Washington's Other Scandal | frontline online
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The Boston Globe By Don Aucoin

"....You should watch "Washington's Other Scandal" if you care about democracy, though perhaps not if you care about preserving any illusion that democracy is on the level in our nation's capital.

Though a bipartisan stench emanated from the '96 campaign, at $2.2 billion the most expensive in history, there is little doubt whom "Frontline" considers the miscreant-in-chief. Host Bill Moyers puts the case succinctly: "In 1996, a 'For Sale' sign was hung on the White House." Indeed, despite his periodic prating about campaign finance reform, such niceties did not get in Clinton's way as he geared up for re-election, Moyers says.

Fund-raising stories can be confusing and labyrinthine, and are usually not long on visuals. But this "Frontline" largely achieves the elusive goal of clarity thanks to its copious use of White House videotapes of the notorious fund-raising "coffees" and Clinton dinners with fat-cat contributors..."

The Arizona Republic by Dave Walker

"Tuesday's sober Frontline hour is...outrageous, in its own gently muckraking way. Moyers tackles White House scandal but not the one that gets Ken Starr so easily inflamed...

Using a haunting mixture of audio tape, memo text and poor-quality video of White House fund-raising events, Moyers effortlessly builds a case against the perpetual fund-raising scam that American politics has become, thanks to commercial television.....

Moyer's position, as you'd expect is modest outrage at the blurring of the line between what's moral and right and what's legal. This administration knows the line too well, but the way both parties gobble unregulated "soft" corporate contributions should send citizens into the streets with a rope.

In one snippet of video from some local function, Hillary Clinton fully glows when contributor totals are announced. Congratulations, her expression doesn't quite say, you've just purchased a little piece of democracy."

The New York Times By Walter Goodman

"Bill Moyers and 'Frontline' return tonight to what they call 'Washington's Other Scandal.' You remember: that's the one about campaign financing, when the President entertained rich contributors instead of interns...

Relying on Dick Morris, the President's favorite political strategist....the program tells of the urgency in the Clinton camp to raise money for a big drive as the 1996 elections approached. In search of ways to get around restrictions on contributions directly to candidates, the Clintonians went after "soft money" from fat cats, purportedly for "issue ads" unrelated to the campaign. That turned out, as they say, to be a distinction without a difference.

In a portent of rationalizations to come, White House advisers like Harold M. Ickes assured Mr. Clinton that the strategy met the language of the law if not its spirit. Pressed by Mr. Moyers, ever the theology student, on the morality of the operation, Mr. Ickes assured him that moral calculations did not cause any loss of sleep around the White House....

...With attention focused elsewhere these days, "Washington's Other Scandal" reminds us that it is still money more than the other thing that makes politics go round."

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Bob Ray Sanders

"If you don't watch any other TV programs this week, tune in...for this "Frontline" expose.

You will see how powerful politicians, including the president and members of Congress, carefully skirt the law and turn political fund raising into Dialing for Dollars and 'an arms race, with money instead of missiles....'

The documentary goes on to explore how numerous tax-exempt "shells" popped up to funnel money into Republican campaigns.

In one hour, "Frontline" does what many would-be campaign reformers have not be been able to do in year: explain precisely and simply how out-of-control soft money contributions have polluted our political process.

As the Senate continues to waffle on any significant campaign finance reform bill, this TV program may incite citizens to demand that their politicians forget about the sex scandal in the capital and begin to deal with Washington's Other Scandal."

Daily News, New York by Eric Mink

"...Tonight at 9, public television's "Frontline" sinks its teeth into something far more dangerous to the long-term health of our republic than anything in the infamous Starr report.

Frontline calls it 'Washington's Other Scandal;' it's about democracy for sale-by Democrats and Republicans alike-and the cowardice of the leaders of both parties who have failed to do anything about it.

Tonight's one-hour program-from award-winning documentary producer Sherry Jones and the equally honored correspondent Bill Moyers-concentrates on 1996 election campaigns and how political operatives for both parties cynically and shamelessly exploited loopholes in campaign-financing laws...

Watch tonight's Frontline about issues of undeniable importance to the nation, and you may find it even more difficult to take the Lewinsky matter seriously, no matter how much airtime the news channels give it."

Los Angeles Times Glenn F. Bulnating

"A PBS special report on the most egregious political fund-raising campaign since Richard Nixon's 1972 reelection should provide a warning to viewers: This program contains little, if any, new information....

They are all stories that have been thoroughly explored over the last two years by news organization, congressional committees and the Justice Department. Yet, despite the paucity of fresh material, the program is must-see TV for anyone concerned about the increasingly corrupting influence of money in the electoral process.

The PBS report also should be mandatory viewing for Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, who is weighing once again whether to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the 2-year-old allegations of illegal fund-raising, and every member of Congress who has joined in the machinations by the Republican leadership to kill sweeping campaign-finance reform legislation."

The Hollywood Reporter By Irv Letofsky

"One might think that one could not have a lower opinion of one's politicians (considering recent righteous rhetoric). One, of course, would be wrong. Especially if one watches the bruising and investigative 'Frontline' expose, 'Washington's Other Scandal.'

Yes, ye of such cynical convictions, it's tough to keep track of Washington scandals since there are so many 'others.' This one's about those 800-pound gorillas in the living room of whom everybody talks about but nobody does anything about-campaign fund-raisers.

This report is smartly, sharply accomplished by producer Sherry Jones, director Foster Wiley and correspondent Bill Moyers, who asks some crispy, crunch questions. (Not that he talked with all the usual suspects in our nation's capital; this topic can and will likely go on to the end of the Republic.)

They cover shenanigans on both sides of the aisle. That is, Bill Clinton and the power coffee klatches in the White House and other feverish Dem fund-chasing plus a host of subterranean GOP money launderings. That includes edgy details on damning links between donation shams involving two Republican senators who sat on Sen. Fred Thompson's committee investigating campaign capers."

The Charlotte Observer By Bill Keveney

"As the media hyperventilate over Monicagate, PBS wisely goes its own way in exploring 'Washington's Other Scandal,' the campaign finance mess of 1996.

...Viewers already interested in the campaign finance scandal will find few ground-breaking revelations. Less investigation than compilation, the documentary is more useful as a primer for the many viewers who haven't been following the matter closely.

...The most captivating material comes from rarely-seen videotape of White House coffees where Clinton met with major donors, articulating a finance strategy that Moyers calls money laundering.

As Moyers bluntly describes "a 'for sale' sign" being hung on the White House, the president is shown saying, 'And I think it's OK if your investment gets you influence, but your investment shouldn't get you control.'"

Rocky Mountain News, Denver by Dusty Saunders

"....'Washington's Other Scandal' offers more than the traditional talking heads explaining what happened.

In recounting the ploys of Clinton and his fund-raising machine, producer Sherry Jones shows publicly for the first time excerpts from more than 100 hours of White House videotapes never meant to be seen by the public. These tapes include not only the infamous White House coffees, already documented in numerous press reports, but intimate fund-raising dinners with the president.

Such tapes give these segments of 'Washington's Other Scandal' the look and feel of a murky espionage movie... While such activities have been reported previously, this "Frontline" hour puts them into focus.

Turning to the Republicans, the hour examines several tax-exempt shells and fronts that raised money through large contributors, quietly and illegally....Former Senate investigator Beth Stein tells Moyers: 'The Republicans secretly poured millions of dollars into the '96 campaigns-away from public scrutiny. Essentially, they were purchasing elections.'"


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