Newsmaker: Ross Perot
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PHIL PONCE: The Perot Party held its convention in Kansas City, Missouri, this past weekend. Ross Perot founded the Party and was its presidential candidates in 1996. He also ran for president in 1992, when he won 19 percent of the vote, the best third party showing in 80 years. But last year he received just 8 1/2 percent. He keynoted the Reform Party Convention Saturday night and he’s with us now from Dallas. Mr. Perot, thank you for joining us. First of all, for the past year or so it seems like you’ve maintained a fairly low profile not seen very much. Where was that?
ROSS PEROT: Well, that’s another question. If you’re not invited to go on anybody’s television show, you can’t go. And if the television ad works won’t sell you time–I tried to buy time on campaign finance reform; I’ve tried to buy time on the balanced budget, and they wouldn’t sell time. So you can only have a high profile if you have the opportunity. So we have had a chance now here recently to speak out and we are. And while you’re on these percentages that I got in the two elections, remember that the reason we didn’t get that far in ’96 is that the two presidential candidates, not the debate commissioners–Clinton and Dole–decided that I should not be in the debates and cut a deal. Now, if that has anything to do with politics, as it should be in America–I don’t think it does–if that is constitutional–and I’m sure it’s not–and we’re going to test that to see. The whole system is set up now so that only the two parties totally control, they totally control the Federal Election Commission; they totally control the Debate Commission; and they allow the candidates to blatantly come in from the two parties and tell the commissioners what to do.
PHIL PONCE: And, sir, when you say–
ROSS PEROT: That’s what we’re working on now. We’re going to clean up this rotten mess that they’ve got in Washington.
PHIL PONCE: And, sir, when you say that you’re going to test that, what exactly do you mean?
ROSS PEROT: That means we have already filed a court case in Washington, for one. There’s going to be another major event on Wednesday of this week in San Francisco. We’ll have a press conference Wednesday at the Sheraton Palace Hotel on Market Street and announce our next major effort. It’s obvious the two parties are not going to solve our country’s problems. We’ve got to go about it in another way. In this first case I just mentioned we obviously have gone to court. We want to take this to court; it will be a constitutional question and no ifs, ands, and buts. There’s no way that any judge could say that having two presidential candidates from the two major parties decide who gets in the debate makes any sense at all. And when you look at how the FEC runs and the way the system is set up now, when we didn’t get in the debate, we went to federal court, and the federal court said under the law you have to first go to the FEC.
PHIL PONCE: The Federal Election Commission.
ROSS PEROT: The Federal Election Commission. And guess what they said? We don’t have to rule for 120 days. That knocked us totally out. Now that sounds like something that might happen in a third world country, not the greatest country in the history of man. We’re going to clean that up. And we’re going to do that one through the courts. We’re going to go different ways and different places, but we’re going to nail these things. We will get campaign finance reform. We will get our budget balanced. We will get our country’s financial house put back in order, and we will never quit until we have done it.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Perot, getting back to the issue of the Reform Party, itself, what do you say to people who look at the Reform Party as being fairly weak at this point and perhaps not able to do the kinds of things you’re talking about?
ROSS PEROT: Well, let’s take a look at that. Twelve hundred people–delegates from all across the United States–were in Kansas City. They didn’t go to Buddhist temples to get the money for this party. They didn’t go over and cut deals with Asian countries. They didn’t go to big corporations and make deals, and by the way, the Federal Debate Commission is paid for with big corporations putting up the money for the debates. These people bought their own tickets, came at their own expense. It was as clean and as pure as democracy could be. I wish every American could have seen it on C-Span. They were just good, honest, decent, patriotic people who love their country, love their children, who want to make it a better place. They’re working together, and believe me, that is not a weak showing. That was a tremendous display of grassroots democracy.
CHARLES KRAUSE: You talked about campaign finance reform. Are you the least bit encouraged that the Republican congressional leadership has said they will now allow a vote on it next spring?
ROSS PEROT: No, because it is the McCain-Feingold bill. Now only in America would you have one of the Keating 5 offering campaign reform. The only reason the guy wasn’t thrown out of the Senate is that Democrats and Republicans were both guilty under the Keating Five and they always cut a deal, just like they did this year on all these investigations because both the Democrats and the Republicans spent tens of millions of dollars illegally in the presidential campaign; they both got caught, and all they could do was just kind of make a truce and walk away. We’re not going to let that happen.
Let’s go back to an earlier time when we set a much higher standard. Jim Wright had to leave the House of Representatives for a book deal that was a few thousand dollars. Spiro Agnew had to leave as vice president, and the total amount of money there was a fraction of what was spent in a criminal way this year. And I can go on down the list of people in the past who had to leave the Congress for relatively minor matters. And let’s take Richard Nixon and Watergate. The worst thing they did was break into the Democratic headquarters. Here they spent tens of millions of dollars. These are things an ordinary citizen would go to jail for. And yet we just sort of sweep over it. We’re not going to let that happen.
We’re going to nail that, and you’ll see this unfold in the next few weeks, and it’s going to be a really big interesting chapter of it unfold this Wednesday.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Perot, if we could look at internal party matters, according to reports about 96 activists from 23 states gathered in Illinois last month to form a splinter group, the American Reform Party. How seriously are you concerned about this group that stands in opposition to your personal leadership?
ROSS PEROT: What you really have here, there weren’t 96 people there. There were about 40 people there that had nothing to do with the Reform Party. We’re not aligned or related to them in any way but the press loves to find anything that’s negative. All of the wonderful, positive because a huge part of the press is tied to the Democrat and Republican Parties–and we accept that–and the facts are these people are not tied to us in any way. We have no relationship with them, and you also need to tell the American people the truth. Again and again and again the two parties send people into our party to do destructive things like this, and we just have learned now for the first time, after several years of wondering why these strange people come and go, to realize what’s really happening, and we’re a lot more street smart than we used to be. But they come in–they broke into Watergate in a criminal way. Now, they infiltrate and bring people in, try to be disruptive, and then leave. And that’s all part of the dirty part of American politics, and that’s another reason why things don’t work in Washington. This week, as we sit here tonight, Congress is trying to sneak through a law that will destroy a provision in the USS Constitution that gives inventors patent rights. You can’t circumvent the Constitution with laws legally. If they do that, we’re going to nail them on that one. And the reason that’s being done is this was promised to all these foreign countries that gave money. If a new inventor has a patent under this new law, it’s immediately published all over the world; these third world nations can grab it; mass produce it over there, and guess who’s lobbying for it in this country–the who’s who of our biggest corporations; they won’t have to pay the inventors; they’ll manufacture it overseas, and guess what this poor young inventor’s only recourse is–to go to the World Trade Organization, not the U.S. court–if he could even afford a lawyer–but to go to the World Trade Organization, where each nation has an un-weighted vote. In other words, we don’t have any extra weight on our vote. There are a hundred and some odd nations. We will lose every time.
Now what could be more wrong than that? And when you think back, you know, what if Edison had not invented the electric light, or Alexander Graham Bell the phone, and on and on and on, and come right up to modern times, Jack Kilby and Robert Norris, the integrated circuit. And it’s right there, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, about patent rights, but all the special interest money now has got Congress trying to do a little shell game, and they’re so embarrassed about it they won’t even debate it or discuss it on the floor, and they’re trying to sneak it through. And we’ve got that little skunk pulled up by the tail in broad public now, and if they do it, they’re going to regret it in ’98 and 2000 when they’re running.
PHIL PONCE: And, Mr. Perot, I’m sorry to interrupt you. I’m afraid we’re out of time. Thank you so much for joining us.
ROSS PEROT: Great to be with you.