Hightower: The Buying of the President

It's 1996: time to auction off the White House! Too crass, you say? This is not how it works? Check-out a new book called The Buying of the President, written by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity. This book examines the money behind every major contender for the presidency this year and -- well, it finds there is no traffic/jam on the high road of American politics. Take the incumbent, Bill Clinton. In 92', he won the financial backing of NationsBank, after he agreed to support legislation that would put more than $50-million a year in the bank's vaults. Clinton delivered, and within days of his signing the bill, NationsBank delivered a sweetheart loan of $3.5 million to Clinton's Democratic Party. The White House says there was "no connection" between the contribution, the bill and the loan. So how about Senator "Dollar Bill Phil" Gramm? His wife Wendy headed a federal commission in the 80s that let major energy companies have put $160,000 into Phil's campaign pockets. Any suggestion that Ms. Gramm's laxity was to benefit Mr. Gramm's campaign is "nonsense," say the Gramms in perfect unison. Then comes Bob Dole, the Kansas senator so concerned about Californian wine or at least Gallo wine. The Dolester used his Senate position to ram through a special tax-break for the Gallo family, worth more than a hundred million dollars to them. So guess who is Bob's most generous campaign donor, having put nearly $400,000 into his campaign? Bingo, if you said Gallo! Dole, of course, says he is not influenced by campaign contributions. What a crock! It's time to stop the selling of the presidency. To help, contact the Center for Public Integrity: 202/783-3900.

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