Campaign Finance Reform Debate Gets Little Attention
By Candy Crowley/CNN
WASHINGTON (Sep. 25) -- Four out of four experts agree: the way campaigns are funded is every bit as bad as people think.
American Enterprise Institute Resident Scholar Norm Ornstein said at Wednesday's session of the Senate campaign finance hearings that senators must "take a really good look at what is happening now, which is not an exercise of free speech but a cynical manipulation of this system."
Common Cause President Ann McBride told senators, "This is a very serious problem, even beyond the corruption issues, which is ... altering our basic electoral system in a way that I think is quite dangerous for our democracy."
But what happens if the sky is falling and no TV camera rolls?
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) complained about the lack of media coverage for this phase of the hearings. "This is the second day in a row that C-SPAN even ... is not covering these hearings."
By the time the Thompson committee opened its afternoon session, the witnesses outnumbered the senators and the press corps combined.
It's tough to build up a snowball in a void like this. "We had better spend more time that we are on trying to develop some media attention to this issue because we are only going to get campaign finance reform if the American people absolutely demand it," Specter said.
For the moment, the Senate panel investigating campaign financing has abandoned all the talk of international plots and coffee pots. Knee-deep in scholars, think-tank thinkers and political interest groups, the panel is hosting a nitty-gritty discussion of campaign-finance reform -- which may be the problem.
There are not even enough cameras to shoot the senators and the witnesses at the same time -- forcing shots of the backs of senators' heads -- probably because most of the cameras were over at the Senate Finance Committee covering something people can actually get a grip on: IRS horror stories.
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