Q: The assumption is that you people are now spending far too much time
raising money. Is that true?
Bradley: I think that's generally true. In my case, the most time I
spent raising money was when I raised the least money, which was the first race
in 1978. By the time I got to my last race, I didn't spend that much time, but I
had people who were very good in helping me do it.
Q: But now, in the book, you say you had to raise $20,000 a week for six
Bradley: Right, in 1990, that's what I had to raise to raise a good fund
to run for reelection in New Jersey.
Q: Now, what does it take to raise 20 grand every week, on average? What
do you have to do?
Bradley: Well, different people have to do it in different ways. In
my case I had several very big events, so we raised a lot of money in several big
events. And that really diminished the amount of time that I had to spend on
Q: So for you anyway, it wasn't a tremendous problem?
Bradley: It wasn't a time problem for me at all, because, as I say I
didn't have to devote that much time to it. I was under the illusion that people
were giving to me because they were monogamous fund-raisers and they liked me.
And many of them did, some of them didn't, but it was easy to raise the money. .
The first time, it was an arduous task, I spent 40 percent of my time raising
money. I was on the phone constantly, I made a list of everybody that I knew, I
called each of those people who I thought might give me $200, $500. It was
asking again and again, being told the check was in the mail, which was a
familiar thing, which made me conclude, well, the postal service is really in bad
shape, because I wasn't getting a lot of those checks. And it took a lot of
time. That's when I raised about $1.5 million. And in order to do that, I had
to do it day by day.
Because I was a former professional basketball player running for the US Senate I
had a lot of friends, but not a lot of people who drew that direct connection.
There weren't a lot of predecessors who took that path to the US Senate.
Q: You described one time where you went, there was a blizzard and there
was going to be a reception and you figured, well, this isn't going to happen and
the guy says, 'It's happening.'
Bradley: Well, sure, I mean there are always these stories where an
event is scheduled and weather intervenes. This was a blizzard in, I think '78,
and the event was scheduled so I went. I saw a lot of empty floor space that
night, I thought he had a beautiful floor. But those things happen.
Q: But your job is just to remain as pleasant as ever.
Bradley:Right. Basically when you go to these fund-raisers, you go to the
living room of somebody who has been successful. It's a nice house, nice
apartment, you make a little presentation, putting yourself out there as to who
you are, what you believe, why, and then you answer questions. And you answer
them for as long as they want to ask them, sometimes an hour. And then it's
over. And based upon what people feel about you, they then make contributions.
And then you hope that that small fund-raiser leads to a larger fund-raiser, so
that you have to do fewer of these house parties and can do more larger events
with a larger ticket price. That's the way you try to do this, if you're doing
it in a traditional retail way.
There are new ways to do it. Some people do it through direct mail, other people
do it through a whole series of other approaches. But to do it the traditional
way, which I call three yards and a cloud of dust, you have to go through this
grueling process, until you have managed to establish a way to do it, and
establish a structure to do it.
So one of the things you have to get used to is you get used to being viewed as
kind of a piece of meat by a lot of people who are scrutinizing you. And I found
that in that process you ended up occasionally making good friends, and
occasionally a lot of these rooms look alike.
Q: And is there a fatigue that sets in after you've hit your thousandth
room or your two thousandth room?
Bradley:Well, not really, no. I think there's fatigue in the schedule. I
mean, if you hit it late in the day and you've been going since six a.m. in the
morning, when you come in what you normally do is you look around and say,
"Where's the restroom?" so you can go ahead and get a brief respite before you
have to deal with the people in the room that night. So you usually go in, fix
your tie, wash your face, use the facilities, and then think about, Well, what
are you going to say? And then you come out and do the thing over.
Q: And do they say, What is he doing in there that long?
Bradley: Well, if they do say that they never said that to me.
Q: What is the Ernie?
Bradley:The Ernie is something that I established for the award for the
worst fund-raiser. I once did a fund-raiser where we did not raise enough money
to pay for the luncheon, and therefore we had a net negative cash flow. So any
time I went on a fundraising trip, we always gave the Ernie within the staff and
the group to the fund-raiser who was the most disappointing.
Q: So, you mean there was an occasion where the food was served, and you
couldn't cover your nut, in effect.
Bradley:That's right, where the amount of money contributed was not
sufficient to offset the food for the luncheon. This was a luncheon put on by an
old friend of mine who invited a lot of his friends--
Q: -- Everybody ate and ran.
Bradley:--and unfortunately, there was a little thing neglected, which
was, this is a fund-raiser.
Q: Is it good or bad that after Watergate they put in this rule to
eliminate the notion that somebody would come in and hand you a piece of luggage
with a million bucks in it?
Bradley:I think it was an improvement. I think it was very much of an
improvement that we got rid of essentially the bags of cash that Maurice Stans
had stashed in his desk in the time of Watergate. I think it was an
Q: Wait, let me stop you. Because, is it an improvement? You're going to
need, still, real money to do this job. So, does it help you if all you can get
is a thou from each individual? I mean, in order to raise, say $5 million, you
could go to fifty Maurice Stans, or you go to 5,000 little guys.
Bradley: No, no, there are two points there. One is, yeah, Pat Moynihan
said that it used to be that you'd get $100,000 from ten people, and you'd feel a
certain obligation to them. But now you have to raise money from a whole class,
and therefore it's a hopeless thing in terms of the kind of demands, etc.
So, that is the difference between raising it from a few people versus a whole
class of people. . . . There are 270 million people in America, roughly, and
900,000 of them have contributed $200 or more to political campaigns.
Q: But you've got to find them all, that's the problem.
Bradley: So, it's like four-tenths of one percent of the population. So, I
mean, that's when you say that's the political giving class, versus three or four
people that you know. I think, however, the point about Maurice Stans was, this
was totally unaccountable. All of these thousand dollar contributions, they
might be onerous to raise, and it might be a class that gives them, but they're
all disclosed, and everybody knows who gave to you. In the old days something
was passed with cash in it, nobody knew except the guy who had it in his desk.
In this case it was the President's financial director in the Nixon
Administration, Maurice Stans, who had a stash in his desk of over a million
Q: But have you never once closed your eyes in that bathroom and thought,
'If I could only just do ten people at $100,000 per person, then I would not have
to meet 5,000 people and beg and beg?'
Bradley: There are certain things in life that you want to exert a lot of
energy to figure out, if life only wasn't this way. There are other things that
you kind of take life as it is and deal with it. This is one of those things
where you kind of take life as it is and deal with it. Until you can get real
fundamental campaign finance reform . . . . You see, one of the problems with
fundamental campaign finance reform, or with campaign finance reform as we know
it, is that it becomes so complicated that those who oppose it have no political
liability, because those who support it can't explain it convincingly enough to
develop the issue. And I think that campaign finance reform money and politics is
a little bit like ants in your kitchen. Either you've got to block all the holes
so none of them can get in, or some of them are going to get in. So you simply
have to take the money out of politics and have fundamental, bold campaign
And I think if you kind of nibble around the edges you're not going to succeed in
your objective, which is to restore the democratic process to the people, and
have politicians that are sensitive to the demands of their constituents, who see
their needs in terms of the crying economic insecurity that people are
experiencing every day: lost jobs, lost health care, lost pensions. And I think
that that possibility is enhanced if you take money out of politics.
Q: Under this present system, in order to touch so many wallets, I assume
you need somebody to help you, right? You have somebody who's a specialist in
Bradley: I have someone that I've known about 25 or 30 years who started in
my first campaign kind of organizing teenagers, and gradually moved up and is
somebody I trust and someone who's totally honest and someone who does a good
job of organizing events.
Q: Now, does she have to know a thousand people who will give you a
thousand dollars, or does she have to know a hundred people who know a hundred
people who know a hundred people?
Bradley: No. . . . She just makes it happen. I think that essentially it
is a matter of the politician either being known by someone or the politician
themselves knowing. When you start, you start with a list of your friends, of
people you know, people you've met, and then you branch out from there, people
they know that they've met. And that's how you begin to build a fundraising
network. And people give for a lot of different reasons. I always thought people
gave because they were interested in what I'd done, because they were interested
in some speeches I'd made, positions I'd taken, because they believed that my
service was important to the country. I also think that sometimes people gave, in
my case, because of Presidential speculation. I always believed that the best
contributor was what I called the monogamous fund-raiser, which was somebody that
gave to me --
Q: Who loved just you.
Bradley: Yeah, that didn't give to anybody else. And of course, that was
an illusion, when I discovered in 1992 that most of the Democratic givers who had
given to me in the period prior to 1990, who I thought were monogamous
fund-raisers, had given to candidates in the presidential race in one way or
another -- not all, but many of them.
Q: Which told you what, other than the fact that they weren't in love with
you in particular?
Bradley: Which told me that I was a little idealistic, maybe a little
romantic as I approached this process. And also that I unnecessarily
personalized it. Many of them are still good friends. But it's a, let's say
it's a maturity.
Q: How much money do you need to run for President of the United
Bradley: Well, the nominee of each party at the time they are selected as
the nominee, you have about $12 million to run a convention and you have about
$60 million given to you shortly after the convention to run your general
election campaign. On top of that, you had to raise money for a primary
election. The most money ever raised in $1,000 contributions was George Bush in
1992, when he raised about $20 million in $1000 contributions, some of which was
matched. And then of course, you have the phenomenon in a Presidential election
year, of large contributions going through state parties, so-called "sewer
money", that allows somebody to contribute a couple of hundred thousand dollars
to essentially further the interests of the Presidential candidate. I think all
of that should go. I think we have to take money out of politics. I mean, I
think that the presidential check-off system, that works, but I think other than
that we've got to move down to the Congressional and Senate elections, and we
need to take money out of politics.
Q: Let me ask you another thing. What happened to you? In '78, your first
election, you raised $1.5 million. Then the next time you raised $4.5 million.
And then the next time you got close to $13 million. What was the demon driving
you to these higher and higher numbers?
Bradley: Well, I think there were several things. I think that, first of
all, I was competing against the unknown, I didn't know who my opponent was
going to be. I thought I could scare off a strong opponent by raising a lot of
money. That worked to a certain extent in 1984, I thought it might work again in
1990. And it did, essentially. I thought that if I was able to raise a lot of
money that maybe I wouldn't spend all of it, which I could have some of it left
over if I wanted to ever do something national.
Q: "Something national" meaning?
Bradley: President. I was competing against the unknown, which means a
very wealthy person who could come in in October and write a check for $4 million
and blow me out of the water, blow any candidate out of the water with that big
individual check, because I didn't have an opponent. And if I was going to
compete with that, I would have to start raising money long in advance, and the
more money I had in the bank the less likely it would be. In addition, I got kind
of into competing with myself. I'm a competitor, and therefore the idea was to
raise money. Well, if we raised $100,000, why can't we raise $150,000? We
raised more and each event had to be better and bigger. And the result was that
we raised a lot of money. We also had a very high what I call burn rate, which
means you spend a lot of money on pollsters, computers, all these things. So at
the end of the day you were probably not ending spending more money on the
campaign in September, October, November, than you would have if you'd started
much later and raised much less. And so, it was a moment of realization to me
that, look, you know, the only way to counter this was fundamental campaign
Q: Was it a sense that the sum was indecently large that was bothering
Bradley: What was bothering me was that I didn't really need that much
money to run a Senate race in New Jersey in September, October of an election
year, and that I had started raising money five years out, and therefore I had to
keep an office, I had to keep a staff . . . . Then I ended up doing computers
and pollsters, and it became a high burn rate, so you were behind, not ahead. And
so when the press reported, well, he raised $12 million, we didn't have that much
in the bank at all, because over the last four or five years we'd spent it all.
It was keeping the operation going.
Q: It feels like you actually were embarrassed to have raised a total of
Bradley: Well, part of me in retrospect believes it was not necessary, and
that if I had it to do over again, I probably would not have done it. I think
that in some senses it probably brought me face-to-face with the fact that even
the best people with the best intentions, with the purest of motives, with the
most stringent internal checks and requirements, with the most separated
fundraising effort from anything that occurs in your legislative life, it's
still, there's something that -- it took me in a direction that I didn't want to
go in, ultimately. Meaning I became concerned -- I was thinking about raising
Q: Too much of the time?
Bradley: Well, I was thinking about it, maybe too much of the time, in
retrospect. But the good thing about it is, having gone through that experience I
realized that, given all those things, that only fundamental campaign finance
reform was going to really change the system.
Q: Did you worry that someone looking at the total and believe -- I remember
the paper saying, he's got all this money -- that you would look a little bit
like a tool of Wall Street or a tool of the banking industry or a tool of
Bradley: No, I never worried about that.
Q: Did anyone ever ask you, "Here's a sum of money and now would you do me
a favor?" Was it ever that gross?
Bradley: No. It's a little bit like, when I was a senior in high-school I
had seventy-five basketball scholarship offers to go to college, and reporters
used to ask me, "You mean, nobody ever offered you and your parents money for you
to go to basketball school?" The answer is no, because they knew if they offered
anything they'd be shown the door and kicked out. So it's applicable here: If
anybody offered anything like that, they'd be kicked out. And so that was
So no, I never did receive any kind of quid pro quo
contribution at all. But what bothered me was just that there was, it was
unnecessary. I didn't need that to do what I wanted to do in an election. It's a
little bit like, in basketball running a pattern that's much more flamboyant than
you need to. In other words, making five steps when two would work. And in this
case, I didn't need as much money as I raised to run a Senate campaign in New
Jersey. That was a thought realization. But it had long-term impact that was
Q: I'm just wondering, what do I get from giving money to you? If I give
you $10,000 over a number of years, would you know my name?
Bradley: I may or I may not.
Q: $50,000, including my wife, my three children and our first
Bradley: If you were a major fund-raiser, I probably would. If you raised
a sizable amount of money, I probably would.
Q: So, it's Tuesday at ten o'clock in the morning and I call you because
I'm very concerned about something, do you take my call?
Bradley: You know what? The best people never make that call.
Q: I'm not the best people, I'm kind of a mediocre person. But I've called
you. Do you take the call?
Bradley: I may or may not, it depends on how I'm feeling that day, depends
on what the issue was.
Q: If you don't take the call, I could be mad at you. No more
Bradley: Well, those are the breaks.
Q: Well, I'm just trying to wonder what this must feel like to be assumed
to be a whore part of the time.
Bradley: Well, you know, there are always wrong assumptions in life, not
only about politics.
Q: All right, let me ask it a different way. There was a case, which we've
covered, in which this guy goes running around desperately trying to get his
bananas into Germany. So he spends a great deal of money on politicians. And lo
and behold the majority leader of the Senate puts in a bill to help this guy.
This is in the middle of the budget debate. Now, when you saw this banana item
coming up, you didn't like it. Were you surprised to see bananas in the middle
of the budget debate?
Bradley: I serve on the Finance Committee. You're never surprised by
Q: But doesn't it suggest that this businessman was able to get to the
President of the United States and the majority leader and the speaker of the
House, he got to somebody? He didn't maybe get his banana break, but he got
attention and he at least got a bill that went into the committee. So it's worth
something, arguably, to put money into a politician's pocket.
Bradley: You'd have to ask the politicians who were involved in that. As a
Senator, I was called upon to vote on it. I voted against it, because it didn't
make any sense to me. I mean, my staff and I look at it as an amendment, does it
make any sense? No, this does not make any sense in a budget bill.
Q: But then doesn't Senator Dole lean across the table and say, "Look,
we've got to do this for a friend of mine," and then lean back without anyone
Bradley: No, never.
Q: And you wrote a letter to the Ambassador of Colombia saying that you
thought that this legislation was inappropriate. I assume he wrote you a letter
saying that he thought it was inappropriate. Was that because you were ticked
off by this, or because you were just answering your mail?
Bradley: I think it was because I was answering my mail, wanted to be very
direct with the person who asked. I mean, I thought that it was a stupid
amendment and voted against it and answered the guy's letter and told him I
thought it was a stupid amendment. Why not? You only come this way once, you
might as well be direct.
Q: When you ran first, you had a little money from the basketball years, and
in fact it was your $250,000 that represented 19 percent of your first campaign
money. So, you were able basically by your own bootstraps to get people's
attention and begin a political career.
Q: What's wrong with that?
Bradley: I happen to think that it's been taken to excess. I mean, I think
that a rich man's wallet should not be superior to a poor man's soapbox. And I
believe that money by individuals in support of their candidacy has distorted the
process. When you have one person running for the Senate in California spending
$28 million of his own money, when you have somebody running for President
spending $68 million of their own money. And then you have arguments saying,
Well, they made it, they ought to be able to spend it, that shows how much people
distrust the process, if we have enshrined self-interest to such a high point in
Q: I'm owned by no one, says Ross Perot. That sounds like he thinks that
you guys are all owned by someone.
Bradley: Right. But the point is, that it's like trying to debate in a
noisy hall and that person's got a big microphone and you've got a megaphone.
That's what money allows somebody to have, is a big microphone.
Q: So, who should pay the bill?
Bradley: Well, from my perspective, what I think should happen is that in a
general election, that people of a particular state would contribute up to $5,000
to that campaign for the US Senate in that state. And that on Labor Day, or
right after the primary, that pot of money would be divided between Republican,
Democrat, and/or qualified independent equally. And that would be all the money
that would be available.
Q: This would be public financing, in effect.
Bradley: No, it would not be public financing, no tax dollars.
Q: Why not just say, you can give as much money as you want, but someone
will write it down. Do whatever you please, but there will be full disclosure.
So if you do something extraordinary, like give me $2 million, that's going to be
in The Bergen Record of New Jersey.
Bradley:But it will be in The Bergen Record of New Jersey one day,
in a campaign. And it will depend on having some enterprising reporter who's
going to be able to discern a thousand names or ten thousand names.
Q: So, you don't think disclosure's good enough?
Bradley: I certainly don't think disclosure's good enough. I mean,
disclosure was the innovation to the mid-1970s. Taking the money out of politics
should be the innovation of the mid-1990s. After twenty years of this
experiment, it doesn't work. Money is enshrined at the center of the process,
creating potential conflicts, and should be eliminated so that people will be in
control, people in a particular state. What's amazing is, what will be the
result? Let's assume there are less contributions. Well, that means there maybe
less attack ads . . . . I also think that you would require television stations
and radio stations to give up time to candidates in an election, so that they can
get their point. It is the public airways, and the public owns them. So if you
had an hour for a candidate in an election in one-minute slots or more, each
candidate would have a chance to make their case.
It would be a battle of ideas. It wouldn't be the subterranean warfare that goes on to develop war chests that
are unrelated to the policy questions, that have to be decided by an individual
who is successful at becoming a US Senator.
Q: Are you sure you're living in the country that the rest of us are
living in? Because in the America I find most familiar, campaigns are
Bradley: Campaigns are big war, aggressive.
Q: So, what is wrong with aggressive? Because a lot of people are
watching them now on TV and listening to them on the radio, they're going to be
simple, they're going to be loud, they're going to be vulgar to get above the
clutter, and they're going to be expensive. Are you pretending that they can be
none of those things and still be the United States of America?
Bradley: Yeah. I'm pretending that all of those things discourage the
individual from becoming a participant in the democratic process. The individual
sits at home being entertained by the latest ads, thumbs up, thumbs down, and a
person, except when he votes -- and in 1994 only 38 percent of the eligible
voters actually voted -- the thumbs up, the thumbs down at the election is the
only time they participated. And that is not going to be the answer to the
problems of democracy in this country . . . .
And so the question is, are all of us, not just elected leaders, but are all of
us up to this? Because all of us have some responsibilities here. If all you do
is sit at home and respond to the negative ads up or down, who had the most
creative negative ad? And at the end of the day you decide which of these two
people do you like least, and then you vote for the other person, then where are
we? And in that process there's been no mandate achieved by the candidates,
because no substantive issues have been discovered.
So then the person is
elected, and then the person goes to serve and proposes something bold, and
they're then shocked, because they didn't propose something bold in the election,
and the reason they didn't propose something bold in the election was because
nobody would have covered it to give people the chance to understand it. I mean,
that is the democratic predicament that we're in today. And money's at the core
of the problem. And until we address the money problem, we're just kidding
Q: Did you know that the Gallos gave you money?
Bradley: Since I was asked to be interviewed on this subject, I discovered,
yes, they did, they gave me a couple of thousand over eighteen years.
Q: Did you know it before you went and researched it?
Q: Is a thousand during the primaries and a thousand in the general
Bradley: It doesn't rise above the horizon.
Q: When a family like the Gallos tries to ask for a favor how do they do
Bradley: They've never approached me, so I don't know what their style is,
I don't know what their strategy is. Most people who want to effect legislation
work through high-priced Washington lobbyists, who insulate them from direct
Q: And the thousand dollars that you got from them --
Bradley: The basic rule of thumb with me, it's kind of generally known, is,
if you've given money, don't ask, because if you do ask you're less likely. So
just take your chances that he'll use good judgment, and maybe he'll be with you
and maybe he won't. But he's going to make that decision based on the facts as
he sees them, and what he thinks is right for the country.
Q: Aren't you impressed at how unwilling people are to check off that box
on their income tax for Presidential elections?
Bradley: Well, I think the decline in the Presidential check-off has
paralleled the increase in distrust on the part of people, which has paralleled
their rising economic insecurity, loss of jobs, lower wages, working harder for
less, lost health care, lost pensions, fear for the future, worrying about their
kids' standard of living, and having the political process not speak to that at
all, having the political process not say anything that they think might improve
their family's standard of living. This is not the time when F.D.R. spoke and
people in row houses in Philadelphia all had their station tuned to the channel,
to the radio station, you could walk along and you could hear it through the
whole street by having it come out of the windows of each house, because they
believed that what he was going to say would be directly relevant to their
family's chances of having a better future. Those are not the times we're living
in. And in part, it's because of money and politics, and because that has
eroded, I think, people's trust in elected officials.