Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. agreed Sunday that his call to an influential congressman to inquire about a campaign contributor's legal troubles smacked of the type of power politics that he is campaigning to end in his maverick bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. But he insisted he had done nothing inappropriate.
In an appearance on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley," the former California governor was asked if his call to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) about ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s problems with the FDA wasn't the sort of insider access he has been campaigning against. ICN, run by longtime Brown supporter Milan Panic, agreed to pay $400,000 to settle civil charges that it had violated federal laws in promoting the drug ribavirin as a treatment for AIDS. The incident was first reported by the Washington Post.
"Isn't this what you've been campaigning against--Washington insiders, political insiders having the ability to manipulate the system?" Sam Donaldson asked.
Brown replied: "Yes, you're right, you're right. . . . And that's exactly--because there's a disproportionate ability of those who know people who are rich and powerful opposed to the grass-roots people that don't have any power."
In an impromptu press conference afterward, Brown elaborated. "I know a lot of people," he said, noting that his father served as governor of California, his sister serves as state treasurer and he has met every U.S. President since Harry S. Truman. "I am on the inside and have a lot of access (to policy-makers). But what I want to do is construct a politics for the people who aren't on the inside so they can have more weight and more control over this society."
But Brown maintained that his call to Waxman was "totally appropriate."
"I've known the man for 20 years, and if I want to pick up the phone and call him to say: 'Hey, Henry, you know what's going on here?' I think that's totally appropriate. . . . I don't have any power over him."
Before returning to New York Sunday night, Brown touched down in Vermont for campaign appearances in Burlington and Montpelier.
* WHAT IS BROWN'S GOAL?: The candidate could be running to ride his cause of reform. A16