What Went Wrong and Why
Author: Elizabeth Drew
Publisher: The Overlook Press
May 2000

>From the DDC:
The author certainly makes the case for the campaign finance corruption of American politics. However, like all Washington media insiders, Drew doesn't have the courage to touch the third rail of American politics -- the stranglehold on democracy by the two-party system -- or the socialist growth of government and its destructive impact on society.

>From the Publisher:
In this revelatory book that takes you behind the scenes and headlines, distinguished and highly respected Washington reporter Elizabeth Drew draws on her superb skills to detail precisely how money and ideology, and a lower quality of politicians and lower standards of political behavior, have corrupted and debased American politics over the past twenty-five years. She demonstrates the stark differences in our politics between the immediate post-Watergate period, when Americans eventually gained fresh confidence in their government and enacted a sweeping law to reform the campaign financing system, and twenty-five years later, when confidence in government and in those who govern is dangerously low. And she shows how the campaign finance system has been utterly destroyed.

She explains why there has been a steep decline in statesmanship and leadership and civility and a sharp rise in partisanship. She goes beneath the surface in the impeachment of President Clinton, and shows how the changes in our political system defined what happened.

She describes how the changes in our politics affected the hearings held by Senator Fred Thompson on the campaign finance scandals of 1996--the worst yet--and details for the first time how the political interests of both the Republicans and the Clinton White House and the interest groups that would be affected fought the inquiry and brought it to an end. She demonstrates the historical importance of their ability to stymie a legitimate and critical inquiry and secretly block the wishes of the majorities in both chambers that support reform.

Drew makes a powerful case against the widespread belief that "the people don't care" about reform of the campaign finance system.

Wise, insightful, and fascinating, The Corruption of American Politics is an astonishingly timely book.

What People Are Saying:
One of our wisest and most acute observers of the Washington scene turns her formidable skill on the current American predicament and how we got here. The Corruption of American Politics is a deft and original work, combining a devastating critique with strong reasons to be hopeful about our uture. -Michael Beschloss

This is a truly important book. In a compelling narrative style, Elizabeth Drew sets out not just what went wrong with American politics, but why, and offers concrete answers on how to fix it. Anyone who had an uneasy feeling about the state of our political life and of political leadership will find both an incisive analysis of the problem and a prescription for change. -Arianna Huffington

I'm a long-time fan of Elizabeth Drew. No one writes more accurately or entertainingly about the mess of American politics. She finds stuff nobody else finds and she knows how to put it together. This is her best book. Read it. -Warren Beatty

>From the Critics:
>From Library Journal:
What Rachel Carson was to the nascent environmental movement of the 1960s, Drew is to the campaign finance reform movement of the 1990s. This distinguished journalist and author (e.g., Showdown, LJ 3/15/96) has written a profoundly important and disturbing work chronicling the corruption of American politics at the end of the century. Relying on insider accounts and extensive interviewing, Drew paints a portrait of the evil effect of big money on the political system. Beyond that, she offers a laundry list of other flaws in the political process: the decline of civility, the rise of hyperpartisanship, the rise of a harsh and divisive ultra-right-wing religious minority, the shrinking of statesmanship, and the rise of zealots to important leadership positions. In spite of the corrosive impact of these cancers, Drew is somewhat optimistic about the future: if only the people would awaken. Elegant, magisterial, and persuasive, this book establishes Drew as the political conscience of the nation. Highly recommended for all libraries.--Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

>From Publisher's Weekly:
Thirteen years after the publication of Politics and Money, Drew returns to the role of money in politics and finds that the combination has grown even more toxic. Drew, a longtime political correspondent for the New Yorker, examines the 1996 and 1998 elections and the effects of unrestricted "soft money," funds controlled by the political parties and not by any particular campaign. Drew is hardly the first to complain that the influence of large businesses and lobbying groups leaves politicians with little incentive to promote the public good over corporate welfare. But she goes beyond this old political verity to argue that the prevalence of soft money has lowered the quality of leadership in Washington. The most successful politicians are no longer the best executives or the best legislators, she says, but rather the best fund-raisers. Candidates risk forfeiting a substantial war chest if they let conviction persuade them to defy the will of their party bosses, because the political parties control soft money. As Drew leads readers through reform initiatives in the House and Senate (Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson, who chaired campaign finance hearings in the Senate, is presented favorably), she shows how reform was shot down by powerful special interest groups and the leaders of both parties. Drew evidently has a potent Rolodex: a great number of people spoke to her with unusual candor. Her talent for transforming the dry world of filibusters and poison-pill amendments into political drama makes her book one of the most skillfully written, as well as insightful, looks inside the Beltway to appear in a very long time. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

>From Kirkus Reviews:
An up-to-date indictment of an oft-charged institution. A distinguished political journalist, Drew (Showdown, 1996, etc.), formerly with the New Yorker, observes the cesspool of American politics for a living. She argues that politics and politicians have degenerated over the last two decades and that this perception is not just conventional grouching about really is true. Much of what she describes is familiar: the disrespect for public service engendered by constant attacks on government; the mindless partisanship that has poisoned efforts to legislate; and the overriding importance of money, money, money. But Drew pursues these themes in the context of recent events, providing bluntly honest versions of the failed attempts to reform campaign finance and to remove the president from office. The former features two hapless heroes, senators Fred Thompson and John McCain, whose efforts illustrate the loneliness of "being a reformer in an institution that doesn't want to be reformed" and the utter intransigence of congressional leaders zealously defending their advantaged positions. Not even a quixotic champion can be found in the impeachment saga, of course, for in it "an unworthy man overmatched zealous foes who showed no sense of boundaries or proportion." Anyone shocked by Drew's revelations has been seriously out of touch with reality, yet the ease with which genuine reform is brushed aside indicates a continued reluctance to recognize that the appalling facts of electoral politics in this country really do matter for the lives of private citizens. This is not, however, a fundamentally pessimistic book. Drew believes there is public interest in reform and that even today's politicians will respond to voters as well as donors if citizens stop assuming that government is inherently evil and start expecting more from officeholders. Should be required reading for anyone who doubts the corrupting impact of money, partisanship, and antigovernment rhetoric in contemporary American politics.