Washington's Other Scandal | frontline online
navigation, see belowJoin the Discussion: What are your views on the fundamental issues of money in politics -  and the abuses in the 1996 election campaign?  We invite you to share your thoughts here.


Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the special report tonight with great saddness. To see what and how my relatives were treated by the poloticians. I was taught to believe that the Great Spirit sees and hears everything, and that he never forgets. This I believe, and all my people believe the same. What is done in D.C. and all over is not done in secret. My prayers are for my relatives and the people running Gods country.

Mark White Eagle Baez
san antonio, tx


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for showing us "The Other Washington Scandal," a slice of nasty reality that MUST be dealt with right away.

I must say, I am ashamed of my government. We have truly forgotten what this country is all about. When I've read about other corrupt countries/governments, I've always had the idea that our country, though not perfect, was not THAT bad...boy, was I ever wrong. We have certainly sunk to what looks like "an all-time low."

Watching this program has motivated me to contact my government representatives and express my outrage and desire to see real change in political/campaign funding. These deplorable practices must not continue.

Nancy Loomis
tampa, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

Thank you for showing both sides of the campaign finance issue. But, frankly I believe that the only restriction on campaign finance should be full disclosure within 24 hours.

I am also amazed on how many people in our country have not learned that we do not live in a democracy. Our countries political system is a representative government or a republic. We do not vote on every issue brought to our government's attention.

Thank you once again.

Phillip Hallenbeck
san antonio, tx


Dear FRONTLINE,

As others have noted, the program was unbalanced. It needed to be noted that the Republicans have opposed campaign finance reform consistently. We need.. 1. overall spending limits. 2. free air-time for all, providing the candidates themselves appear on screen to make their points, as they had to do in times past from the campaign train or other platforms. 3. permit only personal small contributions.

But I'm afraid we have already lost some opportunities if we have a Supreme Court who can declare that "money equals free speech". I was incensed at the story of the Native American tribe who were blackmailed into a contribution to try and obtain justice. This incident, much rather than the media-driven Monica affair, seems to me to be a true impeachable offense.

Martin Ben-Ari
wheatley hts, ny 11798


Dear FRONTLINE,

I teach civics at a high school. My students are very cynical about government. I try my best to encourage my students to become involved in politics, especially in local politics. Over this past year however, I, too, have become as cynical as my students about our wonderful, democratic government. Our President is a disgrace and our Congress is useless. After watching Frontline about campaign fundraising, I keep thinking about my favorite quote to say to my students and how right I am: "Whoever has the money, has the power. If you have no money, you are nothing, and government will ignore you." I want to thank our President and Congress for showing me the light. The truth is "we, the people" are nothing to you. And Mr. President, you don't have enough money in the world to eat supper with me.

David Wright
fayetteville, nc


Dear FRONTLINE,

Up until tonight, I had been concerned with a phenomenon Oswald Spengler had noticed -- and some ancient Greeks and Romans no doubt -- that democracy tends to devolve into two camps: those willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder and those who want to buy elections through sharing the public coffers. Tonight, I learned that both groups exist in both parties. I thank you for that revelation -- and hope the news media will continue to contribute to the solution -- if only by pointing out how far short of the noble promise of America we have fallen.

Ken McClellan


Dear FRONTLINE,

It is no great surprise that our nation and its political process (both democratic and republican) has reached this crossroad with regard to campaign finance. What is at issue is the living generations of today and their combined ability must make the necessary corrections to the process that can stablize and restore some measure of what was framed in our constitutional-electorial process. More over, we must look into the very principles for which this nation was formed and what makes us Americans, will we pay attention or just look the other way. Today, we act as if we are willing to throw it all away.

James Hill
howell, michigan


Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline:

Kudos on an absolutely brilliant -- but very discouraging -- program. My question, the same question so many of us must have, is how we, "the little people" change the sordid mess we participate in every other November. The easy reaction is of course cynicism, but that only plays into the hands of the manipulators Bill Moyers so ably showed off. And refusing to vote is even worse. Turn off the TV? That helps us but not others. Yet it is clear there is a built in contradiction in asking elected officials to clean up the mess that benefits them. Help! Let's make this system work! Our county is too beautiful to abdicate its future to political whores.

Fred La Sor
athens, ohio


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thankyou For allowing Me to share my point of view in the Other Scandal. Where has the Trust gone in the People we elect to do our bidding for us? If we cant depend on the white house electives to run this country in a fair an honorable way who can we trust? What happened to the morals of our leaders? I use to think it was good enough when you gave your Word and shook hands. Now it seems we need a White house watch dog to keep our elected politican in check and make sure they,re doing what,s right and in the boundary of the laws. Thankyou a Native American Veteran TAX PAYER

Gary Martin
hampton, illinois


Dear FRONTLINE,

Apathy among the voters correlates with the images of these greedy, self-serving politicians. These soul-less, short-sighted people are dominated by the quest for power. Our leaders are no longer men and women of principal and values working for the good of the country. Politicians who are more interested in protecting their jobs and status than doing what is right will be our downfall. We must insist on accountability.

martha baerreis
charleston, sc


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am physically ill at the sight of our politicians defending the money-grubbing machine. Words fail me.

I note with approval that your piece showed that pigs of both parties slurping at the trough, but you've missed a key element.

The reason that so much money must be squeezed out of everyone in sight is that a small number of individuals have decided what the price of an election should be. These fat-cats, numbering less than a dozen, control the big cable outlets and the so-called major networks, and therefore have the only viable access to 85%-90% of the American voters at the only time most of us have left out of our two-family work day to pay attention.

Would PBS promise to give extensive access to all the candidates, even for just the Federal offices? Could they even come close? The heart of any campaign finance reform would be hard to swallow for you holier-than thou media types: extensive free airtime for the candidates, and significant restrictions on the free-spending (gag) issue ads.

It hardly matters. This country is rotten at its heart, and there is no single person who I would trust to go into this system without succumbing to the lure of money.

Thank you for the show, but what does it matter? What will change? The honest man no longer exists.

willingboro, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

Clinton and the Democratic party obviously committed fraud in the 1996 campaign in the 'win at any costs' lie and cheat strategy,and your focus is on finance reform rather than putting them in jail where they belong! Your credo obviously is "HE MAY BE A CROOK, BUT HE'S OUR CROOK. You are shameful.

fred detwiler
oak park, michigan


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks for the great insight into the big picture. I am continually amazed how one president can be involved in so many scandals. Are the people of this country so afraid that the nation will fall if he is forced to resign? Are there so many people on "give-away" programs that they will support this crowd of dishonest politians? Is the Democratic Party not afraid of what they now are preceived to stand for? We all must write our representatives and demand Clinton to step down. If not for the Lewinsky matter ,then surely for the scandal you so pointedly showed.

Jim Lotito
cornelius, nc


Dear FRONTLINE,

The crisis we face in the American political system is a direct result of our having voted for politicians, as opposed to statespeople. No longer do we have leaders who speak openly and honestly about their views. No longer do we have leaders who reflect on the issues facing this nation and then act out of a sense of honor, dignity, and duty. Instead, we have a group of competitors who take no action unless it is guaranteed to get them votes, money, or both. From the minute they step into office they become entangled in a fast-paced game to see who can raise the most money the fastest, as political careers and all the sweet deals that come with them are made and broken by pieces of green and white paper.

But it is far too easy to simply blame politicians for this. The real blame must lie with all of us. For too long now we have contented ourselves with voting for the lesser of two evils, rather than for the statespeople we need and deserve. The Constitution never mentions political parties. In fact, our Founding Fathers deplored the very idea of party. The existence of the Democratic and Republican parties is not written in stone.

It is time each and every one of us exercised our basic rights, both as humans and as Americans, and demanded more from our political system. But the first step must come from each of us. We must all get involved in grassroots movements, petition our elected officals for a redress of our grievances, vote our consciences, and stop relying in the television to supply us with soundbites and "expert" analysis. Only then will our system change.

Alex Navarro
washington, dc


Dear FRONTLINE,

About "Washinton's other scandal":

Elections to the seats of the National Assembly of the province of Quebec used to be subjected to the most incredible and disruptive influence peddling, until 1976. Cash money was transfered directly from corporation's safe to the Union Nationale's Party, and later to the Liberal Party's, no questions asked.

To a complex problem, a very simple solution, brought forth by the Parti Qubcois, on the first year of its first term: donations accepted only from private citizens, never in cash, and limited to a thousand dollars per soul (canadian dollars, mind you)

Furthermore, election spending was limited, and the sums were to be divided equally between the partys.

Are the Americans ready for such a sound and simple system? I'm afraid not, if I gather right from the congressionnal hearings on campaign financing.

Franois Htu
montral, canada

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