Journalist Analyzes Myths Of Campaign Finance

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A highly acclaimed journalist and political commentator came to Berkeley to promote her book about the corruption of American campaign finance.

Elizabeth Drew, a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and The New Yorker, said in a speech at the Claremont Hotel Tuesday that she hopes her new book, The Corruption of American Politics: What Went Wrong and Why, will enlighten the Bay Area on the U.S. government's distorted spending practices.

"The book talks about what went wrong and why," Drew said. "I want to spell out some of the myths, clarify them and why it's difficult to get them changed."

Drew said soft money contributions were at the heart of the problems of campaign finance.

"For the first time, there are two presidential candidates for campaign finance reform," Drew said. "That's two more than we ever had."

This year's presidential candidates will spend three times more money than was spent in the last election, Drew said.

"It's about how much money you can raise, where and who can you get it from," she said. "Money buys access and access gives you their ear."

Drew said a presidential candidate must raise an average of $3,000 per hour to be competitive.

One of the event's co-hosts said Drew's concerns about government spending were prevalent in his group, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities.

"The issues Drew is discussing are high in our agenda," said Mal Warwick. "We need to cut military wastes."

Warwick pointed out that a new F-22 fighter jet costs as much as 20 schools.

NYF Properties president and event co-host Steve Berger said he also believes that the national budget should focus less on defense.

"Far too (much) of our budget is going to defense," he said. "It's a fact that we spend several multiples of what our

enemies spend. We can pull $4 billion for social services such as Headstart, education, the environment and health insurance. This is defiance of common sense."

Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities president and co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ben Cohen agreed that the government should shift military spending to social purposes.

"By reducing military spending to rational levels, significant funds will be freed up for investment in our communities, and at no additional taxpayer cost," Cohen said in a statement.

The Corruption of American Politics is Elizabeth Drew's 11th book. She also wrote Politics and Money, a 1983 book that exposed the influence of soft money. She has been a New Yorker correspondent for 19 years and has appeared in The Washington Post and other newspapers. Drew is also a frequent television commentator.


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