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Granny D talks to BBC News Online
"This is not a democracy"
 real 28k

banner Friday, 14 January, 2000, 14:26 GMT
Granny D's long walk for reform

Granny D: A long walk, but someone's gotta do it

By News Online's Joe Havely

For 89-year old Doris "Granny D" Haddock, the defence of American democracy is one cause she is prepared to go a long way for.

Granny D says she has been overwhelmed by support
All the way from California to Washington DC to be exact - on foot.

Granny D says the democratic process is under threat from big money interests buying out America's politicians.

To draw attention to her cause, since 1 January last year she has been walking across the United States, 10 miles a day, six days a week, earning herself the nickname "the energizer granny".

BBC News Online caught up with her on her cellphone in Morgantown West Virginia, just before she set out for her daily hike.

Granny D's walk
1 Jan 1999: Leaves Pasadena California
29 Feb 2000: Projected arrival in Washington DC
This granny-with-a-mission says that the amount of money being thrown about in the current presidential campaign - already one of the most dollar-dominated in history - is "obscene".

"This country has become one in which - in order to run for office - a poor man has to sell his soul; or he has to be a multimillionaire," says Granny D. "That is not a democracy."

States of apathy

She dismisses pollsters suggestions that campaign financing is not a priority issue for American voters and points to a plummeting electoral turnout as evidence of a crisis of the nation's confidence in its leadership.

Supporters say big money interests are undermining democracy
"The apathy that we find in our country indicates that they are worried," she says, "they are distracted [and] they are desperate for something to be done."

"Their attitude is that all politicians are crooks. Of course, we know that isn't true, but it gives you the feeling that so much money is being raised in order to run that it's just not right - it's not a democracy."

She is pressing Congress to plug the loopholes in current campaign laws which allow millions of dollars in unregulated so-called "soft money" from corporations, labour unions and interest groups to influence political campaigns.

Analysts expect that a record half a billion dollars in soft money contributions will have been raised and spent by the end of the 2000 election.

I pledge my vote and full procedural support to ban soft money - the $100,000 contributions to state and federal political races that undermine our democracy
Granny D's campaign pledge for prospective candidates
Critics, Granny D among them, say that such amounts are not given without some sort of favour expected in return, meaning that wealthy interest groups are effectively "buying America's public officials wholesale".

With about 200 miles left to go - barring a quick detour to New Hampshire in time for the presidential primaries - Granny D is planning to bring her message to Washington and the nation's political establishment on 29 February.

By then she will have entered her tenth decade.

Campaigning figure

Granny D: 'The energizer granny'
Along the way she has been assisted by local members of the campaign finance lobbying group Common Cause. But, she says, hundreds of others have turned out to offer help or encouragement, providing free accommodation and food and even fixing her support car at no expense.

"People I meet say 'you are walking for me Granny D and I thoroughly believe in what you are doing'" she says.

Granny D says she took her inspiration from the Peace Pilgrim of the 1950s - a woman named Mildred Morgan who walked across the US no less than seven times in the name of world peace.

"We don't know anything about his ideals or what he stands for. Apparently he stands for being able to raise a lot of money.
Granny D on Republican contender George W Bush
At about the same time the young Granny D was organising protests against Project Chariot - a proposal, backed by the atomic scientist Dr Edward Teller, to create a deepwater harbour on the Alaskan coast through the "peaceful" detonation of a 2.4 megaton nuclear bomb.

Her current campaign - backed up by her website, - has attracted attention from across the political spectrum.

'An American problem'

She plans to cross the 3,000-mile mark on her 90th birthday
Two presidential contenders, Democrat Bill Bradley and Republican John McCain - both of whom have made finance reform a centrepiece of their campaigns - have both given their backing.

Last year she was also invited to address the Reform Party convention, stealing the show from former WCW wrestler and now Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura.

Granny D herself won't be drawn on who will get her vote this November.

"The problem that I have is an American problem," she says. "It has nothing to do with whether you're a Republican or a Democrat - they have all taken soft money."

"I'm doing this not because I'm trying to bash the corporations and the unions. I'm doing it because this is an American problem which we all must suffer."

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14 Jan 00 |  Vote USA 2000
Q&A: Big bucks politics

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