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2000-03-17 00:18
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90-year-old Granny D walks across US to become a prophet and
scourge
ENI-00-0090

By Cheryl Heckler-Feltz
New York, 14 March (ENI)--A 90-year-old great-grandmother,
suffering from arthritis and emphysema, has completed a 14-month,
3200-mile (5100km) walk across the United States in a holy
crusade for the reform of politicians' massive spending in
election campaigns.

Doris Haddock, known affectionately as Granny D, claims that the
very soul of the nation is at risk if US citizens do not convince
their elected officials that political spending must be brought
under control.

While members of the two US governing chambers - the senate and
the congress - have struggled unsuccessfully for years to cap
spending by politicians in election campaigns, Granny D, from the
state of New Hampshire, has been consistently drawing attention
to the issue since 1 January 1999 when she set out from the West
Coast of the US.

In the past 15 years, presidential politics in America have
become known more and more as "a rich man's game". George W.
Bush, son of the former US president and now the man expected to
be the Republican party's candidate in the presidential election
to be held late this year, raised more than $50 million last year
in just the first few months of his campaign.

Neither Bush nor Vice President Al Gore - expected to be the
Democratic presidential candidate this year - share Granny D's
sweeping vision of reform. However, both their political parties
are coming under increased scrutiny and criticism for what is
considered political fundraising and campaign spending that are
out of control.

According to CNN television reporter Bruce Morton, "political
parties spend less money on making sure they are following the
[financial] rules throughout the campaign than they do on
balloons for election night".

Granny D is following a long tradition of religious crusaders
who have crossed America to prove a moral point. In the 1850s,
the reason was the abolition of slavery. In the 1960s, it was
peace. In the 1970s and 80s it was to raise awareness about
poverty.


In an interview with ENI after she completed her
transcontinental walk on 29 February on the steps of the Capitol,
home to the US legislature in Washington, Granny D said: "It just
sickened me to realise that a poor man has to sell his soul to
run for office. The Bible says we are all equals. It says we must
take care of the widows and orphans and those who don't have a
voice. Well, I believe most of us are losing our voices to the
power of big money. It's a form of bribery, and bribes subverts
the rights of many."

Granny D grew up in the Methodist Episcopal Church and became an
Episcopalian in 1930 when she got married. Her husband died in
1993, and soon after she lost another close friend to a terminal
illness.

Depressed and determined at the same time, Granny D "wanted to
do something to memorialise both of them. I also wanted to see
what it would be like to walk across the country.

"My son said: 'You can't just set out like that. You almost need
a cause'."

Granny D had her cause. "For years I'd been part of a group of
women who were trying to raise awareness about campaign finance,"
she said. "We simply got nowhere. So I decided to walk."

However she was, she told ENI, deeply disappointed by the lack
of response she received from individual churches during her
14-month journey. She sent many letters to congregations along
her route, but received only one letter in response.

At one recent stop, a pastor came up to her and said: "I got one
letter from you a year ago."

Granny D shot back: "Did you answer?"

"No," said the pastor. "But I'm here now."

Granny D started from Los Angeles, California, and walked an
average of ten miles (16km) a day. She had two simple goals - to
draw media attention to the problem, and to teach citizens how to
pressure their representatives to put limits on the amount and
type of contributions political candidates were allowed to
receive.

During her trip, she had to be hospitalised for dehydration in
the Mojave Desert. She walked in snow, rain and sleet, and
completed her 3000th mile on her 90th birthday, 24 January 2000.

"I have slept in the modest homes of Native Americans in the
Arizona deserts, and walked with children and senators, mayors
and vagabonds," she told one audience. "I have met elderly women
who have pressed their precious food into my hands, though they
themselves buy pet food to stretch their budgets."

Granny D, who has 12 great-grandchildren, told ENI: "I have met
and spent wonderful walking time, with so many, many wonderful
people of every race, every age, every income and political
persuasion. Through it all, I have yet to meet one person who
believes we should hand over our democracy to those who would use
their big dollars to take it from us. I have yet to talk with the
one man or woman or child who wants their senator to be beholden
to the special-interest cheque-writers who step in line in front
of us all, stealing our representation."

In the last 14 months, Granny D has peppered her speeches with
religious overtones: "Let these cold-blooded, Congressional
reptiles take, take, take special-interest money, " she said,
referring to the generous donations by big companies and lobby
groups to campaign funds. "We see through them and their
ridiculous and insulting argument that the constitution gives
anyone the right to shout us down and drown our voices with their
power. On the road so far, I have met people who know what this
country is all about and who would not subvert it for their own
greedy convenience. They have taken me into their homes and fed
me at their tables and shown me the children for whom they
sacrifice their lives and for whom they pray for a free and
gentle democracy.

"Only great leadership and great love can get us through the
times ahead," she said in one recent speech. "We must all take
our part in this great drama. It is more than politics; it is a
struggle of the soul, and it is exquisitely personal to each of
us.


"We all have different religions to guide us, but we share a
common civic belief: that we, as a great and free people, are
capable and duty-bound to manage our own governance.

"A flood of special-interest money has carried away our own
representatives and our own senators, and all that is left of
them -- at least for those of us who do not write $100 000
cheques -- are the shadows of their cardboard cut-outs. If you
doubt it, write a letter to them and see what rubber-stamp drivel
you get back. For all we know, they might all have died 10 years
ago and the same letters continue to be sent out.

"This is an important election year, and I don't think any of
us should spend too much time in our easy chairs. What's the
point of having a democracy, what's the point of all the blood
sacrifices that have been made for it, if we sit and just watch
other people muck it up on our television sets?"

? A political commentator, William Pfaff, has lamented the
failure of candidates John McCain (Republican) and Bill Bradley
(Democrat) in the race for the presidency. "Those two proposed
limited but significant remedies for the take-over of governing
institutions by corporate and private wealth," Pfaff wrote in a
commentary, "Money politics is winning the American election," in
the International Herald Tribune on 13 March. "The United States
has become a plutocracy in the dictionary definition of that
word, governed by wealth - mainly corporate wealth."

Pfaff said that Bradley and McCain were willing to challenge the
establishment, but lost - Bradley because he was a weak
candidate, McCain because he was an undisciplined one.

"The two provoked the system they challenged into an
unprecedented mobilisation of money and effort to save privileged
political access and influence, structurally connected to the
American system of conducting elections mainly through paid
television and radio advertising. Mr Bush, who began with $70
million in the bank for not only the primary campaign but also
the general election - far more money than any US candidate has
ever had - used it all up to defeat Mr McCain."