Brown says he'll go on fighting Californian keeps distance from ticket DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

July 16, 1992|By Jules Witcover | Jules Witcover,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Former Gov. Jerry Brown of California, still declining to formally endorse Gov. Bill Clinton, had his name placed in nomination for president last night, pledging to keep fighting to gain "power for the powerless" and to reform politics in the Democratic Party and the country.

Throughout his speech, Mr. Brown never mentioned the Arkansas governor; the closest he came to indicating support for the Clinton-Gore ticket came at the end, when he said: "I intend to fight for this party tonight, tomorrow and every year. . . . As we join together, no obstacle will stand in our way."

The words suggested a continued Brown political reform effort beyond the 1992 campaign. "Power for the powerless we came to create, and that power we will create no matter how long it takes," he said.

As throughout his low-budget campaign, Mr. Brown hammered at the influence of money in politics, warning that unless what he called the current system of "unchecked power and privilege" that money buys is changed, "nothing will ever change."

He attacked federal bailouts of failed savings and loans and corporate subsidies, saying that President Bush blames the aid for dependent children (AFDC) program for the nation's ills while giving another kind of "AFDC: aid for financially dependent corporations."

Mr. Brown deplored the presence of homeless who "had to be swept from sight" so as not to be an eyesore on the streets outside Madison Square Garden while the federal government feeds a "bloated" arms industry, financing weapons systems no longer needed with the Cold War at an end.

The former California governor recounted his years as an effective fund-raiser in the governorship and later as his state's party chairman, raising millions. "But victory still eluded us," he said. "In my heart I knew, and I know now, it was not lack of money. There was not enough and there never will be enough to buy back the loyalty of disillusioned voters."

Mr. Brown called on his party to demand a rollback in congressional pay raises as a way to convince voters that "we're all in it together" in the effort to take money out of politics. And he took a swipe at prospective independent candidate Ross Perot and his promise to spend $100 million or more of his own money to "buy," as Mr. Perot has put it, the election "for the American people."

"Let's not get fooled by the false populism," he said. Beyond the buying of television time, he said, "there is no such thing as a billion-dollar populist." And speaking directly to the wealthy Texan, he added: "We can pay for our own democracy. We don't need you to lend it to us."

Mr. Brown's speech following his name's being placed in nomination was unusual, but it was his only opportunity to address the convention once he declined to endorse Mr. Clinton in advance. Democratic National Chairman Ronald H. Brown made such an endorsement a prerequisite for a place on the regular agenda -- a ruling that the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson accepted but Mr. Brown would not.

To the end, the Brown supporters on the floor staged mild protests by pumping signs that said simply "Not!" and walking around with adhesive tape or gauze gags over their mouths to symbolize the denial of a regular slot for their candidate. When he finally spoke, they cheered loudly, but the fight seemed to be out of them by this point.

Earlier, the convention, by a voice vote, resoundingly rejected a Brown-sponsored minority report proposing a midterm national party conference in the summer of 1994 to review the "institutional role" and the "future mission" of the party, including campaign finance reform.

The Brown proposal called for "alternative ways to fund campaigns which would put a premium on small donations" and "self-imposed campaign contributions and limits" -- in keeping with his own 1992 campaign limit of $100.

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