Grassroots Support

campaign fund-raising campaign finance politics money
Weekly commentary by CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

This year's campaign prize for understatement must surely go to the spokesman for the Swift Boat group that is attacking John Kerry's war record. When it was revealed that one of the president's strongest supporters, Texas oil man Boone Pickens, had given the Swift Boat group a half million dollars and that two other Bush supporters had chipped in more than $200,000 each, the Swift Boat spokesman Mike Russell told The New York Times, `You don't often see that kind of grassroots support.'

Now wait a minute. If people who give a half million dollars to a political campaign reflect the grassroots, that's some pretty tall grass out there. By that measure, George Soros, the billionaire financing millions of dollars of attack ads against President Bush, is just another lunch pail Joe handing out campaign flyers down at the union hall.

No, this is not about the grassroots. It is just the latest example of how the big money boys on both sides can find ways around the campaign laws and do it with the blessings of Congress. Campaign laws that allow such contributions are such a mess we should throw them all out and start over. But that won't happen and here is why. The great majority of the people who write the laws get elected because they spent huge sums of money. They may not like the big money boys, but they'll never crack down on them for one reason: They may need them in the next election.

By Bob Schieffer