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tv   Nightline  ABC  September 5, 2012 11:35pm-12:00am PDT

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tonight on "nightline," the bill factor. he's back. former president bill clinton takes center stage at the democratic national convention throwing his mettle and star power on barack obama who joined him on stage after a rousing speech. big spenders. lavish parties. star-studded private concerts. not just speeches at the conventions. we investigate the high-rolling world of partying politicians, the rich donors, what all that cash can buy you. plus, the report card. the good, the bad, everything in between here at the convention. one guy who knows how to play the game and who's coming out on top. >> from the global resources of abc news, with cynthia mcfadden
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and bill weir in new york city and terry moran in charlotte, new york city, this is a special edition of "nightline." "your voice, your vote." the democratic national convention. good evening. i'm terry moran. and a momentous night here at the democratic national convention in charlotte, north carolina, where just a short time ago, bill clinton had this crowd eating out of his hands. it was a speech, a stem-winder that culminated in the remarkable moment when president barack obama joined him onstage, breaking precedent. the man clinton told the crowd they must re-elect. >> reporter: the big dog and the one. an extraordinary and historic moment. and what led up to it, tonight and over many years, just as extraordinary and just as historic. >> we are here to nominate a president.
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and i've got one in mind. >> reporter: bill clinton was back and democrats loved this moment. the 42nd president of the united states seized his prime time slot, burning joe biden into tomorrow, so that he, the man from hope, the comeback kid, bubba, whatever, he would be the one to formally nominate barack obama as the 44th president. >> i want barack obama to be the next president of the united states. and i proudly nominate him to be the standard-bearer of the democratic party. >> reporter: clinton held the delegates spellbound with that rare gift of his, speechmaking that is explanatory, down to earth and partisan. all at once. >> since 1961, our private economy has produced 66 million private sector jobs. so, what's the job score?
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republicans, 24 million. democrats, 42. >> reporter: praising what he sees as obama's willingness to work with his opponents, clinton demonstrated that light, deft touch that seeps lost in these times. >> president obama appointed several members of his cabinet even though they supported hillary in the primary. heck, he even appointed hillary. >> reporter: he made that argument by taking us all back to the future, recalling his own stewardship of the u.s. economy in the '90s when there was growth, jobs, balanced budgets, to make the case for barack obama. >> president obama started with a much weaker economy than i did. listen to me now, no president, no president, not me, not any of
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my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years. >> reporter: there was such drama in this moment beyond that stage. clinton, obama, 42 and 44, what a tangled relationship they have. >> both very competitive in their own ways. incredible leaders who are passionate about what they're doing. >> reporter: chicago mayor rahm emanuel served as white house chief of staff for president obama and as a top adviser to president clinton. >> president obama would show up in the morning on time, here's the brief, here's the core subject, i got it, give me the assumption. president clinton would call me 2:00 in the morning, we're still working on how we get these votes. >> reporter: that difference made things tricky, even tough between them. but is there a personality clash there? hot clinton, cool obama? >> no, please, let me say this.
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i have been in conversations with both with the other person, neither has said a bad thing about the other person. to me. >> they would? >> they would. no one has ever said anything negative. >> god bless you and god bless america. >> reporter: in 1992, the year bill clinton was soaring towards the white house, barack obama had just graduated from the harvard law school. but by 2008, it was obama who was soaring and threatening the clinton dynasty by taking on and taking down hillary clinton. >> you're likeable enough, hillary, no doubt. >> thank you. >> reporter: bill clinton was furious. >> this whole thing is the biggest fairy tale i've ever seen. >> reporter: who was hillary. >> shame on you barack obama. >> reporter: the fences mended slowly, but they mended. hillary became secretary of state and forged a close relationship with the president. while barack and bill never became buddy-buddy had something deeper, something rarer.
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>> there is that secret appreciation between presidents. you've been where other people haven't. when that crisis, that conflict, comes rushing through the doors and lands like a thud on the dense and all the fancy chiefs of staffs and advisers give you a guess, a hedge, only you, only your leadership, only your judgment, only your values, can make that decision. >> reporter: so maybe as bill clinton went on and on, some of the passion in his argument came from the solidarity shared by the men who have occupied the oval office. >> in the end we decide to champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honors. the cause of forming a more perfect union. my fellow americans, if that is what you want, if that is what you believe, you must vote and you must re-elect president barack obama. >> barack and bill there moments
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ago. a little breaking news behind me. we received word from the convention roll call, the state of ohio put president obama's number of delegates over the 2777, the number he needs officially to be the democrats' presidential nominee. so it is in fact official, president obama is the nominee of the democratic party. just ahead, the exclusive after-parties going on right now. only the most generous donors inside the high-rolling side of the convention that the politicians don't want you to see. you know why i sell tools? tools are uncomplicated.
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so one of the major themes at this convention tonight was corporate ceos, lobbyists rigging the game. one of the reasons, one of the most popular speakers in this party, elizabeth warren, senate candidate of massachusetts, drove the point home with these comments. >> wall street ceos, the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs, still strut around congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. >> so there's a lot of that 1% bashing happening on the floor. but outside these convention walls and at the republican convention as well, it's a swanky party circuit that caters only to the very wealthiest political donors. abc's brian ross takes us inside. >> reporter: for both the democrats and the republicans, the conventions have been
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expensive and extravagant. with no sign of economic hard times in the settings of lavish parties and insider access for the highest bidders. some of them very unhappy to see abc news. >> who are you? >> we're with abc news. >> the grossest we've seen until 2016. >> reporter: the grossest? >> yeah. >> reporter: most of it is being paid by the superrich. many of whom flew into tampa and charlotte in vip superjets. one of them, convicted lobbyist jack abramoff. >> the people who want something back. they're doing it because they have an agenda. >> reporter: in charlotte, where the corporate headquarters of duke energy dominates the skyline, the company's money is dominating the convention. duke's ceo pledged not only to
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raise $47 million for the convention itself, the company is also helping to pay for a series of lavish events all over town that most delegates will never see, including this invitation-only concert with pop singer john legend for all the swinging and swaying, there's much more to it. >> it's about having the ability to cozy up to people important to you and your business. >> reporter: in the case of duke energy's business, the company has received more than $200 million in federal energy grants and loans from the obama administration, and the recent approval of a major merger. but duke energy says that is in no way connected to the millions of dollars its ceo jim rogers pledged to raise for the democrats, or the $100,000 he has given personally. it's about promoting his hometown charlotte, according to duke energy. when we went to duke corporate headquarters where rogers was hosting a private party, we were turned away, told our cameras represented a security threat.
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>> no cameras allowed here? >> no. >> because? >> it's just our policy. >> reporter: we received the same policy in tampa, from at&t which took over this restaurant directly across from the republican convention forum for a week-long event for the republicans. >> this is private pop. >> reporter: employees tried to hide the sign with the names of honored public officials. we were told to turn off our cameras or face arrest. for both parties, the intersection of money and power is a busy, often ugly place. >> there's no shame in what they're doing, there's pride. >> reporter: harvard law professor author of "republic lost." >> as you raise money a fraction above the 1%, our congress becomes dependent on that. >> what's the effect on policy? >> well, in a thousand ways, you know, buried inside of bills, you begin to see policy shifting in a direction that makes sense from a perspective of money but
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doesn't make sense with the perspective of the people. >> reporter: both parties go to great lengths to treat the big-money people like great royalty, often in secrecy. in tampa, republicans used this yacht registered in the grand cayman eye hands to honor the elite fund-raisers who brought in more than $1 million, known as the romney victory council. the romney campaign keeps their names secret, as allowed by federal law. how much money have you planned to raise? >> i'm sorry, i don't really have time. >> reporter: and secrecy seemed to be the order of the day, making it hard to know what the big fund-raisers might want for all their money if romney wins. what's your name, sir? >> why? >> reporter: can't say your name? are you embarrassed about being here, won't give your name? >> no, not at all. i've got to run, thank you. >> reporter: after we posted his pictures online, readers of identified him as ray washburn, a wealthy dallas businessman. >> in america today we have two elections. it's the money election and the
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general election. the only way you get to run in the general election is to do extremely well in the money election. >> reporter: the superrich democrats can keep their names secret, too, if they give money to one of the newly formed super funds outside advocacy groups including one started by president obama's former deputy press secretary bill burton. >> as soon as karl rove and the coke brothers decide to disclose their donors we'll do the exact same thing. >> reporter: finally, in addition to the perks and access big fund-raisers know there are jobs to be had. among the fund-raisers this week, raz fernando. he was named to the advisory board but resigned last year shortly after abc news asked about his qualifications to be on the board. it was not something fernando wanted to talk about. >> who are you? >> this is abc news. >> reporter: and once again, we were ordered to turn off our cameras, stop asking questions
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or face arrest. >> you'll be arrested. >> i'll be arrested for asking questions of this man? >> please leave. >> the supreme court says all this spending is protected by the first amendment as free speech. while leaders of both parties acknowledge the system is out of control like an arms race, no one is willing to be the first one to stop and give the other side a competitive advantage. >> great reporting, brian. one of the real stories going on here. thanks very much. we'll be right back, stay with us. stay with us. and grow. at wells fargo, we believe you can never underestimate the power of a conversation. it's this exchange of ideas that helps you move ahead with confidence. so when the conversation turns to your financial goals... turn to us. if you need anything else, let me know. [ female announcer ] wells fargo. together we'll go far.
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so tonight, the democrats had their work cut out for them, trying to build the enthusiasm, might be missing out there on the grassroots is building in the hall today, pass the high marks or did they fail? we asked matt dowd, chief strategist for the 2004 bush/cheney campaign and abc news consultant. let's grade what happened tonight. first, the big dog with the big speech. >> big speech, "a." he can give a speech. part professor, part preacher, he loves doing it, the crowd loves him, "a," overall "a" on that speech. >> as a political professional, you see him go on and on, i've been told the teleprompter operators when he ad libs go frantic. >> most people want him to keep going. whether or not you agree with
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him or disagree with him. you love to listen to that. as if you're listening to the radio 75 years ago. you want it to keep going. >> 20 years ago he won the presidency on the slogan, james carville's line, it's the economy, stupid. that's the issue in this election. how'd he do on that? >> i would give him a "b" on that. i think his job is to connect better with barack obama and what barack obama's argument needed to make. he started it, he gave a chunk of it. i thought he spent too much time on some of the other things. medicare, the debt, not enough time on the number one issue. >> because obama does need that, that sense of, what is the plan? what is the economic vision that he's got? the positive vision that people would vote for. and clinton didn't really fill in those blanks. >> everybody in this hall, when asked are you better off now than four years ago, they said yes. if you ask the voters who are ultimately going to decide this in ohio, michigan, the undecided voters in virginia, they're not going to say yes. they're going to say, not so much. he didn't bridge that gap.
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>> a little bit lower marks on the economy. finally, one of the jobs he had, take the bat to the other side a little bit. red meat, throw out the partisan lines. how did he handle that? as an ex-president and democrat? >> in two ways he gets an "a" on that. first just walking out onstage creates enthusiasm this crowd wanted to have. just his presence, who he is, what he means to the party is an "a." the way he delivered it. the way he made fun of the republicans. the way he did it, the tone, the way he delivered it. the serious points he made on it. and the issues, confronting them on telling the truth, i thought the crowd loved it. i think the democrats love it. i think he closed to a large degree that enthusiasm gap. doesn't solve the election but he started to close that gap which was a huge thing he needed to do tonight. >> he did add a little humor too. >> he didn't enter a single social issue. those might have appealed to the crowd, he didn't mention a single social issue. he did it all with economic and fiscal issues. >> the astute matt dowd


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