Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - The so-called Bradley-McCain campaign finance reform summit produced a chorus of criticism directed at both presidential aspirants on Thursday. The meeting in Claremont, NH, was at the same location where, four years ago, President Bill Clinton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich shook hands after pledging to reform the system. Nothing ever came of their 1996 expressed commitment.
Vice President Al Gore's campaign distributed a two-page document detailing Bradley's record on campaign finance reform. While insisting the former New Jersey Senator failed to address the issue until 1996, the last year of his 18-year Senate career, Gore forces insisted the vice president has advocated reform for 20 years.
Gore also accused Bradley of being "the king of bundling" while in the senate and even now. According to the Gore statement, Bradley has received and accepted more bundled contributions than any other presidential hopeful.
Bundling is a process by which corporate officials coordinate their contributions, making them legal. The Gore campaign contends Bradley used bundling during his presidential campaign to obtain nearly $210,000 from employees of Goldman Sachs, a large Wall Street investment firm.
According to the Gore campaign, Bradley was number two, as a senator, in terms of campaign contributions received from pharmaceutical industry PACS and worked with drug companies to insure that lower cost generic drugs were kept off the market.
"Senator Bradley's approach to campaign finance reform is do as I say, not as I do," said Doug Hattaway, Gore's New Hampshire press secretary. "Bradley's staging a media event to bask in the glow of John McCain," Hattaway said. "When Bradley had the chance to be a leader on this issue, he didn't lift a finger."
Hattaway contends the real issue is how much special interest money Bradley spent in his past Senate campaigns and the amount he is spending in his quest for the White House.
Meanwhile, a Bradley campaign spokesman said over the last four years, and since the Clinton-Gingrich handshake, nothing has changed in dealing with campaign finance reform. "There has been no leadership by the Clinton-Gore Administration on this matter," said Bradley spokesman Moe Ellithee.
The campaign also has accused the vice president of "being wedded to the ways of Washington... On the campaign trail, the vice president pays lip service to reform, but that's all he pays."
While Bradley came in for the sharpest criticism, McCain also received his share.
New Hampshire US Senator Judd Gregg, who serves as Bush's Granite State chairman, accused McCain of wanting to destroy the Republican Party which would result if the McCain-Feingold Bill became law.
Gregg contends the legislation is unconstitutional, since it outlaws soft money contributions to political parties. The senator said the legislation would benefit the Democrats and big labor, while jeopardizing Republicans and conservatives.
"This event could be a big mistake for McCain," said one prominent Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He's appearing on the same stage with Bradley, who just spent time taking swipes at Bush... That could cost him (McCain) with Republican voters."
Both Democrats and Republicans agreed on Wednesday that the event could mean the loss of Independent support to at least one of the candidates. Forty percent of New Hampshire voters are self-described independents and both candidates have made active plays for that vote.