|GEORGE W. BUSH|
April 27, 2000
Texas Gov. George W. Bush discusses political fundraising and gun control.
JIM LEHRER: Let's go back to last night for a moment. There was a fund raiser for the Republican Party; you raised $21.3 million, set a record, no fundraising dinner political history has ever raised that kind of money. You must feel good about that.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. I'm happy for Mel Sembler -- Ambassador Sembler and the others who worked so hard on it. This is money for the party building; this is money for voter turnout, and yeah, it was a good night.
JIM LEHRER: I looked at the list. There were 24 individuals and companies that gave a quarter of a million dollars or more each. What are they going to get for that quarter million?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: They're going to get good government. And I know there's this kind of sentiment now -- I heard it during the primaries -- sentiment that all of a sudden if you -- if somebody contributes to a person's campaign, there's this great sense of being beholden. I feel beholden to nobody.
And either you're crooked or you're not crooked, I guess is the way to put it, to put it bluntly. Either you're somebody who can be bought, or you're somebody who's running on principle, and my job is to convince the American people that I'm a man running on principle.
|Paying for access?|
JIM LEHRER: But there's another word -- and it's called "access."
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: Somebody who gave you a quarter million dollars, they call on the phone, would you be more - wouldn't you be more likely to take that call than from somebody who maybe opposed you in a general election, or didn't give you a dime?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Could be -- you know -- I don't know -- it depends on the issue, I think, in all fairness. If somebody came and got on the phone and told my chief of staff I want to come and talk to Bush about -- you know -- relaxing the standards on pollution controls, I'd say, forget it, we don't need to have a meeting. It's like -- you know -- Jimmy Hoffa and I had a visit yesterday.
JIM LEHRER: He's president of the Teamsters.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: President of the Teamsters. And I said, one of the things I told Jimmy, I said, I want your endorsement, but even if you don't, I'm going to work with you, and so there's -- it's a two-way street. I'm not a person, Jim, that seeks revenge in politics; that's why I've been successful as the governor of Texas. I didn't seek retribution from people who didn't support me.
JIM LEHRER: Governor, do you understand why somebody would look at a list and say, people that don't have a quarter of a million dollars -- for an average American a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: -- and say, my goodness, why did they give that money if they don't expect to get something in return?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I completely understand it, particularly in this environment, I do, and I -
JIM LEHRER: Are you going to do anything about that to make people understand this more, better?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: First, be honest, be a person that's just straightforward and honest, and I support campaign funding reform. I mean, I think there's some really interesting ideas that we ought to do. First of all, we ought to ban ... I think that if a stockholder or a union member has no say over how the money is spent, that that money ought to be banned from the process.
So, for example, corporate soft money ought to go. Labor union soft money ought to go, so long as there's what I call "paycheck protection," so long as union members can opt out of other expenditures in the political process that a union may be making, and I think those are reasonable -- very reasonable reforms. I would support that. I had -- so next fall -- therefore, why did you go to a fund raiser --
JIM LEHRER: Why did you take the money from the corporations?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I understand the inconsistency there, because I'm not going to unilaterally disarm. At least I am not the person saying I am now for campaign funding reform -- that's going to be a cornerstone of my campaign -- and then go out and -- you know -- keep my hand out and keep raising money.
JIM LEHRER: You're suggesting that maybe Vice President Gore is doing?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I am absolutely suggesting that.
|The National Rifle Association|
JIM LEHRER: Also one more question about last night. The National Rifle Association, one of the executives of the NRA was one of the co-chairs. What should the NRA and members out in the country expect from you in exchange for that visible sponsoring of the Republican Party?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Common sense policy; common sense policy about guns. Like many Americans, I'm deeply concerned about this random violence we see on TV. I am troubled by the kids walking into the zoo with a gun and expressing their anger by shooting somebody.
And life has been so devalued in some neighborhoods that it's just -- it's okay to act out your aggressions with a weapon. And that's why -- and I don't know what their position is on this and background checks -- at gun shows -- but I supported background checks at gun shows.
And the reason why the federal government ought to be involved is it's the federal government that issues licenses to gun dealers and therefore has the access to the computer to determine whether or not a citizen is eligible or not eligible to purchase a weapon.
You know, the trigger lock debate is an interesting debate. I would sign a bill that mandated trigger locks with the sale of guns, but I don't want people in America to think that it's some great panacea, because you've got to put the trigger locks on the guns, I mean, in order for them to be effective. So gun safety is a good issue. But I also want to enforce the laws, and I think there needs to be vigorous prosecution of gun laws on the books, and real quick ...
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: -- In Texas, we've got what we call Texas exile. It's the use of criminal justice money to hire prosecutors and to beef-up prosecution. In one year's time we've had nearly 200 arrests of illegal carrying and sale of guns. I believe over the course of time it's going to make Texas a safer place and enforce the gun laws that we have on the books.
|Does money affect views?|
JIM LEHRER: But should an average American who's not affiliated with the NRA ... Would you understand why they might think that because the NRA is so active -- particularly last night in this very dramatic, open way -- that you might be partial to their views on guns?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No, not in this case.
JIM LEHRER: You wouldn't check with them; you wouldn't check their position?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't think they expect me to. I may -- I'm not a member of the NRA -- and, by the way, have never been a member of the NRA. Not to be needling my opponent, Mr. Gore, but he was a member of the NRA at some point in time, and I have never been a member of the NRA. I'm a pretty independent thinker about gun safety and enforcing gun laws.