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'Granny D' brings campaign finance reform message here

February 06, 2000

Granny DBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

Doris Haddock photos




BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Doris Haddock has not let age, snow, arthritis or dehydration stop her methodical march toward the nation's capital in search of campaign finance reform.

Haddock, 90, has gained national attention since she began her trek in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, 1999. Now she has brought her cause to the Tri-State area, arriving here last week.

Haddock, who has walked and skied along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, will make stops in Williamsport, Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va., over the next couple of weeks.

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Known by the moniker "Granny D.," Haddock said she took up the somewhat arcane cause of campaign finance reform because she fears the country is falling under the domination of large corporations, unions and other moneyed interests.

"I'm doing it because I want my 12 great-grandchildren and all of the young people in this country to be brought up in a democracy of, by and for the people," she said.

Along the way, she has attracted attention and volunteers.

Nick Palumbo, who has been traveling with Haddock since the end of last summer, said he stumbled across her Web site (www.grannyd.com) in March while researching campaign finance reform.

"I was really taken aback by what I was reading," he said.

So the 26-year carpenter from Chicago saved his money the rest of the summer and quit his job to join the walk.

Jason Rhodes said he became interested in campaign finance reform while taking a lecture at Hendrix College given by former Sen. Dale Bumpers. Then he heard of Haddock on National Public Radio and saw her as she made her way through Arkansas.

Granny D on skisRhodes, 22, accompanies Haddock on foot and skis during her marathon, 6- and 7-hour days.

"Campaign finance reform" is a cause many purport to support but which means different things to different people.

To Haddock, it means an immediate ban on so-called "soft money," the unlimited, unregulated cash that flows into political parties and organizations from corporations, labor unions and individuals.

"It's a cancer on our society," she said.

Haddock said the federal government wastes hundreds of millions of dollars a year on tax breaks and special favors for rich companies that buy influence with campaign contributions.

"That has to be wiped out," she said.

But Haddock views banning soft money as a first step only. Ultimately, she said she would like to see public financing of all campaigns.

Haddock also is no fan of Buckley vs. Valeo, the Supreme Court decision that prohibited the government from placing spending limits on people who use their own money to advocate political ideas.

That gives wealthy Americans a louder voice than others, she said.

Haddock said she became interested in campaign finance reform about four years ago after discussing the issue in a group that calls itself the Tuesday Morning Academy in her hometown of Dublin, N.H.

Haddock said she desperately wanted to make a mark in the national debate. But as a retiree living off of Social Security and a small pension, she said she did not know how to do it.

Then, while driving with her son in Florida in 1998, she said she saw a man walking along the highway.

"I said, 'That's the way I'll do it,'" she said.

So Haddock took the next nine months to train for the arduous trip.

She began the journey at the Rose Bowl parade during the first day of 1999.

She's gotten logistical help along the way. AAA provided a suggested route. The advocacy group Common Cause provided volunteers. And West Virginia Secretary of State Ken Hechler bought her a camper out of his own pocket.

Now Haddock can focus on the walking, which she does while carrying a campaign finance reform flag.

John Anthony coordinated her walk from Common Cause's Washington office for about six months. Then he quit his job so he could walk with Haddock full time.

"It was an amazing, amazing ride," said Anthony, who recently returned to Washington and now works for another advocacy group, Public Campaign. "It's an unbelievable testament to her determination. She really does put a human face on an unsexy issue."

There have been challenges along the way. Haddock said the snow and hills of West Virginia have slowed her pace. More seriously, she was hospitalized for four days while navigating the Mojave Desert in California near the beginning of her campaign.

But none of it stopped her.

"They're all overridden by my passion for the message," she said.

Haddock had hoped to finish her walk by Jan. 24, the day she turned 90. But speaking engagements at high schools and colleges sidetracked her from her route and pushed the date back.

Now, Haddock plans to cross the Memorial Bridge from Arlington, Va., into Washington on Leap Day, Feb. 29. She will make a stop at the Lincoln Memorial before ending at the steps of the Capitol Building.

Haddock said she hopes her walk will generate enough pressure on Congress to change what she regards as a corrupt political system.

"We're letting it go down the drain with filthy money," she said.

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