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Will Political Soft Money Take Hard Fall?; Is Figure Skating On Thin Ice?

Aired February 13, 2002 - 19:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of the House finally have an opportunity to say enough is enough to a system that empowers the Enrons of the world.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, as a vote on campaign finance nears, is soft money about to take a hard fall? And amid major controversy, is the sport of figure skating on thin ice?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE, Republican Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Congressman Bob Barr, a Republican from Georgia. And then in Salt Lake City, Utah, "Boston Globe" sportswriter John Powers and Steve Tustin, sports editor for "The Toronto Star."

PRESS: It's CROSSFIRE. Thanks for joining us.

Around the country, it may be Ash Wednesday, but in Washington, it's Armageddon. That's what they're calling today's battle over campaign finance reform, which both sides see as the big showdown. For Christopher Shays, Marty Meehan and John McCain, the best chance to pass campaign finance reform. For Bob Barr, Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay, the last chance to defeat it.

Moving toward a vote sometime early tomorrow morning, the issues really remain the same. Is soft money evil? Is getting rid of soft money the answer? Is Enron a good argument for campaign reform or against it -- Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, IO-HOST: Congressman Chris Shays, thanks for joining us. I saw you today describing your opponents on this legislation as "cynical." And yet your proposal would delay implementing your so-called reforms until after this upcoming election, until after the mid-terms. Who's calling who cynical here? If it's such a great idea, why not put it into effect right away?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, first of all, I don't recall calling anybody cynical.

CARLSON: "The Washington Post" this morning.

SHAYS: OK, let me just say this to you. We've had 16 months already in this year. We only have eight months left. And by the time this bill becomes law, we only may have four months left. And so, it just becomes crazy how you implement 30 months. You know, we have feedback. Both of us are getting lots of voice in our ear, I'm sorry. I can hardly hear you. And I'm having large voice. I apologize.

PRESS: OK, we'll try to clean that up, but we can hear you very loud and clear, congressman, so please continue.

SHAYS: Yes, well, I'll just take off my mike for a second and I can't hear you, but the bottom line is, we are looking to ban corporate Treasury money and union dues money, enforcing the 1907 law, the 1947 law and then enforce the 1974 law to says, no large contributions. And that's what we're attempting to do.

PRESS: OK. Congressman Bob Barr, let me ask you, I hope you can hear me clearly?

REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: I can hear you.

PRESS: Congressman, if were you not committed to campaign reform before, you must be now after Enron. Enron in the 2000 cycle alone gave $1.7 million in soft money. The five big accounting firms since 1990 have given $53 million, most of it in soft money. Doesn't this prove, congressman, that we have a cash and carry Congress and White House and we've got to clean it up?

BARR: The only thing it proves is that you've been reading too many newspapers and not checking the facts, Bill.

PRESS: They're the facts, congressman. They're the facts.

BARR: No, they -- well, the basic fact that is missing from your argument is that nothing in this legislation that Chris and others are trying to force down our throats would have resolved the Enron problem. If you have a problem with Enron, if I have a problem with Enron, and there were some very serious things that went wrong there, then prosecute them criminally, but let's not throw out the First Amendment in our zeal to go after a bad corporation.

PRESS: Well, let me just suggest, congressman, that in front of the Congress, there were proposals to say that accounting firms could not be both consultants and do the accounting work at the same time defeated. There was a proposal to say that corporations like Enron could not pull all their money offshore, defeated. There is a proposal to say that you couldn't force employees to have all of their money in one company in their 401(k). It was defeated.

BARR: Bill...

PRESS: Bob Barr, are you telling me there's no connection between Enron and the accounting firms getting all these favors from Congress and all the money that they put into campaigns of members? BARR: You know, Bill, you could go you through a list of every single vote that any member of Congress has taken over the course of their entire career, and you could find somebody that given that member of Congress some money and say that that is corrupt. I don't buy that. I don't buy the fact that simply because a corporation or a citizen, and really that's the bottom line here. We're talking about citizens, not corporations, every time a citizen gives a member of Congress money because he or she believes in what that member of Congress does, and they want that member of Congress to vote for good government that that's corrupt. You may think that, but I don't. And I'm not going to vote for that.

CARLSON: OK, Congressman Shays, hold on, wait, hold on. Congressman Shays, now that you can hear me, I do want to ask some questions.

SHAYS: I'm hearing both. I can't tell you the amount of feedback we're getting. We're hearing another station in our ears.

CARLSON: All right, I hope it's a good one. Let me see if you can hear this question though.

SHAYS: Sure.

CARLSON: And that is, if I have strong political views, and I want to put those views on television, why shouldn't I be able to? Your legislation will make it...

SHAYS: You can't.

CARLSON: No, your legislation.

SHAYS: No, you are wrong.

CARLSON: ...would prohibit issue ads for going 60 days before an election.

SHAYS: No, it allows people to advertise with hard money. The NRA and Right to Life, and Right to Choose whatever organization, they just have to use hard money contributions. They can raise $5,000 from each individual and spend whatever they raise. So you continually say it. It is continually false. You just can't use corporate Treasury money and union dues money.

BARR: It's not false.

PRESS: Go ahead, Congressman Barr.

BARR: No, it's not false. Tucker is absolutely correct. Organizations such as the National Rifle Association, the money that they solicit from their members, and these are honest contributions made by average citizens in $25 and $50 increments, they are supporting the National Rifle Association. Not because anybody's corrupt, but because they believe in what that organization does and what they will do in Washington to support the Constitution. For two months prior to an election, the NRA is effectively silenced. They cannot buy radio advertising. You can't buy television advertising. They can't advertise on my behalf. Yes?

PRESS: Congressman, Bob Barr, look...

SHAYS: It's not true.

PRESS: I want to jump in there, Chris, too and just make a point. I had lunch today with a representative of one of the organizations that's lobbying Congress all the time. And she told me exactly what Congressman Shays said. They can do it, but they just have spend hard money and not soft money.

SHAYS: Exactly.

PRESS: So Bob Barr, why do you continue to put this nonsense out there?

BARR: Because this is why. Let me make it very clear to you, Bill. When a member of any community, when your average Joe Citizen gives a $25 check to the National Rifle association for their dues, that is not hard money. That is a donation to support an organization. And then that organization, in this case the NRA, cannot then turn around and use that $25 in support of candidates who support the Second Amendment. That is anti-constitutional.

CARLSON: Exactly.

BARR: That is anti First Amendment. And that is what this bill...


SHAYS: He set up in a way that is a little distorting. You can give -- each member of the NRA can give $5,000 into a fund.

PRESS: Of course.

SHAYS: Or less. And you can add up whatever is collected and you can run. And that's a hard money ad.

PRESS: Right, you got it.

SHAYS: You have political action committee that does the advertising.

CARLSON: OK, now, Chris Shays, one of the scarier, and I mean scarier, aspects of these reforms that you are behind, I think this was originally posed by Senator Torricelli, would require broadcasters, television stations and networks to offer advertising time at a cheaper rate for politicians, cheaper than say for your average store owner or for me if I wanted to buy air time. You'd get cheaper. Congress sets its own rates, bullying the networks...

SHAYS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the House... CARLSON: This is wrong.

SHAYS: They took that out. The House took that out about 300 to 100.

CARLSON: Do you support it, though?

SHAYS: I did support it, you're darn right.

CARLSON: Well, how could you support something like that?

SHAYS: Well, I supported it because I believe the law is very clear. You get the lowest unit rate. It was in the Senate. I supported it. We allowed for an amendment. We said people should vote their conscience. We didn't make it a poison pill amendment. And the House made its decision. So it's going back -- if we pass this bill, to the Senate without the Torricelli Amendment.

PRESS: Now Bob Barr, I want to come back where we started, because I know you guys. You know, a lot of the members over there. I do not believe that you are for sale. OK? I just want to make that clear.

BARR: Thank you.

PRESS: But don't you have to agree with me...

BARR: If I were, you couldn't afford me anyway.


PRESS: Georgia? I don't know. Don't you have to agree with me, though, the impression our there among the American people because all this soft money floating around, we're talking about the hundreds of thousands that these corporations give, gives the impression that you guys are for sale to the lobbyists and to the big corporations. And for your own sake, Bob Barr, you should want to clean up your reputation and clean up the system.

BARR: Well, it isn't my represent, but I know what you're saying. And you're absolutely correct. And part of it is because of this stuff that Chris and you all throw around. You know, you demonize soft money. Soft money is simply a voluntary contribution that a citizen makes through an organization in support...

PRESS: Or a corporation.

BARR: Or through a corporation that has pact, that then supports those things that the citizen believes in. That is not inherently evil. Now if there are in fact as there are, Bill, and I agree with Chris on this, there are abuses, let's attack the abuses, but he's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

CARLSON: Now Chris Shays, in the 15 seconds we have left, are you going to win tonight?

SHAYS: I don't know.

CARLSON: What do you think?

SHAYS: I think I'd rather be us than them, because I think our cause is just, but who knows.


PRESS: And Bob Barr, your plan is just to really put it into conference and kill it, isn't it?

BARR: The plan is, if it passes, and I think it will be a very close vote, to at least get it into conference, so we can clean it up. Otherwise, it will not see the light of day.


CARLSON: Bob Barr, for the sake of the nation, please kill it. Chris Shays, thanks so much for coming on.

PRESS: Pass it, Chris.

CARLSON: We appreciate it.

SHAYS: Thank you.

CARLSON: And next, axels of evil. That's what some are calling Monday's much-denounced decision to give the gold medal to Russian skaters. Was Canada robbed? Or is it just par for the rink in the rough and tumble world of couples figure skating? The debate rages. We'll be back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's the biggest scandal in figure skating since Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly were household names. It's the case of the unpopular decision. And it began on Monday when two Russian skaters narrowly beat out their Canadian opponents for a gold medal. The only problem, almost everybody thought the Canadians deserved to win.

Canada cried foul. And then the inevitable, press conferences and an investigation. Was Canada shafted, possibly with the diabolical collusion of its former colonial master, France? Or was the judgment fair? That's our debate tonight.

Joining us, Steve Tustin, the sports editor of "The Toronto Star," and the dean of the "We Was Robbed" school. And Olympic reporter John Powers of the fabled "Boston Globe" sports page, who suggests there's some whining going on -- Bill Press.

PRESS: John Powers, I'd like to stop just a second, let everybody see the video of that competition we're talking about. Just a very short clip. First we're going to see the Russian couple. As soon as we start rolling here. You'll see the Russian couple, look at this. Whoop see, he stumbles. OK? Now the Canadians are next. Perfect, perfect. So, John Powers, the Russians stumbled like four times, I'm told. The Canadians were absolutely flawless. And yet the judges awarded this to the Russians five to four. It seems to me the judges were either blind or incompetent or crooked. Which is it?

JOHN POWERS, "BOSTON GLOBE" SPORTS WRITER: Well, I thought it was the worst outrage since last year when Jamie Sale singled a double axel and they gave it to the Canadian, unbelievable what happened last year. So what I'm saying is this goes on all the time. This isn't even the worst outrage of this week here. The worst outrage was last night in the men's short program when the Russian world champion fell on his butt, the American skated perfectly, and three judges had the Russian ahead.

PRESS: Well, John, this is what I don't understand. I mean, I was watching NBC the night of this competition. They did an instant poll. 220,000 viewers plus called in; 98 percent of them said the Canadians won. Obviously, it was a bad call. You admit that. So why don't the judges do what they do in football? Replay the video, look at the video, and say well, we really blew that and change their mind?

POWERS: Well, you know, because people don't have any idea what they're talking about. The fact is, the Russians did get punished for that error. They didn't win one judge on the technical side. What happened is the Russians prevailed on the artistic side, which if anybody knew what they're talking about, would be that is the side that prevails. The artistic mark prevails in the long program. That's how the Canadians won last year in Vancouver and why the Chinese didn't.

PRESS: Not artistic when they're stumbling all over the place. Go ahead, Tucker.

CARLSON: Now Steve Tustin, you heard Mr. Powers. This happens all the time. You hear people complaining about medals they should have gotten in 1980 in Lake Placid, in 1964 in Lake Tahoe. It's the nature of the sport. It's subjective. People are always going to feel they were cheated by crooked or incompetent judges. Isn't that what happened here?

STEVE TUSTIN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE TORONTO STAR": Well, I can only say this. The Russians can never complain about being cheated because they've won 11 pairs gold in a row. I don't know how they managed to do that. Some people are really curious about that.

I think that -- Dick Pound said it best the other day. He's complained a lot. This is the IOC member from Canada. And he's complained for the last few years about ice dancing, a lot of people have, about how crooked ice dancing is, the judging. In fact, there was trouble in Nagano. And some judges had been disciplined there, for giving signals to each other. And I think a lot of people are wondering, I mean everybody knew ice dancing was -- something funny was going on in ice dancing. I think a lot of people are wondering right now whether something funny hasn't crossed the line over into pairs and perhaps into singles as well. CARLSON: Well, it sounds like there's a lot of complaining going in Canada. You gave an interview last night on this network with Aaron Brown in which you recounted seeing a woman in an elevator in Canada, crying...

TUSTIN: That's right.

CARLSON: ...about the injustice of this decision on Monday night, crying.

TUSTIN: That's correct.

CARLSON: It leads me to believe maybe the problem here is not the judging, but Canada's fragile, national psychology here. It's image of itself wounded by -- this is figure skating, not a nuclear accident.

TUSTIN: But we take figure skating very seriously here, fellows. No, I don't think our psyche's wounded. We have a pretty strong psyche. And I think anybody -- I just -- to turn it back, I think if it had been Americans who this had been done to, I think the howls would be even larger.

Perhaps there would have been an invasion or two. I don't know after that. No, I think people saw an injustice. I think people can see when someone's being cheated. And I think that's why everybody, from coast-to-coast in North America, not just Canada. I mean, if you look at the papers in the United States yesterday, my God, outrage, howls of outrage over this. I think everybody saw fraud going on. And they responded to it. They saw someone being deprived of something that they justly deserve.

PRESS: Hey, there's no doubt that if this had happened to the Americans, "Operation Get Even" would have been already launched by the White House. But John Powers, so the talk is today that the French judge and the Russian judge made a deal. The Russians win the figure skating and the French are going to win the ice dancing. Any evidence of that collusion?

POWERS: And I said so -- I say, well, there's no evidence. What there appears to be is that the French federation put pressure on the French judge to go for the Russians, hoping that later in the dance, the Russians will go for the French.

PRESS: Well, then that proves the whole thing is a fraud.

POWERS: Of course it does. Whoever thought this sport was on the level, for God's sake.

PRESS: You admit it.

TUSTIN: John, I agree with you there.

POWERS: Well, you know what? You know who gave the best quote of this whole thing was Dave Pelletier himself. When we asked him in the press conference, he says, he said, "If I thought this would bother me, I'd be going down the hill on skis." He understands. The example -- the Americans, last night, you didn't hear the Americans complaining that they put the Russian ahead on three cards because they understand. He's the champ. You got to knock the champ out.

TUSTIN: And I think you're right, John. I think the skaters know this very well. And the skaters, I think the skaters would say a lot more if they could. But of course, they all want to have careers after -- in figure skating, after figure skating. And they don't want to rock the boat.

CARLSON: Well, actually, you touched on something fascinating there, Steve Tustin. They will have careers. And this Canadian couple, particularly, I want to read you a quote from Christine Brennan, a very well known figure skating reporter for ABC. Here's her quote. She said, "Their agent, the Canadian pairs agent, told me he's had about 100 calls. I am guessing they are now a household name, which would never have happened if they'd won the gold medal with no controversy." I would imagine they became millionaires in the last 24 hours. The sympathy factor is huge. They're going to wind you up on a Wheaties box, aren't they? This is huge win for them, isn't it?

TUSTIN: It is. And this is probably the most golden silver in the history of figure skating, I think.


POWERS: Well, you know? Well, absolutely. You know the fact is nobody outside of Canada and figure skating knew who Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were until two days ago. They -- absolutely.

TUSTIN: And now these two are your darlings. But I just want to raise this though. I think it's very interesting that it's an American that seems now in all this has come to the aid of his neighbors to the north because we found out this afternoon that it's the American referee who made the allegations in a letter to the ISU. So I think that's very interesting in itself. Now we don't know what those allegations are yet.

PRESS: Well, yes, but despite what you think, we do like other neighbors to the north.

TUSTIN: I know that. Well, you know what? We like you, too.

PRESS: John Powers, back to you for a second. So what I hear from you is that we're supposed to understand that the game is rigged and not be surprised.

POWERS: Of course it is.

PRESS: And not expect any fairness and know that the whole Olympics from the top-to-bottom is crooked, right?

POWERS: No, it depends on the sport. OK?

PRESS: Oh. POWERS: Speed skating -- you know it's funny, this -- speed skating and figure skating are run by the same federation, all right. In speed skating, it's the first guy across wins. In this, there's an artistic marker. A great quote from Dan Jansen, the U.S. speed skater who fell down and was never able to win. He said, "If I was a figure skater, they would've given me a bronze medal in 1988 and told me to go home." He said, "But unfortunately I have to cross the line before somebody else."

TUSTIN: You know, if you're in any sport where judging's involved, you're taking your chances. You know the odds and you know the game and you know the politics. And if you don't the politics, then you're a fool. And you're going to be bitterly disappointed.

PRESS: Well, now we know what to figure about figure skating. John Powers and Steve Tustin, thank you very much for well, opening the doors up.

CARLSON: Well, next time there's a flap in curling, we'll have you back.

PRESS: All right and next up, we're going to shift gears. Two former political leaders re-emerge in different places for different reasons. But both provide our stimulating pictures of the day. Wait to you see Al Gore and Rudy Giuliani's new look. Coming up.


CARLSON: Welcome back. Time for CROSSFIRE'S pictures of the day. Up first, who is that masked man? It's a bear, it's an oscialot (ph), it's Al Gore, grinning at a speech in New York last night. Back from self-imposed exile on the high-end lecture circuit, Gore has rejoined the political fray, planning a comeback tour for 2004. Judging by appearances, the candidate famous for the creativity of his pandering is staging a not-so-subtle appeal to the Taliban community, a potentially key swing vote. But Gore may have misjudged. Beards, it turns out, are last year's extremist fashion accessory. Even John Walker Lindh has a shave these days. Nice try though, creative.

PRESS: Tucker, realize that beards are in the eyes of the beholder. But you know, I think the beard makes him look actually Lincolnesque.

CARLSON: Well, you know.

PRESS: I think you're wrong.

CARLSON: The calculation here...

PRESS: I think he shows some real stature here.

CARLSON: They lost Florida by just a couple hundred votes. How many Taliban in the U.S.? No one really knows, but if you could just pull those key votes in, he could do it again.

PRESS: May I remind you beard or not, Al Gore beat George Bush in the last election.

CARLSON: See, this was a trap. You fell into my trap. You uttered the most pathetic sentence in American politics. Al Gore won. He's really president.

PRESS: No, the most profound sentence. No, he's president because the Supreme Court stole it. CARLSON: Pathetic. I'm so glad you said that. I feel better.

PRESS: All right, here we go to the next pics of the day. Also back in the spotlight, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed up in London, where he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, at least we don't have to call him Sir Rudy. It was an award well deserved, but I checked today. Do you know, other Americans knighted by Queen Elizabeth include Ronald Reagan, Colin Powell, and George Bush 41. What I want to know is, where are the liberals? Why don't we get a knighthood, too? It's obvious, Tucker, this English queen is a raging conservative, unlike I might, most of the American queens I know.

CARLSON: Unlike Colin Powell. You know the sad thing here is, Bill, that it's liberals I think who would most like to be touched by or knighted by the Queen. Remember it was Al Gore, when Princess Diana died, who said she was always be the princess of our hearts. It was so...

PRESS: I want to be knight. I admit it. All right, folks, and we want to hear from you. Get your e-mails in for Bill, Bob, and Tucker, write here to With that, we'll say good- night for tonight. I'm Bill Press. Good-night for CROSSFIRE from the left.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.




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