Share this article

print logo


Presidential debate officials said Tuesday that their moderator, Jim Lehrer, will not use videotapes, voice-overs or display screens as were employed in the U.S. Senate debate in Buffalo last week.

Props, such as the soft-money pledge produced by Rep. Rick A. Lazio in the Buffalo debate, will be disallowed by Lehrer, said former Democratic Chairman Paul Kirk, co-chairman of the nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates.

"Any candidate who violates the rules of these debates will pay an enormous political price," warned Frank Fahrenkopf, former Republican national chairman, who is Kirk's co-chairman on the debate commission.

Lazio, R-Babylon, and Hillary Rodham Clinton agreed in advance they would not use such props in their debate last week. NBC's Tim Russert, the moderator in Buffalo, did not cite or criticize Lazio for the rule violation on camera.

Aides to Russert said later that he had no responsibility to enforce rules on the air.

Lehrer, who anchors the nightly PBS "NewsHour," was chosen to moderate all three presidential debates because of his impartiality, Kirk and Fahrenkopf said.

Their moderator, Fahrenkopf said, "has to be someone who is not going to be competing with the candidates and not question the candidates in such a manner as to throw them off."

The commission also announced Tuesday that CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw will moderate the Oct. 5 talk-show-style debate between vice presidential candidates Joseph I. Lieberman and Dick Cheney.

Lazio's challenge to Clinton that she reject any soft money continued to reverberate Tuesday, as she said Lazio had not persuaded his independent allies to get out of the campaign.

And Republican Gov. George E. Pataki, visiting Washington, challenged Clinton to sign the pledge and suggested that the news media were shielding her from criticism.

Pataki said the Republican Leadership Council, of which he is a director, will withdraw from the New York Senate race as soon as Clinton signs the pledge.

"I'm amazed she is able to get away with saying she wants soft money banned but refuses to take that action herself," the governor said. "I would hope that the press would hold her accountable."

The Republican Leadership Council, which uses soft money -- a form of contribution that allows unlimited corporate gifts that are difficult to track -- paid for a controversial ad that implied that Lazio and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., were close allies.

Lazio produced the proposed "pledge" document on camera last week in response to a question proposed from the audience by Mark E. Hamister, an executive with interests in Buffalo-area nursing homes, professional sports and storage facilities.

Hamister told The Buffalo News he "would rather that Lazio kept that pledge form in his pocket." A debate guest of WGRZ-TV, Hamister said he proposed the question "because I am sick and tired of paying contributions and soft money to candidates."

He said he gave $12,000 to Democrats, including Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, last year, as well as $13,000 to such Republicans as County Executive Joel A. Giambra.

Hamister's was one of about 60 questions reviewed prior to the broadcast by Russert, Betsy Fisher, one of his aides, and Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, director of new media for The News.

Meanwhile, the Lazio campaign announced Tuesday that it is closing its "Friends of Rick Lazio" soft-money committee. Campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said the remaining money was being refunded to donors.

The Clinton campaign had called the committee a symbol of Lazio's "hypocrisy" in light of his ban on soft money and said Lazio had failed to withdraw all his soft-money partners from the campaign, as he promised.

There are no comments - be the first to comment