Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
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The Buying of the Congress:  How Special Interests Have Stolen Your Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
ISBN: 0380975963
The Buying of the Congress
A startling and groundbreaking expose, The Buying of the Congress details the ways in which special interests worm themselves into the lives of Capitol Hill lawmakers—who in turn protect polluters, cigarette manufacturers, food producers, the airline industry, the insurance industry, corporate tax cheats, and other big-money interests. What does all this have to do with you? You cannot shop at the local supermarket or drugstore, visit a hospital emergency room, watch television, pay your taxes, or even breathe the air outside your home without being directly affected by the decisions that Congress makes—decisions that, increasingly, favor special interests at your expense.

Now, Charles Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity—the watchdog organization that brought us the explosive The Buying of the President and broke the story of how the Clinton Administration "rented out" the Lincoln Bedroom—reveal just how and why Congress has been so unresponsive to the basic concerns of ordinary citizens. Based on the work of an investigative team of more than three dozen people, the conclusions they reach are simple—and simply frightening. Deftly exposing the Byzantine channels through which unprecedented sums of money flow into Washington, The Buying of the Congress reveals facts like these:

  • Although thousands of Americans dies each year from poisoned foods and millions more become ill, Congress has consistently protected the food industry from tougher safety standards. In the past decade, the food industry has fed Members of Congress more that $40 million in campaign contributions.
  • Fortune 500 firms gave more than $180 million to Capitol Hill lawmakers from 1987 to 1996. In return, Congress has cut their taxes dramatically. Today, corporate income taxes account for just 10 percent of all federal revenue—down from 28 percent in 1956.
  • Every year, hundreds of teenagers are killed on the job and tens of thousands more are injured. Yet Congress has toed the line of the fast-food industry and other well-heeled groups in weakening child-labor laws.

In addition, the authors offer lists of the top career patrons—from realtors to petroleum conglomerates to Japanese auto lobbyists to gun-advocacy groups—of congressional leaders such as Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, Tom Daschle, and Richard Gephardt. Exhaustively researched and documented, chilling in its portrait of systematic corruption, The Buying of the Congress reveals that too many of our nation's lawmakers have betrayed not only the American people but the principles on which this country was founded. This book is a clarion call to action, a spur to all of us to demand accountability and reform from those who call themselves our servants.
—from the publisher's website
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TRANSCRIPT
The Buying of the Congress
Program Air Date: November 1, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Charles Lewis, author of "The Buying of the Congress" and also director of The Center for Public Integrity, what's your book about?
Mr. CHARLES LEWIS (Author, "The Buying of the Congress"): Well, it's--it actually, despite the title, is really about the American people. It's about issues that every American cares about, from food safety to airline safety to the cost of groceries in the grocery store--you name it--and--and what--what's been going on in Washington in terms of--it's sort of an employee evaluation form for our employees who happen to be members of Congress. And so it's--it's not written like a lot of books about Congress. It's not a lot of--well, first of all, we're not into the sex stuff. We're--we're looking at, really, what have these people been doing, and have they been working for us as a people? And so it was a--that--that's what's it's about. And if you want to find out what--what they've been up to across the board, this is a w--you know, I think this is a pretty accessible book. We went through tens of thousands of federal records. We interviewed 1,200 people. We had 36 researchers for a year. I mean, there's--it's a massive attempt to try to look at Congress in a very, very in-depth way by, you know, non-partisan, completely trying to be objective. A--a lot of this is based on records, thousands of bills introduced, thousands of contribution records, thousands of trip records, that--all kinds of records. So--so--but I--bottom line is it's--it's--it's--this is our democracy, and these people work for us. What have they been up to?
LAMB: Why do you do this?
Mr. LEWIS: It's a good question. I--I wonder that sometimes. Well, you know, at Center for Public Integrity, we've done 34 reports now in eight years, and before that, I did investigative reporting under a couple of networks, and I--I don't know, I--I've tried to--I ask myself this question all the time, and there's no logical reason why anyone would do this kind of anal-retentive research and--and usually by yourself often. Frequently, we'll go check records, and we're the first people to ever look at the records. People don't look at records in Washington all that much, a lot of them, and--and I don't profess to suggest in any way that it's normal to--to do this.

I--I think that part of it is--despite the fact that we always lay out all this information and have been doing it for years, I think it just comes to--fundamentally to an idealism deep down that we have a terrific system of government that I--I actually really believe in, and I think it should work for the public and it should be unfettered by influences of either large sums of money or other kinds of influences where i--things get distorted. And I--I think there's some sort of sense of something not being right here, let's look at it. And I think actually most investigative reporters have some sort of peculiar tic like that, where something just doesn't sit right with them or they--they hear something, it doesn't sound right, or they don't like being lied to, or there's a--they don't like hypocrisy or whatever. Everyone's got their own thing. And it probably goes back to some childhood thing, you know, which was--probably Freud or somebody would find something here.

But I'm not really answering it very well. I don't really know why. I think it's c--bottom line curiosity. We want to know what we'll find. Many of these things, we had no idea what we would find. After a while, some of these you do know what you'll find.
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
Mr. LEWIS: I grew up in Newark, Delaware, where the University of Delaware is, just outs--side Philadelphia.
LAMB: What'd your parents do?
Mr. LEWIS: My father was a security guard at General Motors, and my mother was a secretary in a middle school. And my mother still lives in Newark; my father just died this--this past March.
LAMB: How long did you live there?
Mr. LEWIS: All the way up--I went to the University of Delaware. I was a townie. I went to school right in this--in town there, and--and then I went off to college. So I--I was there all the way up until my last--well, till I graduated from college.
LAMB: Where'd you go to college?
Mr. LEWIS: I went to the University of Delaware, then I went to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, got a master's degree down here in Washington. And most of the people going to that school wanted to go into the State Department or work for multinational corporations overseas or CIA or all kinds of stuff. I was one of the very few people, at that time at least, who wanted to go into the media or was--I was fascinated by journalism. And there were other interesting folks--I think Wolf Blitzer went there, not--not the year I went there, but there were some other folks who have become well-known or respected journalists over the years that have come through that school. But it was a very interesting experience. You had to master a foreign language, and--which was a challenge for me and...
LAMB: What's your language?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, it was Spanish. I--I--I don't know if I would feel too comfortable trying to--trying it out now, 20 years later. But--but anyway, it was great 'cause there were folks from all over the world. A quarter of the class, by definition, has to be from outside the US. And it was a real eye-opener to me. It was--I really enjoyed it and it was fun.
LAMB: Can you remember the first time you felt strongly about this town, a politician, some issue?
Mr. LEWIS: You know, I--I came to Washington as an intern. And that's a word that's become sullied and controversial in the past year. But I came as an intern working for a Republican senator from Delaware. And I came at a fairly historic time, the Watergate scandal. And it was difficult to feel strongly. I was offended by what I was hearing about with Watergate, but I also knew--could see the dilemma politically of Republican members of Congress who didn't want to seem disloyal to their president but didn't want to--th--they were totally t--torn a--as--as a party and as politicians. And--and I could see all these dilemmas, and so I think the thing that I noticed more than anything as an intern is that many of the members--the--the game was--they didn't call it a game, of course, but it was to not offend anyone. So you had a response to any request that came in, you'd send a letter back that--`Thank you so much for your letter. I, too, am concerned.' And--and it was son--signed by an autopen, which I understand there; they get a lot of letters.

But--but I started to see that things were not quite the way they always appeared on television or at home. You know, I started to--you know, I--I--I also had an interest in politics at that age. I had been president of my class and president of my school, and I w--I was fascinated by politics, and I started to see the other side of politics up closely. So...
LAMB: Who was the senator?
Mr. LEWIS: William Roth of Delaware, now the finance chairman.
LAMB: And the reason I ask is 'cause you single out two senators in here; one of them's a former--deceased Delaware senator, John Williams.
Mr. LEWIS: Right. I--I don't have too many heroes. In fact, I was once asked by Jack Anderson on the radio who my heroes were, and there's this long pause, and I said, `Living or dead?' And he said, `Living.' And he had to pause for a station break. I--but the two people we talk about in this book, John Williams and Phil Hart, a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat, both were very, very steely, tough, independent, honest as the day is long, public servants.

And what was impressive about both of them is that they stood up to the powerful interests when they felt it was necessary. In the case of John Williams, he stood up to DuPont at a crucial moment in--in the Senate. And separately, Phil Hart had hearings about the automobile industry. Here's a senator from Michigan--and the point that we make in the book--we--we get into a lot of the details about their life. Williams was a modest fellow, a chicken farmer from southern Delaware who didn't go to college, and he one day got a--a nasty letter from the IRS. They said he owed taxes, and he--he had--got his pencil out, and it just didn't seem right. And he found out--he said, `That's wrong. I paid my taxes.' And he f--anyway, he started unraveling problems in the Wilmington IRS office, which went to the Philadelphia IRS office, and eventually, 300 people were convicted in the biggest scandal in IRS history. And he became known as the conscience of the Senate.

Hart was the same kinda fellow. He wasn't rooting out corruption the way Williams was. Williams did not have--wasn't--there was never an independent counsel or prosecutor. There was never a staff to do it. Any trips he took, he paid for out of his own pocket. He never accepted campaign contributions. The party would pay for his expenses if there was some sort of ad that had to be done.

And anyway, both of these men, in both parties, different ideologies, clearly had a sense of how things should be. And, I mean, because I--I don't always--want to always seem like the grim reaper with everything we do. I mean, I actually believe that you can conduct yourself in a way that is reasonable and straightforward and responsive to the public and--and also do your job in today's world. I mean, I admit it's very difficult now. We have a system that has really become very, very difficult to operate in. Even an Eagle Scout would get mud on themselves, I think, at this stage that we're in now. And I don't quite know how John Williams and Phil Hart would do today. But I--I have to think they would still do very well.
LAMB: The Center for Public Integrity was started what year, and who did it?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, basically, I was a producer at "60 Minutes," and I quit and--and started this thing. And the idea was: How can you--if--you want to investigate something really thoroughly, so take a year, two years, sometimes three years. You want h--to have dozens of researchers, and you don't want anybody to tell you what to investigate. And so the idea of the center is to look at issues i--involving ethics in public service. And we're funded by foundations and individuals. We list our major donors on our Web site on the Internet. And I basically started working out of my house and sent out 400 letters a month, and then eventually we got an office in downtown Washington and had to take out a lease for $60,000, and there was $2,000 in the center checking account. And it was a white-knuckle affair for several years, very, very scary sometimes, even. The first intern sat on a windowsill for a week.
LAMB: What year was this?
Mr. LEWIS: That--that was in 1990.
LAMB: Did this in 1990. Were you married then?
Mr. LEWIS: I was.
LAMB: Did you have children?
Mr. LEWIS: Yeah, I--when I quit "60 Minutes" and started this, I had--I was married and I had one child.
LAMB: And you sent out 400 letters to who?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, I--I was trying to do several things. I was trying to create an advisory board. I got two of my friends who were journalists who didn't know each other, and I--naturally, I was the chairman of this board. And...
LAMB: Who were they?
Mr. LEWIS: Alex Benniss, who had been in television with me at ABC News, and Charles Piller, who writes books on the West Coast, and now is a Los Angeles Times columnist and writer in San Francisco. And--and so now the board is up to nine people, but they were the--it was a lonely group of the three of us, and we would sometimes have meetings in the Baltimore Orioles outfield, the three of us. It was very casual and laid-back.

And--and then the advisory board w--I--I knew that I--there would be a need for some sort of muckety-mucks who had big names. And I don't mean to be disrespectful 'cause they're terrific people, but some very, very distinguished Americans came on board to this whole enterprise, folks like Arthur Schlesinger and Hodding Carter and James MacGregor Burns and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the dean of the Annenberg School at University of Pennsylvania, Father Hesburgh of Notre Dame and--and several others. And--and so I--I knew that for credibility's sake, I needed an impressive advisory board.

And then, you know, there's a dynamic. First you need an office. People actually get skeptical after a while with PO boxes. In fact, I used to investigate people with PO boxes. So if you have a PO box, that's a bad thing. And if you're working out of your home for too long, that looks really bad, and you better get moving. And then they want to know, `Well, so you have this Center for Public Integrity. What do you do?' So at some point, there needs to be a product. So the first study we did looked at the revolving door with White House trade officials and...
LAMB: I've been meaning to stop and ask you...
Mr. LEWIS: Sure.
LAMB: ...who gave you your first dollar?
Mr. LEWIS: First dollar came from companies and labor unions, both. We had, well, several labor unions, and we had some labor union presidents on the advisory board, and there were some companies that also put up money, various ones. And then we also had a foundation that came on board, our first one, and ABC News also did a retainer thing with me. I--I could have stayed in television; there were several offers. And when they knew I was really serious about quitting, there were offers to retain this new thing called the center.
LAMB: When you started in 1990, eventually how big was your staff?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, initially it was me and interns. In fact, it was sometimes referred to as `Chuck's excellent adventure.' And then over time, we did 13 studies in three years kind of that way. It was pretty scary stuff, a lot--lot of long hours, 90- to 100-hour weeks. Eventually, I started to get seasoned journalists to come in and work there. And today--fast-forwarding to today, we h--we now have 23 people full time and--and project related on various things. And we have really spectacular journalists. I mean, the former managing editor of the National Journal and the two j...
LAMB: Name?
Mr. LEWIS: Sorry--Bill Hogan, Bill Allison, who--chief of research, who worked with Barlett and Steele, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winners at the Philadelphia Inquirer for years. And Maude Bealman, who was in Bosnia with Associated Press and a foreign correspondent who's just come aboard in the past year. And several other of those kinds of very distinguished journalists who have cast their lot with this alternative, I guess you'd call it.
LAMB: And you credit your wife in here being involved in all this. What's her name, and what role does she play?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, m--my wife's name is Pamela Gilbert. She actually runs a federal agency, has been a longtime public interest lawyer. And...
LAMB: What's she run?
Mr. LEWIS: She runs the Consumer Product Safety Commission. She's the executive director, reports to the chair of the agency. And she--well, she was helpful in this book because she had kn--knows the Hill much better than I do, even though I'd been an intern years ago. And so she had a lot of insights on that front.

So--so anyway, I mean, this--this took its toll. I mean, I--this i--she is my second wife, and I went through a divorce in the evolution of all this. So i--it's been a very interesting few years.
LAMB: How much is your budget now?
Mr. LEWIS: Budget is about $1.8 million.
LAMB: And on your Web site--and we have the Web site to show--'cause you mention in here that you can go--you can see it on the screen there now--and it talks about the center, but it also shows the donors and the advisory board and things like that. What is the intention of this, and what kind of things can people find on this Web site that they can't find in the book?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, the Web site generally has wonderful things. I'm very excited about this, actually. We have interviews with 30 members of Congress and former members of Congress in actual RealAudio that you can click on and hear what some of these senators and representatives said about the role of money in politics and things like that. We--we also have--the publisher wanted sort of modified footnotes. We have complete detailed footnotes for the entire book. We have some--we have votes on tobacco reform and campaign finance reform so you can see where your elected official was on those critical issues of 1998.
LAMB: Now scrolling on the screen right now are people that gave $5,000 or more, I think.
Mr. LEWIS: Oh, t--yeah, to the center. Yeah, those are just basically our major donors that we list.
LAMB: Now when they di--when they give you money, that's a--tax deductions.
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: They don't have to pay taxes on that money because it's--w--what kind of--are you a 501(c)3?
Mr. LEWIS: Yeah, we're a 501(c)3 research organization, educational Organization.. ..
LAMB: What do you tell people when you say, `I want your money'?
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: `Here's what I'm gonna do for you.'
Mr. LEWIS: Well, I just tell them that there needs to be a force or a group in Washington that is sort of a watchdog presence that's looking at everybody and keeping track of who's doing what and putting it together in a--in a pure way, unfettered by time and space, relatively speaking, compared to the media, and that--that when people support the center, they're gonna support this kinda work. I mean, the bottom line is this is supposed to work for the public. It ac--it actually--these are public institutions; they--they--of the people, by the people, for the people. I know it sounds quaint and naive to say that, but it absolutely is true.

And so--so by joining the center, you get our newsletter which we do, which we broke the Lincoln Bedroom with back in '96 and did other things. So we--our shorter stuff--short for us is three to six months instead of one or three years. We--we--so--so you get to get our newsletter as a subscriber, and--and you get to be aware of everything we're working on and things like that if you join. But a--it--it really comes down to a person--we're not advocates in the traditional sense. We do not fight for certain--certain bills or something like that. We're research--researchers, basically, a research organization, an investigative think tank, a watchdog group, whatever you want to call us. We bring information to light, and frequently the people we bring it to are not real happy to hear about it, which we don't mind; we don't take it personally.
LAMB: What is your philosophy of government?
Mr. LEWIS: My philosophy of government is what Madison said: `If men were angels, there'd be no need for government.' I actually think we know that men and women are not angels, and that frequently government needs to be an arbiter of these competing interests and to protect the broad public interest. And I--I--so I--I--I'm one of those people that believes nece--government is necessary. It doesn't mean it needs to be wasteful, and it doesn't mean it needs to be bloated and inefficient. I--I don't go for that, either. But I do think there is a purpose for government, and that that is a very useful and necessary purpose.
LAMB: What did the election of a Republican Congress in 1994 do to this town, in your opinion?
Mr. LEWIS: You know, well, I think one thing it did, it kind of riled up this town. It--thi--this was already becoming a pretty nasty, polarized place. I think it got a lot nastier after '94. The acrimony and the civility--we had--we saw changes in all those things after '94. But in a way, I think also, in some ways, for some people, idealism died a bit because a lot of things were gonna change, the--the revolution of '94, a lot of these folks came to town; they were gonna change things. And there was a lot of talk about the Contract With America and--and a--and a lot of the things that we look at, like government and the process of government, the contract never really dealt with those issues.

But the bottom line is, when it comes to the role of money in politics, not--not anything really changed, honestly. In fact, the new folks who came to town actually were just as good or better at raising money than their predecessors. And so--so I--I think there was sort of a watershed moment, because if you think back to '92 and the Perot candidacy and--and the--a lot of talk about term limits and a lot of the anger and frustration that you saw in the early '90s, then there was the f--historic--over 40--first time in 40 years where you flip over and the Republicans become the majority party.

So finally, you do have Mr. Smith going to Washington. You have supposedly ordinary folks who are coming in to change the city, and it didn't change. We now have 17,000 lobbyists; the number keeps growing every year. The amounts of money pouring into the process are higher than they've ever been. And--and the relationship with the lobbyists and a lot of these entities and the lawmakers in control in--in Congress--and don't get me wrong, there's always been a close relationship there by Democrats and Republicans--but it became less--it became more unabashed. You would actually see lobbyists sitting on the dais with lawmakers writing the bills and--and--and helping them draft the bills in--in full daylight. Usually that happens at night when everyone is gone. So I--there was a little bit less pretense about how government really works.

And I--so, you know, I--I'm sure that others would interpret the last few years differently, but I--I think that it was an opportunity lost. Let me give an example: the check-kiting scandal in the early '90s. It was the Republicans who exposed that scandal, to their credit. Five freshman members of the Republican Party found out about the scandal and started exposing and unraveling it. Lo and behold, more than half the members of the House of Representatives had bounced checks, and they had basically their own bank, and they were doing all these unbelievable things. Some of them went off to prison when they were prosecuted.

And so they came in and f--kind of stormed the barricades, or as close as we come to that in our society, and not a whole lot changed--changed procedurally in the House of Representatives. The General Accounting Office, which normally does investigations--they trimmed the budget by 25 percent so they wanted to do fewer investigations. And I've asked some of the Republican folks who did the check-kiting scandal what happened, and they said, `Well, we tried to do it, but they just didn't want to do it, and the leadership didn't want to do it.'

And so, you know, this happens frequently in life; what you think is gonna happen or might happen, doesn't happen. And it--but anyway, I di--I didn't see it as a--I see it as an opportunity lost.
LAMB: You say in your book that you tried to interview Richard Gephardt and Tom Daschle...
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: ...and Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich, and they all said no.
Mr. LEWIS: They did. Well, I mean, that--that at--that happens. It's been--it actually happens with us a fair amount.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, I think--I think they do see us as the grim reapers. I mean, it's not unlike when I used to work at "60 Minutes" as a producer with Mike Wallace, you know, i--if--if someone like us is calling, we're probably not gonna do a feature story about what a wonderful public servant you are. In fairness to them, I understand why they would be reluctant to want to talk to us. On the other hand, I--I actually believe they have an obligation to talk to us. I think they have an obligation to talk to anyone who wants to talk to them because they're public servants.

So, for example, we send a letter--which we did--to 535 members of Congress asking them if they take money from the tobacco industry, and if they don't, why don't they, and just asking their--their views. I think we got a very, very disappointing response; only a few dozen responded. So we sent another letter saying, `We sent you this letter,' and I think we got a few more dozen, but we didn't get enough to be a scientific sample, so we did n--absolutely nothing with that data. The one amusing response we got was from Senator Mitch McConnell, who said, `You're absolutely right I--I take money from tobacco. In fact, I hope I take more than everyone else in the Congress.' And it--it was a v--`And you shouldn't even be asking these kin'--I mean, it was a very, very kinda contentious s--letter not appreciating the question, pointing out that tobacco is a legal crop, etc., etc.

But--but, you know, we did talk to, I don't know, something in the range of 30 or 40 members of Congress in both parties, former and current. And so we--I feel that we did get a good reflection of how members think. We also were able to--using Lexis/Nexis and other computer databases, we have lots of quotations from some of these folks that wouldn't talk to us in other contexts where they did--they were interviewed. So I--I--I don't--I--we do have a rule at the center that we don't mention anything about somebody unless we--they have a chance to talk to a--we have a chance to talk to them and they get a chance to know what we're asking about. I don't like anyone being blindsided at all.
LAMB: Lexis/Nexis--you mention it in your book...
Mr. LEWIS: Sure.
LAMB: ...as something very important. What is it?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, yeah, it is. It's a computer database system that, I guess--I understand it may be the biggest one in the world or have the--the largest number of publications in--included in it. I think it's over 1,000 at this point. But the reason it's valuable--in the old days--which we're talking five, 10 years ago--if you went to a library and you wanted to see if there was some article written about something, you'd have to go through a lot of different reader's guides and other reference publications, and you'd go from one stack and then you gotta go upstairs to the stacks themselves, and then, of course, it's not there; somebody else has got it. And, you know, you have to go through a lot of rigmarole to find it, and then you've only really checked maybe 30 places.

Well, now you can do a--a big, massive search with--it's just typing something in there, and you go through hundreds and hundreds of publications all over the US and outside the US. And so you can instantly discover things that you--you read something in the Jerusalem Post or some small paper in Georgia or, you know, that you would not normally read, and you'll find quotes and comments and data and all kinds of stuff that you just never would ever do.

So with these 36 researchers, one of the things we did was, for months and months and months, we just culled through these--these databases of--of commercial--secondary source databases, what I would call, you know, things that have been written about all these people and their policies. And then--then we did primary research, where we went through th--tens of thousands of public records. And then we did the interviewing, which was 1,200 interviews. And then we had to write it in an accessible way, which is the real challenge, because at that point, you're drowning in information.
LAMB: Who actually wrote your book?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, it's a collaborative effort. I wrote about 20,000 words; it's 110,000 altogether, and there are seven or eight other writers and we list them in the front of the book. We had--we divvied up chapters. I did the first four chapters and the last two chapters. And s--we have--anyway, so we mention them; they're writers around town who--who are respected.
LAMB: If you were to pick something that you found through all these databases you looked at that you were most surprised about, what would that be?
Mr. LEWIS: Including public records?
LAMB: Anything that you found. In other words, it's in this book...
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: ...and this is something that's new.
Mr. LEWIS: Well, I mean, one thing that made the wires that jumped out at us numberwise was, you know, we--we did a thing, "The Buying of the President"--we did a thing two years ago...
LAMB: Another book.
Mr. LEWIS: ...yeah, another book, where we looked at career patrons, the idea that, you know, politicians say they never know who gives them the money; `There's just too many of these people and I can't keep track of them; don't bother me.' And so we--we have this concept called career patrons, the idea being, well, you certainly know who your top 10 career patrons are over several election cycles, and that every politician has a set of patrons or sponsors that really is resp--that are responsible for their careers, r--really, and without the money, they wouldn't have their name out there; they wouldn't be viable candidates.

And so we--we went through the records for five election cycles over 10 years and we found that w--it wasn't even close. I mean, the person--we had no idea what we would find. But the--the person who had the most money by far was Speaker Newt Gingrich, and he had $816,000 from a--a little-known company called Windway up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. And, you know, it wasn't a company from Georgia, where he's from, and it was just kind of an interesting thing.

And as we looked close--more closely, we--we started to see that, a--as we always say with career patrons, frequently there is a mutually beneficial relationship where the politician is benefited by the money; the--the interest involved, whether it's a company or a labor union, is ben--benefits by the access and the favors they get legislatively. And in this instance, this company ma--makes yachts, a--and the--the owner has a 70-foot yacht, and they make equipment for yachts. They were upset about a luxury tax on yachts, and they wanted to get rid of that tax, and they got rid of it.

So--so, I mean, the amount is what surprised me. I mean, think about it for a minute. We have $1,000 limits on contributions, $5,000 limits on political action committees. So w--how can someone give $800,000? And if you think about it, it shows that the system is really out of kilter when...
LAMB: How--how can you?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, one of the things you do--politicians have several organizations now. They have leadership PACs in addition to their own campaign s--committees, and they also have non-profit groups sometimes, where they take money and will try desperately for a long time, until people bother them enough, to not disclose.
LAMB: S--stop at the leadership PACs.
Mr. LEWIS: Sorry.
LAMB: What does it mean?
Mr. LEWIS: There are members of Congress, and they will create an--an entity and they'll raise money for--for it that'll--it's called a leadership political action committee. And they'll go out and they'll raise money for that entity, along with their own campaign committee. And then they'll give that money out to their friends, basically--I mean, in the party.
LAMB: What's the limits and all that?
Mr. LEWIS: Well...
LAMB: How much can you give?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, y--you also give, I think, $5,000 also. But--but it becomes a kitty for them.
LAMB: Every year can you give $5,000 or...
Mr. LEWIS: Y--y--I think it's...
LAMB: ...every election cycle?
Mr. LEWIS: ...every cycle--every cycle, primary and every--but it's--yeah, it's fi--it's every cycle. But what I'm getting at is it's another pocket for these folks. And if you're the majority leader or the minority leader or someone--one of these real leadership folks, you have a f--you--usually you have a pretty safe seat, so you don't really need the money anyway. And so this money is pouring in to you, and then you give it out as sort of IOUs.

Now what makes it troubling to me, you don't know then where it came from. If you're looking at some Congressman Smith in some state and you suddenly see transfer of a chunk of money coming in from some PAC, you don't know if that's tobacco money or toxic waste money or a Japanese auto dealer. I mean, you have no inkling who that is. And so it's a way to move money throughout the system without much accountability.
LAMB: Go back to Terry and Mary Kohler of the Windway Capital...
Mr. LEWIS: Sure.
LAMB: ...operation, $816,000 to Newt Gingrich. Did you ask to talk to them?
Mr. LEWIS: We did. They didn't return our calls. When the story--when the book was released and the Associated Press--or, I guess, The Washington Post called them up, and they--they were interviewed. And they said, `Well, sure, we--we know Speaker Gingrich. We think he's a wonderful fellow. And, actually, we thought we gave more than $800,000,' which I found amusing on a certain level and depressing on another level. But...
LAMB: Did you find that they wanted anything from Speaker Gingrich?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, they--th--they claimed and Gingrich claimed--and Gingrich issued a statement--that--that people give him money not because he's going to do them favors, but because they agree with his agenda, which is what politicians always say about stuff like this.
LAMB: Could you break down where they gave that money, besides the leadership PAC? You said other...
Mr. LEWIS: Well, we...
LAMB: ...foundations.
Mr. LEWIS: Well, he had a--you might recall he had an organization called GOPAC, which received a lot of publicity in--in the--the years before he became speaker. When he was head of that organization, he--he gave money to dozens and dozens of--of embryonic r--Republican candidates, who later became House members. So they became indebted to him because he cared about them, he knew who they were in different parts of the country. And GOPAC raised millions and millions of dollars, $10 million or $20 million. I forget the precise amount. But...
LAMB: What was GOPAC?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, GOPAC was one of these--these leadership PACs, th--these--these inst--these organizations. But the bottom line is we--because he was head of that group, we thought it was reasonable to also include those contributions because he was making the solicitations under his name and with his--on stationery with his name. And so we--we...
LAMB: A--anything illegal what he did?
Mr. LEWIS: No, not illegal, but--but don't forget all the laws are written by the politicians for the politicians. I mean, it's absolutely not illegal. I--in fairness to Newt Gingrich and all these other people, it's not illegal. We have a system here that pretty much lets you do whatever you want, bottom line. If you want to bundle together 70 contributions for $1,000 each on the same day, including your six-year-old child, you can do it under our system. If you want to have an independent expenditure and dump $2 million into a House race tomorrow and not really say who you are when you do it and not--as long as you don't say `vote for' or `vote against,' you can do that. So...
LAMB: You found that in 10 years that Trent Lott, the majority leader in the United States Senate, had received $367,498 from the National Association of Realtors.
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: Realtors.
Mr. LEWIS: Realtors. And...
LAMB: And is there any evidence that he's done anything for Realtors?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, there--there is. We--we have a section--I think it's pages 47 to 51--where we look at the leaders of the Congress and we look at their top career patron, and we look and see what they--what happened there. And in th--in this instance, the Realtors wanted to be able to--to develop wetland areas around the country into subdivisions. I mean, th--that's a very shorthand way of putting it, but they wanted to develop federal land that is undevelopal, if I can say that word--cannot be developed.

And so--so, anyway, there is an in--there are a couple, two or three, examples like that, where there were specific acts that were--or bills that were introduced that Lott helped carry the water on in '95 and '96 and '97 for the Realtors that would, basically, give them more access to buyers of homes and, you know, give them more--more homes.
LAMB: Now here is a list on Richard Gephardt, the minority leader in the House. And Anheuser-Busch, which is based in St. Louis, has given him a total of $215,300 over what period of time?
Mr. LEWIS: This is all over a 10-year period, from '86 through '97.
LAMB: And the Thompson Coburn law firm of St. Louis, $177,000. Did you check to see who's in that law firm?
Mr. LEWIS: You know, I confess we didn't. I mean, that's something where someone should do that because I'm sure--you know, lobbyists and lawmakers are the ones that bring the money into the parties and bring the money into the politicians. So what you see on a page like that is very misleading because it's much larger usually.
LAMB: Well, let me just ask you this. Could somebody then go through that law firm in St. Louis, because they know--they ha--he ha--they have access to Richard Gephardt and avoid the Washington scene?
Mr. LEWIS: Yes, they could.
LAMB: I mean, does the law firm give money to a candidate for their clients?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, that's one of the dirty little secrets of Washington, and most lawyers and law firms don't really want to discuss this. What they basically do is they put the clients together with the lawmaker. The client usually gives money directly, and the lobbyists and the--or the lawyer--and they're--they're indistinguishable in this city--basically facilitate all this. They'll hold the fund-raising event and bring all the clients together for a big gathering, and suddenly 50 grand or 100 grand goes into the campaign war chest at--on a single night, that kind of thing. And...
LAMB: Is that legal?
Mr. LEWIS: It is legal. That's how it works.
LAMB: You mentioned in your book that Bob Dole and George Mitchell both belonged to the Verner Liipfert law firm.
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: And then you say that the partners of the Verner Liipfert law firm contributed between 1995 and 1996--two years--$684,354 to congressional campaigns.
Mr. LEWIS: Well, they do. And back to what we were just talking about, lawyers and lobbyists are major donors by themselves, and you don't know if they're doing it for their clients or they're doing it for their firm. But a politically connected law firm like Verner Liipfert is a classic one, really. You can't get more connected than that firm. If you spread around 600-plus thousand around Washington, both parties, then when you make a phone call or there's some issue your client's worried about, you're going to get access, as though you would doubt that they'd have access anyway with the Bob Doles and the George Mitchells and some of the other people they have in that firm. But it all works part and parcel. In other words, i--it is the combination of all those things. It's the money. It's the former lawmakers that work in the firms.

And the other thing which we talk about in this book, which people forget, is information. They'll run focus groups and they'll do special polling in someone's district, and they'll say, `You want the latest polling on HMOs in your district?' And, of course, any member's going to say, `Sure.' They don't have--they don't have the money or th--they don't want to spend the money for that data. So information is power, too.

So--so these lobbyists are giving them everything they would ever remotely want in terms of data, in terms of money, in terms of contacts, in terms of contact with clients. And th--and they're also--don't forget, anything that goes on in Washington, you've got to dress it up. The most narrow, crass, economic interest has got to have a noble public feel to it. So you've got folks back home all then writing letters because they've been goosed to do it by the lobbyists in Washington.
LAMB: Another name that comes up often in your book is Tommy Boggs, and the reason I ask you about him is that he's--his name popped up in a newspaper article a couple weeks ago where he was a part of a daily conference call with the White House, surrounding the whole whatever you want to call what's going on here in town, and that that's where they heard what the White House was thinking for the day.
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: Now this is Tommy Boggs, a lobbyist. Can you explain how that works, and what--what--is that all legal?
Mr. LEWIS: It's all legal. It's--welcome to Washington, right? Th--that's--that's how it works. And--and Tommy Boggs is a really interesting story, and--and I spent time with Boggs. I actually debated him a few years ago on PBS. That was a very interesting experience. And we're the ones that did a lot of research and wrote investigative stuff about Ron Brown, who was a partner in Patton Boggs' firm.

Anyway, Boggs and I have talked over the years. Boggs is a very interesting guy. Of course, his father was Hale Boggs, the Senate majority leader who died in Alaska back in the late '60s. His mother's Lindy Boggs, who also served in Congress; is currently an ambassador. And his sister's Cokie Roberts, who's, of course, a correspondent on--on ABC. And so Tommy Boggs is a fixture in this town. He's been around for--as a lobbyist for 30 full years. And he talks about what it was like to be a lobbyist back in the '60s. And when he registered in 1968, he said he was number 62--the 62nd lobbyist in the city to register. Today there are 17,000 lobbyists.

But he said, `Back, then, this is when half a dozen middle-aged, white men controlled the whole country.' They would sit around with bourbon and some cigars, and they would make all the key decisions. And you didn't have all those committees to worry about. There weren't 250 committees back then. They didn't have all the explosion of subcommittees. It's back when seniority was much stronger, be--before 1974, when they changed it. And--and he kind of laments the--I guess he would call it the good ol' days, but th--a different time and how things are now out of control across the board; there's no party loyalty; that--that money's out of control and every single member of Congress now has to be an independent contractor and go out and find a million bucks for a House race themselves. I think it's--$700,000 is the average.

But in the old days, the de--the--the lions of the institution would kind of get that money quietly. There was no disclosure. You wouldn't know where it--where the money came from and they'd parcel it out. Now you have these leadership PACs, and you have a different system now. The leaders still dole out the money, but it's in public view. But the--he argues that the dependence is not as great as it once was, so you don't have party discipline the way you had it back then. So you can't get things passed, is his point.
LAMB: Is it more--well, but is it more democratic today when you have a lot more people with a lot more money doing a lot more things?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, th--that may--that may be the irony of ironies. We probably have a more--I--I don't know that I disagree with that point. I think we have a more democratic system here, but it's--I'm not sure it works better. I mean, I--now don't get me wrong. I'm all for democracy. But--but now the game is you've got to have money or you're not a player. You've got to have a lobbyist, or you're not a player. And, in fact, if you could have 50 or 100 lobbyists or--some industries have 700 lobbyists--you know, if you're--if--the more the lobbyists, the better. The more money you give, the better.

And what does that mean? Well, if you're just an ordinary Joe out there, forget about it. You don't know your member of Congress. You don't meet with them. Forty percent can't name the vice president. Sixty-seven percent don't know who their member of Congress is. And the most interesting statistic, to me, 96 percent of the American people did not give a dime to any politician at the federal level. So this process we're describing is subsidized by a very small, exclusive, little group of...
LAMB: Now I don't know what year this is or how long this is, but you h--and I'd like to ask you where you got all this--that 443 members of Congress, and that includes 87 senators and 356 representatives in that number, and 2,020 congressional employees accepted free trips worth $8.6 million. You don't know what the time frame was?
Mr. LEWIS: It was 1996 and half of 1997.
LAMB: Free trips. And how did you find that number?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, we went through all these records, basically. There are now monthly trip reports that have to be filed up on--at the House and Senate in the clerk's office. We went and put all that information to--into a--into a computer database. It's actually a pretty neat database. You can type in `tobacco,' and you get everyone that took money from tobac--or trips from tobacco. You can type in `Paris,' everyone who went to Paris you can instantly find out. You can type in m...
LAMB: Who feeds that database?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, we--we have lots of interns.
LAMB: No. I mean, who--where does...
Mr. LEWIS: Oh, sorry.
LAMB: Who--who--who establishes the debat--database in the first place?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, we did at the center. It's not a public...
LAMB: But--but where does the--where do the figures come from?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, the figures come from the members themselves. I'm sorry.
LAMB: So you have to get the actual documents?
Mr. LEWIS: Right. You have to get the documents from the clerk's office. The staff members who make, I think, over $80,000--or there's a cut-off. Senior staff and above have to--have to file these things every per--period. I think it's every month. And so we've had to go through all these literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of forms and then put it all into a database to make sense of it, so you can make a compilation like the one you just quoted from.

But--but what it means is we--we have this notion in this country that we have n--there's no more free lunch and no more free trips. You--you know, the--the '95 gift ban; supposedly we don't do trips anymore. Well, that's not true. They found ways to take trips.
LAMB: How?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, they'll have an educational institution doing the trip, not a company, or they'll--they'll have a celebrity charity golf tournament in Pebble Beach, you know. And so...
LAMB: Go back to the educational institution.
Mr. LEWIS: Sure.
LAMB: I mean, somebody will give money to the educational institution...
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: ...that will then invite them. And you list that the number one trip provider is the Aspen Institute.
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: Who's that?
Mr. LEWIS: It's a--it's a non-profit, policy-type research organization. And they--one of the things they do and the reason they took so many people on trips is they take members of Congress and their senior staff away on retreats, and they--they talk to them about various issues, like Social Security and health care and other things and foreign policy issues. And these trips are all over the world and different parts of the US. And it's a way--it's a way, they feel, to educate members about the issues.
LAMB: If you look on that list and, as I did--I underlined all the way down the list the Chinese connection. And there are lots of Chinese connections on this list, three or four. What is the last one on that list, which is--there are only 23 trips--Soochow University?
Mr. LEWIS: You know, I'm--I'm not entirely sure what that is, but I can tell you Taiwan and China were the two most common destinations for all these staffers and all these members. And...
LAMB: The Asia Pacific Exchange Foundation.
Mr. LEWIS: Same thing. I think th--these are all...
LAMB: Chinese Cultural University.
Mr. LEWIS: Right. Th--they're all entities to educate members about Taiwan or China, depending on which one--and I'm not sure exactly which one is which at this moment, but...
LAMB: Chinese National Association of Industry & Commerce, 63 trips.
Mr. LEWIS: Right.
LAMB: Now can you--do they have to publish somewhere that fact, that what--what's behind those--each of those foundations somewhere?
Mr. LEWIS: They do, but not in the same place. You know, if you want to find out, you have to go find out where they're incorporated. You have to check their officers and you've got to f--you know, there's ways to pull that together. I have to tell you, it's a nightmare. And most foundations or 501C3 educational organizations like this are--do not have a re--a r--public responsibility to disclose. Legally they are not required to tell you where their money came from. And so this is a shell game. So an industry, whether it's domestic or foreign, will dump a lot of money, create some sort of thing, you know, and they'll start taking people on trips. We--we found that with NAFTA years ago, but it happens a lot.
LAMB: Now how do you protect yourself from becoming the same kind of an organization that all the rest of them are, taking money from people who want you to do things for them?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, it's a good question and something I always worry about. I mean, th--we do not take money from governments, from labor unions or companies. We did in our early days on companies and labor unions, but we don't anymore. So we don't take money from those three groups. And we also disclose our major donors, and I think that that is the best that we can do.
LAMB: Let me list a bunch of them and have you comment, saying anything you want to about any of them and why you're taking money from them: the Carnegie...
Mr. LEWIS: Sure.
LAMB: ...Corporation of New York.
Mr. LEWIS: Carnegie Corporation has funded us because they're interested in the whole subject of money and politics, based in New York.
LAMB: Who are they?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, I think it comes from the Carnegie fortune from around the turn of the century. They've been--this is a found--it's been around now almost 100 years, giving that...
LAMB: Originally steel money.
Mr. LEWIS: Yeah, that's right.
LAMB: How about the--I know I'm going to do this wrong--Hafif Family Foundation.
Mr. LEWIS: Oh, Ha--I think it's pronounced `half.' He is a very prominent lawyer out in Southern California who has brought lawsuits--taxpayer lawsuits against the Pentagon and things like that. He's done all kinds--he's basically a trial lawyer in Southern California.
LAMB: Cecil Heftel.
Mr. LEWIS: Cecil Heftel is a former member of Congress who was in Congress for 10 years, from Hawaii, who is now retired and is in broadcasting, I believe.
LAMB: Now what makes you--I mean, Cecil Heftel...
Mr. LEWIS: Sure. Mr.
LAMB: ...have--might have--might be taking money from somebody else and funding you. Now I'm not being--I don't want to be unfair...
Mr. LEWIS: No, no.
LAMB: ...to Cecil Heftel, but how--what makes you assured that somebody's not pulling the--you know, another subterfuge here?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, I--I have to be sure, and I have to look into them. We--we try to vet these folks pretty carefully. I mean, I'm not saying we're perfect, but we do our--our best to find out who they are and what their motives are. In the case of Heftel, to be honest, he saw me on TV in 1996 talking about the "Buying of the President" book that we did. We got very exercised and excited about the subject of money and politics. He, in fact, has just written a book himself about his own experiences.

And in--in his case is a--he happens to be a very wealthy fellow, who also is very deeply frustrated by--by Congress. In his instance, I mean, he is very bitter about what he saw as a member of Congress, and he's one of the most outspoken former members, I think, that maybe are--is around today.
LAMB: Streisand Foundation.
Mr. LEWIS: Oh, that's--that's the singer, Barbra Streisand. I've actually never met her. The woman who runs that, Marge Tabankin, is well known and respected in foundation circles, and I met her through another foundation, basically.
LAMB: What do you say to people that say, `Ah, that's the president's friend'?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, we actually--when we broke the Lincoln Bedroom scandal, we mentioned the fact that Barbra Streisand had actually slept in the Lincoln Bedroom. We--so we disclosed that fact, even though it was someone who--whose foundation has given us money. And we disclosed the fact that she--her foundation has given us money. I'm no--I've been very critical of Clinton throughout his tenure, and people can say that if they want. I mean, the bottom line is I'm not independently wealthy, and I have to get money from someplace. It's really simple. And some--the best thing I can do is--is lay it out for people to see.
LAMB: Catherine D.--John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Mr. LEWIS: Well, the--the Mark--MacArthur Foundation's based in Chicago. It's been around for 20 or 30 years. And th--they--they are interested, in general, in what we do. I think the accountability, watchdog, public service thing is one of their areas of gov--I don't--every foundation calls it different--a different thing, but I think they're interested in a general way in our public-type work--public interest-type work.
LAMB: And, as you know, the last line in your bio in the book is, `Lewis is the recipient of a 1998 MacArthur fellowship.' And there's a lot of money in those.
Mr. LEWIS: Yeah, there is.
LAMB: How much?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, it varies according to age. The older you are, the more money you get. In my case, it was $275,000.
LAMB: And when do you get it?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, they--they pay it out over five years in quarterly payments.
LAMB: And how did you get it?
Mr. LEWIS: That's a good question. It's a very secret process. They have about 100 spotters or nominators or something that are not well known that receive some sort of nominal fee, and they meet periodically. And I was apparently nominated, and somehow they--they came up with a list of names and I--my--I was on it. It's a very humbling experience. You don't know it's happening. It--it drops in your lap out of the blue. And some of the people...
LAMB: And they--and they call them "genius" awards.
Mr. LEWIS: Well, they do. I don't know who came up with that name, but they do. But--but, basically, the people are fairly astounding. I mean, in--in this crop this year, Tim Burners-Lee, who was one of the developers of the World Wide Web, is one of the people. And so--and there's--so there's pretty impressive folks, for the most part. It's--it's exciting. One of the neat things that's not well known with this program is you actually meet--that your--the other fella--folks who got--got this stuff. And there--there are actually meetings every year and a half.
LAMB: OK. You're sitting at your desk, somebody from the MacArthur Foundation calls you up and says, `Chuck, we want X investigated. And we know that you've got a problem. You can't be that blunt about it because we're all connected here. We're funding your organization. We're giving you $257,000 or whatever. And we don't care how you do it, but figure out a way to investigate Newt Gingrich.'
Mr. LEWIS: Well, foundations--I mean, that can happen. I absolutely agree it can happen. I have--I've had situations where people have said to me they'd like me to do this or they'd like me to do that, or they'd like to pass money through--through the foundation to a writer who's trying to finish a book or something. And I--and I say no. I don't know what--how else to put it. I--if it doesn't fit the mission of the organization, if it doesn't seem right and if it looks like something that we're--we're, frankly, going to be attacked for not having been objective, I generally try--our newsletter will look at a s--singular issue sometimes about either party, but our books and our--our--our major studies are--usually look at both parties, usually look over several years of systemic patterns. And if it doesn't fit our--our pattern of the way we look at things, then I don't consider it.

If it's a reasonable request, if it's something that needs to be done, if it's never been investigated before, and if I think there's something fishy there, too, then I'll--I'll listen.
LAMB: `I'm indebted to Bill Moyers and John Moyers of the Schuman Foundation for their trenchant insights and steadfast encouragement.'
Mr. LEWIS: That's true.
LAMB: Who are they?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, you know, Bill Moyers is the former aide to Lyndon Johnson, and--I guess he was the press secretary to Lyndon Johnson. And he's done about 200-plus hours of programming on PBS throughout the late '70s and all through the '80s and into the '90s. And he is the president of a foundation called the Schuman Foundation based in Montclair, New Jersey. And John is the executive director of that foundation.
LAMB: Who is John Moyers?
Mr. LEWIS: John is his son.
LAMB: And on the back, your book is endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post, Diane Sawyer of ABC News and Kevin Phillips, a write and columnist. What--is there a message there? Did you ask those folks to endorse it?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, no. I--I'm very pragmatic. These folks--well, the Chicago Tribune, it was a clip that they--that they ran about--I guess about me and about the center. And Bradlee and Moyers and Sawyer and Phillips had all said things about us, like, in our brochure or other things over the last two or three years. And I just said, `Can we use what you said about us again for the back of the book?' It's, you know, that simple. So they--I've met or gotten to know many of these people over the last several years. Phillips and Bradlee, for example, in the last five or eight years in doing the center. Sawyer, I actually worked with her, not directly, but we were both at "60 Minutes" at the same time, and so we've stayed in touch. So it depends on the person. But...
LAMB: How long were you with "60 Minutes"? And you said you were a producer for Mike Wallace?
Mr. LEWIS: Right. I was at "60 Minutes" for about five years i--in '84 through '88.
LAMB: Did you ever see anything at "60 Minutes" that made you squirm a little bit, you didn't like the way things were done?
Mr. LEWIS: Sure. I mean, you gotta understand I'm a pain in the neck, and I see stuff everywhere that bothers me. I mean, I--I...
LAMB: What would bother you at "60 Minutes"?
Mr. LEWIS: Well, I--I'm a r--real pure investigative person who likes to--to really get my teeth into something. And I did not like the idea--you got--you gotta understand, in the context of television, it is generally regarded the best newsmagazine on television and certainly the longest-running one is "60 Minutes." It's also won the most awards, and--and I'm--I actually know all these people and I've still--you know--you know, I've kept in good--on good terms with them. But--but you do have a s--you are cranking out product on a regular basis, so, you know, we--I--we spent $500,000 investigating Congress with 36 researchers. I could never do that at "60 Minutes" or The New York Times or any other major news organization. No one would ever do this.

And so--so, you know, I would have frustrations where I would want to--that's true of any reporter and any news organization, where you--you're like a bulldog with a--a bone, and you--you want to go a little further or chew on it a little longer. And, you know--and--and there are people that a--are actually running a business there, and they realize that it might be stupid and they tell you not to do it. So, I mean, I'm--I'm fairly philosophical about it, but I--you know, i--there's not a producer at "60 Minutes" that has not had disagreements, just like any other show or any other broadcast entity.

I mean, I--anyway, I--there are--we could talk for days. But--but, I mean, there are investigative things--you talk to any investigative reporter in the United States or around the world, and they can tell you stories that they weren't able to investigate. And, you know, that's why--to be perfectly candid, why the center is really a kick because we can investigate a subject for two or three years with dozens of researchers using all the latest technologies and do it in the best, pure way that you can possibly do it humanly.
LAMB: When people watch a program like "60 Minutes," are they getting an honest product?
Mr. LEWIS: I--I mean, I think that they're--they're--they're getting a product that they know that they're getting. It's a magazine. A magazine has a point of view. It's not Associated Press. It's a magazine. Like Newsweek or Time, it's written with--with a point of view to begin with. But you're getting it usually it--from the horse's mouth. Usually you'll have a newsmaker or some big name talking, sometimes frequently, for the first time. My pieces were investigative pieces, where I'd interview 100 people, and we'd put five on camera. And invariably someone would say, `We should have put someone else on camera,' or they would want it to be live instead of taped. I mean, you get into all those games.

But I think that as newsmagazines go--as the genre of newsmagazines go, "60" is the best. And I--I think--I think it is still the best, and--and I'm actually proud to have worked there.
LAMB: Whose idea was this cover?
Mr. LEWIS: That was Avon, the publisher. We wanted to do something w--you know, most Congress books have a big dome, you know, and we were trying to do something a little different.
LAMB: This is the book. It's called "The Buying Of The Congress." And our guest has been its author, Charles Lewis, Center for Public Integrity. Thank you very much.
Mr. LEWIS: Thank you.


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