BIG DONERS GET THE ACCESS TO THE LAWMAKERS
IN A GOVERNMENT SYSTEM THAT'S "ALL ABOUT MONEY,"
SAYS SEN. FRITZ HOLLINGS -- SUNDAY ON "60 MINUTES"
Tired of Time-Consuming Fundraising, This Senator is Retiring
U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.), the ultimate congressional insider, tells Mike Wallace that America's lawmaking system is addicted to money that politicians need for campaigns that is donated by interests out to influence laws. It's so bad, he is retiring rather than continue the torrid pace of fundraising for a re-election campaign, he says in an interview to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday Dec. 12 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Hollings explains that his re-election campaign six years ago cost him $8.5 million, a sum he says requires him to raise about $30,000 a week. "So if I miss a week this time, Christmas week or New Year's week, I'm $60,000 in the hole," says Hollings. The money comes from donors who expect access to lawmakers like Hollings, who admits he must pay attention to them. "That's right [they are the ones who get access]. There ain't any question about that. We say it's otherwise, but it's sort of adulterated us in a sense that we can't see everybody," he tells Wallace.
The donors, from big industries like oil, agriculture and defense, not only get access and the likelihood of the lawmaker's vote, but actually help write the laws to their advantage, says Hollings. "K Street lawyers now and lobbyists and interests work with [congressional] staffs�Oh yeah�special interests overwhelm us with submitted legislation."
As an example, Hollings pointed to the recently passed energy bill. "The lobbyists, the energy industry wrote that. It's just exactly what the oil industry wanted," he tells Wallace. [Special interests] get their piece of the pie. That's our problem. Today, you can't find the real interests of the country," Hollings says.
Hollings describes the kind of phone calls he would make to get political contributions: "I'm calling you for the Democratic National Committee. Now we got a chance to take the Senate back and stop some of this nonsense [about] 'faith-based that and you got to have moral values.' We've got better morals than that crowd has. Can you give us another contribution?"
How much would he ask for? "Well, for the party? $25,000," he replies. "I've asked for $50,000. I shock myself," Hollings tells Wallace.
Money isn't the only thing you need to get elected. You've got to play politics, says Hollings. Long ago, he voted against Thurgood Marshall, who was black, for Supreme Court Justice. Even though he wanted to support him, to do so was political suicide for a Southern senator. "If I'd voted for him, I might as well withdraw from the race�.It was political."