Money and Politics Go Hand-in-Hand

ByABC News
May 22, 2001, 2:24 PM

May 23 -- On Monday night, Dick Cheney opened the vice president's residence in Washington to hundreds of Republican donors. On Tuesday, President Bush appeared at a Republican fund-raising dinner at the D.C. Armory to raise more than $15 million.

Having won the 2000 election, in part, by criticizing Bill Clinton's fund-raising methods and other ethical practices, Bush and Cheney have reopened the debate over what methods are proper for a national leader to use in raising political money.

The Ohio kingmaker Mark Hanna said, "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember what the second one is." In 1896, Hanna went to banks and companies and told them to pony up for the Republican nominee, William McKinley, or else expect an unfriendly White House if his man became president.

McKinley's vice president and successor, Theodore Roosevelt, was so appalled by corporate political spending that he vainly called for public financing of campaigns.

In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt gathered a group of wealthy friends, including the Boston tycoon Joseph Kennedy, father of the 35th president, to provide the several million dollars it took him to wage his first presidential campaign. (In return for his largesse and fund raising, Kennedy expected FDR to make him treasury secretary and was furious when he did not.)

When New York Gov. Thomas Dewey implored Gen. Dwight Eisenhower to run for president in 1952, he pledged to "raise a hell of a lot of money" from Big Business in order to scare away potential rivals.

In 1960, Joseph Kennedy became presidential campaign financier for the second time, investing millions of dollars of his own and his family's money in JFK's successful campaign. The younger Kennedy joked that his father had told him not to spend more than necessary: he would be "damned" if he'd pay for a landslide.

TV Changes the Game

But as television moved to the center of presidential campaigns, costs skyrocketed. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson formed a "President's Club" of $1,000 donors in order to raise $15 million for his fall campaign.