Bradley's Scandals

"The King of Bundling"
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Bill Bradley has a reputation as a squeaky clean (and dull) politician, perhaps the Richard Lugar of the Left. He certainly was a great basketball player for a great team, the championship Knicks of the late 1960s. But even a brief inquiry into his years in the Senate shows that he shares many of the campaign financing sins that plauge Al Gore and his other rivals.

He also has not been scrutinized in any detail by the press or others, in part because no one took him seriously as a presidential candidate. That should all change soon.

Click on the allegation of your choice:

-- "The King of Bundling:" Pioneered ways to evade campaign finance laws
-- Accepted tons of free travel from special interests
-- Covered Up His Health Problems
-- Quotes
-- Sources

"The King of Bundling:" Pioneered ways to evade campaign finance laws

Bradley talks about the need for campaign finance reform, but in the Senate he actively worked to evade even the current loose limits on donations. The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) named him "The King of Bundling" in his last reelection campaign. Bundling is a way to evade campaign limits by having several people connected to each other donate the legal limit; a 6-year old may donate $1,000 to a campaign (the maximum) the same day that her parents each give $1,000, grandma and grandpa give a thousand, and dad's poker buddies all give $1,000. Or each partner of a law firm can donate $1,000 the same day.

As long as these people aren't reimbursed for their donations, it's legal. (Both the Dole/Kemp and Clinton/Gore campaigns got money in 1996 from people who were convicted of reimbursing associates for bundled contributions.) But even if technically legal, it's clear to the Congressmen who the money came from, and who they need to give respect -- or influence -- to in the future.

The CRP issued a report on bundling in 1990, the last time Bradley ran for political office. Even thought the limit for donations by a corporate PAC is $10,000, they found 29 cases where a company donated over $25,000 through bundling. 15 of those -- over half -- were donations to Bill Bradley, from special interests such as Walt Disney, Time-Warner, and Washington power law firm Skadden Arps. The next time you see favorable publicity about Bradley, remember that Walt Disney owns ABC-TV and Time-Warner owns about half of all media in America.

Bradley also received bundled gifts from 9 different investment banks and brokerage firms. He received nearly a million dollars in total donations from securities and commodities firms overall, and another $183,000 from commercial banks.

Accepted tons of free travel from special interests

Bill Bradley would have you think he was among the cleanest members of Congress, but he was among the very worst in accepting free trips (junkets) from special interests. From 1996 to mid-1997, the period studied by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, Bill Bradley had the 2nd worst record out of 535 Senators and Congresspeople, taking 29 different trips including one worth $10,000 to Switzerland. It's especialy striking since Bradley retired at the end of 1996, missing the last third of the period studied.

Covered Up His Health Problems

You'd think a former professional athlete could use his health and vigor as a selling point. But Bradley suffers from a potentially dangerous heart condition called "atrial fibrillation", in which the upper chambers of the heart contract too rapidly, basically racing out of control.

Bradley was forced to cancel an appearance in San Francisco on December 12, 1999 because of fibrillation. He went to Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, and was examined and released. This condition may or may not be caused by underlying heart disease; the Bradley campaign released a letter from Bradley's doctors saying that it was not in his case, and that the condition "does not, in any way, interfere with your ability to function."

Bradley's campaign also said that 2 million Americans suffer from this condition, among them former President George Bush during his term in the White House. Bardley takes the drug Procanbid twice daily to control the condition. Three times doctors had to use electric shock to reestablish his heart's rhythm.

While they minimized the condition, Bradley and his aides had kept it secret before this attack. He was diagnosed with fibrillation in 1996 and has had seven attacks since then. Naturally this makes us wonder what he may be hiding from us and why.

The health of presidents and presidential candidates can certainly affect their ability to lead. You'll recall that Paul Tsongas ran for president and essentially covered up the relapse of his cancer. Complications from his cancer treatments killed him on the final day of what would have been his first term in office; if he had been elected, and the pressure of the office had not sped up his death, he would at best have been in the last stages of dying from cancer during much of his term. We also now know that Ronald Reagan suffered from increasing Alzheimer's Disease during his presidency, though it was no secret that his aides ran many of the day to day details of the office.


"I've been out here struggling as a small-business man." -- Bill Bradley, who earned $2 million in 1998 for making speeches.


Quote -- "struggling": Wall Street Journal, May 21, 1999, "Washington Wire: Minor Memos" pA1

"The Buying of the Congress," by Charles Lewis and the Center for Public Integrity, (NY:Avon Books) 1997
travel -- p57-8; bundling -- p47.

"Bundles of Money: Biggest Contributions in the 1990 Elections", by the Center for Responsive Politics, 1990.

"2000 Presidential Candidate Bill Bradley" (donation profile), Center for Responsive Politics, online.

"Bradley's Heart Ailment Injects Health as Campaign Issue", by Michael Tackett, Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1999

"Bradley Moves to Dispel Fears About Heartbeat", by Bob Davis, Wall Street Journal, December 13, 1999 pA6

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