests, and how that unregulated money undermines their democracy and their quality of life.

Through hundreds of organizations across the country, small and large, national and local, religious and secular, Americans are supporting the McCain-Feingold bill to end the corruption of soft money. Through the groups assembled here and with the American Association of Retired Persons, the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Consumer Federation of America, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and more, voters are telling their Senators they know what goes on in Washington, and they are sick of it.

And that’s why we believe we can win:

– Because voting Americans know it’s vital to stop the real political scandal — the corruption and deceptions in legislative decisions on Capitol Hill;

– Because grass roots pressure produced a legislative miracle in the House last month — passage of the Shays-Meehan reform bill.

– And because, as the political money chase escalates and new investigations of abuses proliferate, the American people are determined to change a system that is destroying American democracy.