Dean Renews Call for Campaign Reform
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Seeking to right his candidacy after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean reiterated his call for a broad agenda of governmental and political reforms before an energetic crowd at his state campaign headquarters Wednesday morning.
Speaking from prepared remarks, Dean echoed a November speech in which he called for the abolition of the Federal Election Commission and public financing for all elections but added a call for a new nonpartisan approach to redistricting. He also unveiled a new campaign slogan — “Live Free and Dean” — a twist on the Granite State’s license plate motto.
“We are institutionalizing what this campaign has done,” said Dean, hoarse after weeks of nonstop campaigning. “We need to put in place some real reforms in Washington that [otherwise] won’t get done no matter which party is in office.”
The hastily scheduled event was Dean’s only public appearance of the day. He returned to his home in Burlington, Vt., for an afternoon of rest, conducting a handful of satellite interviews.
The speech came amid questions regarding the longtime frontrunner’s place in the race after taking third in Iowa, well behind victor Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.). Dean continues to lead in tracking polls conducted in New Hampshire but has seen his lead slip in recent days with Kerry and retired Gen. Wesley Clark gaining support. Clark skipped Iowa, choosing instead to focus his time in New Hampshire.
Evincing the confidence and bravado that fueled his early rise in the polls, Dean prefaced his proposals by saying that he would implement them “if I become president, which I will if I win the New Hampshire primary.”
The majority of Dean’s speech, however, was dedicated to reform rather than rhetoric.
Dean used the recently passed Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act as a launching pad, saying that “we have to have real campaign finance reform.”
His proposals included raising the public matching funds ratio, providing incentives for candidates to accept public financing, raising the spending limits during the primary process, and offering tax credits for political contributions.
“It is not enough just to vote,” said Dean. “If you really want to take our country back, you need to come up here and work the phones. If you really want to take our country back you need to write a check.”
Dean has raised more than $40 million for his campaign, far more than any of his Democratic rivals. He is one of two Democratic candidates — Kerry is the other — to opt out of public financing in the primaries. Dean reiterated that his decision to abandon public financing was a necessity when faced with the fundraising machine put together by President Bush.
Dean also renewed his call to “get rid of the FEC” and replace it with a three-member independent panel. He decried the partisanship of the current FEC commissioners, arguing that their party affiliations intrude on its enforcement functions.
“This country is sinking because people have more loyalty to a political party than the United States of America, and that needs to change,” Dean said to a roaring ovation.
Dean urged the passage of a bill sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (N.J.), a Dean supporter, that would provide a paper trail for every voting machine in the country. He also intimated that he believed that a microchip designed to record an individual’s vote could be programmed to count a vote for Al Gore as a vote for Pat Buchanan.
Dean also touched on the decennial redistricting process that determines the lines for the 435 Congressional districts nationwide, suggesting that an “impartial redistricting committee” be appointed to handle the line-drawing process.
“What happened in Texas and Colorado is shameful and dishonors our democracy,” said Dean. In Texas, Republicans led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) pushed through a bill that could increase their numbers by as many as seven Members. Colorado GOPers attempted to tweak the lines to make Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) a more likely prospect for re-election, but their efforts were overturned in the courts.