Robert Torricelli, junior senator from New Jersey and the man leading the Democratic effort to regain the Senate, is on the move. Sitting in the back seat of a black Lincoln Town Car on the way to a speech at a Jersey shore hospital, he's discussing his success raising money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) he heads. At the end of 1999, his first year at the helm of the long-shot campaign to capture the Senate, the committee had 10 times as much cash on hand--nearly $11 million out of $25.5 million raised--as it had at the end of the previous off-year, 1997, leaving his organization with about $3 million more in the bank than the rival Republican committee. The Republicans have evidently met their match in Torricelli: a short, brash political counterpuncher, today sporting a well-tailored gray suit, his hair slicked back from a receding hairline, ready for the next fight. "We now have the best political operation in either party," he boasts.
The senator's aptitude for fundraising is legendary. So is his outsized personality. Imagine a hot-tempered Al D'Amato, Warren Beatty, and Mario Cuomo rolled into one; that'll give you some idea of the bundle of intelligence, charm, combativeness, and sound-bite savvy that is Robert Torricelli. A frequent guest on the Sunday morning talk shows, Torricelli also derives his celebrity status partly from the beautiful women he's dated, including such glamorous socialites as Bianca Jagger and, more recently, Patricia Duff, the ex-wife of billionaire Ron Perelman.
Even as he basks in the sort of Vanity Fair publicity usually reserved for minor Hollywood notables, Torricelli has escaped unharmed from allegations of dubious financial dealings, influence peddling, and illegal campaign contributions, including an ongoing Justice Department inquiry that's already targeted six of his donors but not the senator himself; the Justice task force is also exploring whether Asian funds were illegally funneled into his 1996 campaign, sources close to the case say. Indeed, on the same day last December that Torricelli waxed lyrical to his constituents about reforming public policy, one of his major donors, commodities broker David Chang, was shuffling into a second-floor Newark courtroom in shackles and handcuffs because he faced obstruction of justice charges in the campaign finance investigation. This latest probe comes at a bad time for the Democratic Party, with Vice President Al Gore's own presidential prospects clouded by new questions about Gore's knowledge of illegal 1996 fundraising.
None of this appears to have fazed the senator, who uses his casual brilliance and silver-tongued rhetoric to deflect allegations of impropriety. The Torch (as he's known) burns at a high intellectual wattage. He was picked last fall by Congressional Quarterly as one of the most effective "rhetorical warriors" and recently co-authored In Our Own Words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century, which sports an effusive introduction by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Much of the book came from an outline he improvised on a scratch pad on a red-eye flight after an L.A. fundraiser, evidence of the remarkable intelligence and grasp of history that enriches his impassioned advocacy of Democratic causes and candidates. He is strikingly articulate, even eloquent, writing his own speeches and often speaking without a prepared text.
About five minutes before he arrives at the Jersey Shore Medical Center, he needs only to glance at a background memo about health care and the hospital before he's absorbed it all. Standing at the podium in front of some 150 employees a few moments later, he doesn't even bother to look at his notes and easily wins over his audience. While he doesn't have the rich timbre or theatrical presence of a Cuomo or a Jesse Jackson, he has a lucid intelligence and flair for advocacy that make him an absorbing speaker. "There was a time in our country, a long time, when I was patient with [America's] problems, and I understood. A nation with $400 billion in annual deficits can't deal with its education or health care or child care problems. [But now] we're at a point where we're out of excuses." He launches into a pointed description of today's government prosperity, the surplus, the expanding economy, and then asks, pausing dramatically, "America, what's your excuse now?"
His case for social spending is compelling, delivered with a measured force that's almost too intense for the room. Inside the Beltway, Torricelli is viewed as perhaps the premier Democratic fundraiser for major donors; here at the Jersey shore hospital, he inspires rapt attention as he denounces public cynicism about politics: "If you believe that because some people spend a lot of money in politics you don't matter, there's only one thing I can say to you: You're wrong. Any political candidate can substitute a contributor who doesn't agree with him with one who does, but I've never met a public official who can substitute his constituents."
"Get in the system," he pleads. "If you cannot afford to get involved, you have something more powerful, the power of the vote. This government is still in our hands." He continues, Jesse Jackson-style, "Don't give up! Don't give up, don't give up on the system, don't give up on these issues, don't drop out--or you're giving the judgment to somebody else to make the choice in your life... ." He finishes to a long burst of applause from voters who feel for a moment empowered to add their voice to a political system that is, in fact, rigged against them.
A stirring speech, and yet a somewhat curious one coming from a man who has built a career in large part on his phenomenal ability to raise money from lucrative networks of affluent donors and sometimes questionable special interests. In his 1996 Senate race, he and his supporters raised over $9 million from about 20,000 "hard money" donors across the nation--facing down an opponent, Dick Zimmer, who had access to far more unregulated soft money. In one event last year, he raised $2.5 million in one night--a congressional record. The $25 million he and his DSCC staff raised in 1999 is up 130 percent from the same prepresidential period in 1995.
He's scheduled more fundraisers in more cities and recruited more senators to solicit money than any previous DSCC chairman. He's done it all while artfully blending the cultivation of donors and a strong political message with an aggressive willingness to make the needed pitches, enhanced at times with veiled intimidation. "He has the balls to let the business community know that if you don't give us the money, see what happens: We may not have the votes to pass your bills, but we sure as hell can kill them," says a former DSCC staffer. Such appeals are rarely phrased so bluntly. "It's subliminal: Cover your bases with us," another ex-staffer notes. But they contribute to a national solicitation climate that is "like being at the receiving end of a shakedown and extortion," says Charles Kolb, the president of the Committee for Economic Development, which organized over 200 business executives in favor of campaign finance reform.
Even some wealthy liberals who traditionally give to the DSCC are voicing quiet resentment at the new hard-edged approach Torricelli has brought to fundraising. "They started harassing me and saying, 'You can't come to our event at Martha's Vineyard unless you give a $5,000 [installment] now,'" says one.
But however he does it, Torricelli's flood of money boosts Democratic electoral hopes. At the DSCC reception desk, big gold letters confidently proclaim their goal: Take Back the Senate. With a 10-vote gap in the Senate, they need a net gain of at least five or six seats to have a winning majority. If they pick up a few seats, as expected, says Jennifer Duffy of The Cook Political Report, he'll get credit. If there's a Democratic majority, "it will be Saint Torricelli."
Indeed, the DSCC leadership bill themselves as idealists who, while favoring campaign reform, need money to spread the Democratic message and won't unilaterally disarm. As DSCC Executive Director Jamie Fox, Torricelli's former chief of staff, says, "We'll use the system to the utmost."
Sometimes history throws up the right man for the right time. If our current political era was wrought partly by checkbook policy making and the excesses of the 1996 Clinton campaign, then Torricelli is the man for the new zeitgeist. Under Torricelli's direction, borrowing a Republican scheme, the DSCC has added new ways to take advantage of the soft money loophole by setting up joint fundraising "victory funds" with Senate candidates in tough races. The best-known fund is the New York Senate 2000 committee, which took in more than $2.6 million last year and which has already benefited Hillary Clinton and her donors (she got TV ads while her biggest contributors received White House favors). As reported by U.S. News and World Report, two airplane equipment partners wrote $160,000 in checks to the DSCC's fund for Hillary, and President Clinton in turn asked the president of the European Commission to lower its standards to permit the donors' noise-reduction technology to be used on airplanes landing in Europe.
Such apparent quid pro quos feed political cynicism and push both parties into the arms of corporate interests. Common Cause reports that the national parties raised $108 million last year in soft money from such industries as telecommunications, securities, and insurance--all facing major legislation that could directly affect their businesses. Congressional party committees are thus considered a particularly good buy. "The DSCC has become a huge slush fund for special interests," says a former committee staffer. "And as long as a law isn't broken, Torricelli will push the limit."
" The money chase has neutered the policy performance of the Democratic Party," argues Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. Torricelli disagrees. For him, defeating Republican legislation means getting more Democratic votes; getting more Democratic votes requires getting more Democrats into Congress; and getting more Democrats into Congress requires raising more money than the Republicans.
The simple logic of this formulation is compelling. And it's even plausible that reducing the influence of money in politics requires the passage of campaign finance reform, which first requires winning a Democratic congressional majority--which, of course, requires raising money hand over fist. Yet when the pursuit of money becomes the driving engine of politics, policy reform tends to get sidelined and things can get ... sleazy.
Inside the upholstered quiet of his chauffeured Lincoln, Torricelli seems as removed from the grimy world of influence peddling as he is from the ugly Newark landscape he's leaving behind. "The overwhelming majority of funds raised for Democratic candidates represent no interest but just an individual person, family, or philosophical perspective," he says, bursting with admiration for these donors' good intentions.
And yet while the senator is hurtling down the New Jersey Turnpike speaking with articulate high-mindedness about public issues, one of these donors, David Chang is seeking bail after a weekend in jail following his arrest on obstruction of justice charges in the federal campaign finance probe. It's part of the same Justice Department inquiry that went after John Huang, Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie, and Gore's friend Maria Hsia, who were convicted of arranging illegal campaign donations to the Democratic Party, mostly in the 1996 campaign. In addition to Chang's arrest, the investigation has spawned charges against five other individuals--including three who pled guilty--accused of making illegal donations or other crimes related to Torricelli's 1996 Senate campaign. In December, Carmine Alampi, a Bergen County attorney who served on the Torricelli campaign's fundraising committee, admitted making illegal donations and aiding in laundering $11,000 from David Chang. (Chang's attorneys strongly proclaim his innocence and have attacked what they say have been the prosecutors' efforts to "squeeze" Chang for damaging information about Torricelli and other public officials, which they say Chang doesn't have.) The investigation expanded in March when sweeping subpoenas were issued to at least a dozen prominent fundraisers for Torricelli, The New York Times and the Bergen Record reported, focusing in part on whether his fundraising committee encouraged any violations of campaign law.
Torricelli's press spokesman and attorney have steadfastly maintained that the campaign can't be blamed for others' infractions. "It's not possible to raise money from 20,000 people and not have two or three of them violate some campaign regulation," Torricelli says. But the investigation could spell political trouble for Torricelli and the Democratic Party because in an unfortunate echo of the Trie and Huang investigations, prosecutors are seeking to determine if illegal Asian donations were funneled into Torricelli's 1996 campaign. "We want to know who Chang works for," a source close to the case says. "It would be irresponsible of us not to determine if money was coming through conduits." (For his part, Torricelli says, "They may have looked at it [illegal Asian donations], but they clearly rejected it," and claims that any accusations of foreign money laundering leveled at Chang are motivated by prejudice because he "happens to be of a different race.") As of this writing, a new indictment addressing campaign finance violations by Chang was expected around April 1, although his attorney didn't believe that it would accuse him of laundering foreign money.
" I'm living the life I always wanted to live," says Torricelli. "My ambition always was to be in politics." His talents have matched his ambition: Torricelli has won every political race he's ever entered, from fifth grade on. His interest in politics was sparked when his librarian mother, an ardent New Dealer, brought home records of speeches by FDR and Winston Churchill that he would listen to late at night. While other kids displayed posters of baseball players, his room had American flags and busts of Lincoln and Kennedy, and he painted his telephone red, white, and blue. While still in law school, he worked as an aide to New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne and then as counsel for Vice President Walter Mondale. By the time he was 30, in 1982, he had already launched his successful bid for Congress; tellingly, his first step was writing down the names of all the people he knew and the money he hoped to raise from them.
Yet for all his electoral and fundraising success, Torricelli has done relatively little in the way of writing major laws in the past 17 years, choosing instead to spend most of his time fundraising and narrowly responding to constituent and donor needs. "He's more interested in promoting power for himself than in legislation," says one congressional critic. (This year, though, he could gain more legislative credit if the bankruptcy and privacy bills he sponsored become law.) Torricelli points to his successful advocacy of gun background checks for people with domestic violence convictions. "It's the legislative achievement of which I'm personally most proud in the last several years," he says.
Unfortunately, it's also an achievement for which his senior New Jersey colleague, Senator Frank Lautenberg, also claims some credit, thus adding fuel to the raging feud between them. The most notorious blowup between the two senators occurred at a closed-door Senate Democratic caucus meeting last March. Lautenberg was angry when he read a local newspaper article that quoted Torricelli as saying that he felt closer to Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman--then a potential Republican Senate candidate--than he did to Lautenberg. So when Lautenberg chided him for the comment during Torricelli's briefing on upcoming Senate races, Torricelli responded by barking at Lautenberg, "You're a fucking piece of shit, and I'm going to cut your balls off." Torricelli doesn't deny the altercation but blames Lautenberg for confronting him in front of other senators; he also told me that Lautenberg "is an insecure individual, and it's led to a false sense of competition, and it [the feud] should not have happened."
His staff has suffered more than his Senate colleagues. His demanding standards and sometimes abusive manner have prompted former aides to call him "brutal" and a "terror," prone to using bullying and outbursts to get his way. George magazine reported that when a young hired driver got lost driving through inner-city Newark, Torricelli fired him on the spot, kicked him out of the car, and drove himself where he was going.
Yet he's also quite capable of being warm and supportive to chosen aides and friends, even changing one friend's flat tire himself while an incredulous young aide looked on. He is particularly gracious to contributors, chatting them up by phone while sometimes leaving the hard-sell pitches to his staff. He has an extremely devoted cadre of friends and supporters; it says something about the loyalty he inspires that his ex-wife, Susan Holloway, remains a top fundraiser.
Political reformers paint Torricelli as a craven water carrier for special interests. ("He comes across as someone who will do anything for anybody," says Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity.) But Torricelli is outraged at the notion that his advocacy is for sale: "We make legislative decisions based on what we think is in the best interest of the people of New Jersey and of the United States." Yet he naturally tends to favor those constituents who are also large donors.
Take his support of a controversial bill designed to limit asbestos liability lawsuits, promoted largely by the owners of a New Jersey-based firm, GAF Corporation, which faces about 100,000 lawsuits over asbestos. The company, its owner Samuel J. Heyman, and Heyman's family have spent over $4 million in lobbying and campaign donations since 1997 to push the bill, according to The New York Times. Torricelli's campaign and the DSCC received over $40,000 last year alone. Supporters say that the then-named Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act, co-sponsored in the Senate by Torricelli, would speed payment to the sickest victims and unclog a court system overwhelmed by litigation by setting up a new arbitration agency. Critics, including Ralph Nader's Public Citizen and New Jersey environmental and labor groups, say that it's a sham bill designed to delay payments and arbitrarily exclude as many as 80 percent of current claimants eligible for compensation. But since the bill's best-funded opponent has been one of the DSCC's biggest backers, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, whose members stand to lose millions in attorney fees, Torricelli has sought to portray his support of the bill as an act of political courage. "An honest man would write a story that indeed Torricelli has sponsored legislation that appears to be contrary to the financial interests of the DSCC," he tells me, adding, "It's less a conflict with unions and workers than with the trial lawyers." "Is there any division of opinion on the bill in New Jersey?" I ask. "None," he responds firmly, although local unions and environmentalists complained to him that the bill would bar compensation to many victims with toxic asbestos exposure.
Torricelli has also been faulted for his willingness to take money from groups with terrorist ties. "There were groups that were pretty scary, but if someone had the money, he'd find a way to help them," a former aide says.
As both congressman and senator, Torricelli has championed the cause of a revolutionary Iranian group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), identified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. Many Iranian-born MEK sympathizers have given Torricelli money ($136,000, according to one estimate), including $1,000 from Canada's chief MEK organizer, who wrote her check to Torricelli from her new home in Washington a week after an Ottawa court upheld her deportation, according to The American Spectator. Torricelli, in turn, sponsored several resolutions and letters supporting the group as a "democratic alternative" to the Muslim fundamentalist regime and protesting U.S. sanctions against it. The group's allies have given generously to other Democratic and Republican congressmen, too, including Indiana Republican Dan Burton and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's Victory Fund.
Last year, the Mujahedin advocacy group in America, the National Council of Resistance, was labeled an "alias for the MEK" by the State Department and barred from receiving any funds to operate on U.S. soil. The State Department is on solid ground. Although it portrays itself as a democratic grass-roots opposition, the MEK killed U.S. military attachés in the 1970s and called for restrictions on Jewish businesses; its military wing is based in armed camps in Iraq, backed by Saddam Hussein. In the past two years, it has openly claimed credit for the killing of three high-ranking members of the Iranian government, according to congressional testimony by then-Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk. Fears about Iranian terrorist-linked donors even led Torricelli's staff to joke among themselves about who would go outside to "start the car to see if it blows up," a source recalls.
Despite being pro-Israel, Torricelli has also managed to appeal to organizations with virulent anti-Semitic positions. In 1993, for instance, he was the keynote speaker at a banquet co-sponsored by the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), an organization identified by anti-terrorism experts and Israeli intelligence officials as the political front for the Hamas terrorist group. Torricelli sat on the dais next to Ahmed Bin Yousef, the head of UASR, who champions the Hamas cause. When attacked for his appearance at the banquet during his Senate campaign, Torricelli claimed in a news conference that he didn't know that the UASR was a sponsor or that it was tied to Hamas. Apparently he missed the front-page story in The New York Times several months earlier that exposed its alleged terrorist connections.
Torricelli is endlessly creative in trolling for support from ethnic communities. He founded a congressional Pakistani caucus and told a dinner hosted by a Pakistani-American PAC in 1996 exactly what they wanted to hear: "Pakistan cannot be intimidated into accepting nuclear nonproliferation as was attempted by the U.S. Congress."
Torricelli says that in this case, as in others where he's accused of flacking for dollars, "we have political contributors who are on both sides of those issues. I receive contributions from Pakistani Americans and Indian Americans, [asbestos] companies and the trial lawyers that oppose them." Case in point: He won strong support from a Holocaust-denying Muslim group that boasted about helping to defeat Torricelli's "pro-Zionist" opponent in the 1996 election--despite Torricelli's strong pro-Israel stance and extensive Jewish backing.
Torricelli's most outspoken ethnic supporters are anti-Castro Cuban Americans in New Jersey and Miami. But a report by the Center for Public Integrity suggests his anti-Castro stance may have been, at least initially, more opportunistic than principled. In the 1980s, he was a moderate on Cuba, even meeting with Castro in the late 1980s. After lobbying by the right-wing Cuban American National Foundation and related groups, Torricelli started to shift positions and received $120,000 in donations from leading anti-Castro exiles and their families between 1987 and 1996. By 1992 he introduced the Cuban Democracy Act, which sharply tightened the Cuban embargo he had once proposed softening. Today, he's also one of Elián Gonzalez's biggest supporters in Congress.
For Love and Money
Money isn't always the main reason he adopts a position. In 1989, after he was accused of having an affair with the wife of a major campaign donor, toy magnate and philanthropist Russell Berrie, Torricelli reportedly considered getting back at Berrie through tariff legislation that would have increased Berrie's import costs. Lautenberg, a friend of Berrie's, says he had to dissuade his New Jersey colleague from introducing the tariff measure. According to Lautenberg, thenRepresentative Torricelli "asked if I knew what Russ Berrie had done to him, and I said, well, it didn't matter, you couldn't use your legislative position to punish him for something he did to you personally. He got angry at me." That sparked a bitter division that led them to avoid speaking to each other for years, Lautenberg says, until Lautenberg decided to help Torricelli in his Senate race.
Ironically, Torricelli had introduced in 1987 and 1989 three bills designed to lower the tariff on unstuffed toys and dolls, legislation that would have benefited Berrie's company, The Wall Street Journal reported. When prices began rising for toy imports because of new trade rules, Berrie recalls, "I just said to him, 'Can you introduce legislation?'" But Berrie's friendship with Torricelli abruptly ended when he hired a private detective to track his wife Uni's suspected affairs, and discovered, he contends, that she was strolling hand in hand as lovers with Representative Torricelli; his name surfaced publicly during the Berries' bitter 1989 divorce. "It was really a double shock," Berrie says, since he'd been such a strong Torricelli supporter for years. A spokesman for Torricelli at the time acknowledged a "close personal friendship" between Torricelli and Mrs. Berrie, but denied an affair.
Feeling he'd been wronged because he'd been tailed, Torricelli got his vengeance in an unusual way, according to Senator Lautenberg: Torricelli obtained one of Berrie's desks and moved it into his own office. On the Senate floor, Lautenberg recalls, "He told me he'd bought Russ Berrie's desk from Russ Berrie's ex-wife and that he would write on the sonofabitch's back every day. He said it gleefully." Berrie doesn't know if Torricelli actually got his desk but does report that it was missing when he and his wife were dividing up their property. Torricelli declines to comment on--or even listen to--any questions regarding Berrie, but observes, "The entire thing is unfortunate."
Usually, though, Torricelli's relationships with his donors are much less tangled. For example, as part of a lavish lobbying campaign to get Congress to extend its patent on the allergy drug Claritin, New Jersey-based Schering-Plough donated $50,000 to the DSCC last May--and a day later, Torricelli introduced legislation that aimed to extend the patent for several drugs, including Claritin, which could cost consumers as much as an additional $7 billion for Claritin alone, according to an estimate by Public Citizen. Torricelli says the timing was a "coincidence" and defends the bill as needed to spur research on new drugs and fairly treat companies that faced long delays in FDA approval. He hotly insists that it isn't even a patent extension bill at all because it only establishes a new review process outside the FDA, although consumer groups deride it as rigged for drug companies.
A Role Model
"He likes material things and the finer things in life," one former associate observes, "and it's very hard to live that lifestyle if you don't have the money." But he's tried. Early in his career, according to a 1990 Common Cause report, Torricelli used his state PAC funds to buy meals, gifts, and membership at the Harvard Club, and ran up overdrafts at the House bank.
He's also benefited from a series of special stock deals not available to the general public. In 1992 he scored a $140,000 profit from the IPO of stock from a friend's bank; a few years later, he made $52,000 in one day from an IPO manipulated by a broker, Lawrence Penna, later convicted of stock fraud. Penna also pled guilty last year to making $20,000 in illegal donations to Torricelli. After the 1992 bank deal created a furor, Torricelli vowed to invest in mutual funds only and avoid IPOs, and announced, "My integrity is more important to me than profits."
And yet Torricelli, who in 1998 abandoned a blind trust he'd established to avoid conflict-of-interest problems, couldn't resist the opportunity to make another insider killing. The Asbury Park Press reported in January that Torricelli made a paper profit last year of over $200,000 from a $5,000 investment in a private Internet company later bought by a company that went public. He also snapped up stock in a diet-plan company before it planned to go public. While admitting he broke his pledge on stock investing, Torricelli argues, "I've been careful to follow ethical and Senate guidelines. The public offerings I invested in were available to every client of the firms involved." But they weren't available to the public and, as Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project comments, "IPOs have the strong flavor of a gift."
"Torricelli learned early that money is the fastest way to the seat of power," says a former aide. During his 1996 Senate campaign, frustrated by not getting the funding support he wanted from the Democratic Party, "[h]e bullied people: 'You get that money, come hell or high water,'" says one ex-staffer. Despite being outspent by as much as $4 million in Republican soft money in that campaign, Torricelli won the election. This showcased him as among the most effective fundraisers in Congress, and the Democratic Party decided it needed his skills. Minority Leader Tom Daschle made the freshman senator vice chairman of the DSCC in 1997, and then promoted him to chairman last year. (Torricelli's sights are set even higher: The New York Times reported in February that he's spreading word of his interest in the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket.)
The fundraising of Robert Torricelli may well turn out to be the fulcrum on which Democratic reconquest of the Senate rests (though a lot of other things would have to fall into place, too). But as questions mount about Torricelli's ethics and the illegal donations to his 1996 campaign, he could prove to be an embarrassment to the Senate leadership that anointed him as the best hope to regain the Senate.
In taking on this challenge, Torricelli risks reproducing the excesses--the win-at-all-costs mentality, the high-pressure fundraising tactics--that seem to be coming back from his 1996 Senate campaign to haunt him. Like his party's nominee Al Gore, he faces the delicate task of freeing himself of the taint of past scandals, avoiding any new ones, and keeping up with the Republican fundraising machinery in an anything-goes environment.
The Democratic National Committee is not raising as much money as its GOP counterpart; the Democratic congressional campaign committees, however, have raised more soft money than the Republicans. This has helped make the Torch a role model for the rest of the party. The executive director of the House campaign, which has so far raised even more money than the Senate campaign committee, is Torricelli's former campaign manager. "Torricelli is the future of Democratic Party campaigns and tactics," says one Washington observer.
What might that portend? Modeling the Democratic Party after Torricelli might very well make it a more well-funded party; it could also make it a more successful party in the short term by boosting its number of House and Senate seats. The senator himself sees his role as carrying the torch, so to speak, for the Democratic Party's grandest traditions. In the Senate office that once belonged to Robert Kennedy, he speaks of seeking to emulate RFK, one of the leaders featured in his book. "He was, as his brother John described himself, an idealist without illusions," Torricelli says. "A person can be tough, driven, ambitious, all unquestionable virtues if you're advancing good causes." But it's hard to imagine a Democratic Party dependent on special-interest fundraising delivering the kind of social and political reform that Torricelli addresses so eloquently in his speeches. If anything, such a party will yield more politicians like Robert Torricelli. ¤