Saturday, April 14, 2007

Clinton offers reform plan, blasts Bush corruption

Clinton offers reform plan, blasts Bush corruption
By Brian Early

GOFFSTOWN, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed a series of steps on Friday to restore public faith in government after years of what she called "cronyism and corruption" in the Bush administration.

Clinton, the early Democratic leader in the 2008 race in national polls, promised to ban lobbying of her administration by former Cabinet officials, boost protections for whistle-blowers and end abuse of no-bid contracts.

In a speech in New Hampshire, which traditionally holds the first nominating primary in the White House race, the New York senator said President George W. Bush had shattered public confidence in government by promoting special interests and operating in secrecy.

"It's a stunning record of cronyism and corruption, incompetence and deception, and it has shaken the faith of many of Americans in our government," Clinton said of Bush.

She said she would make government more transparent by publishing budgets online and called for a Public Service Academy, modeled after military service academies, that would subsidize college education for graduates who commit to five years of public service.

Clinton said she would cut 500,000 government contractors over the next 10 years, at a savings $10 billion to $18 billion a year, and promised an initiative to track and make public the effectiveness of government programs.

"No one should be afraid to hold our government accountable," she said in the speech at St. Anselm College.

Before Clinton's speech, one of her top rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, issued a press release touting his own record on government reform both as a state legislator in Illinois and in the U.S. Senate.

Obama has moved into second place behind Clinton in national opinion polls and barely trailed her in recent fund-raising reports.

"Throughout his career, Barack Obama has been a leader in the fight for open and honest government," his campaign said.