Tag Archives: Corporate Political Spending

Step 1: Raise the debt ceiling. Step 2: Cut spending. It doesn’t work the other way.

So I called up my bank today and told them, “we have a spending problem here, and we need to do something about it.”  I told them, “my credit card is maxed, my spending is out of control, I mean look at my statement, $29 at Panda Express, $45 at Holiday, $20 bucks for a haircut?  Unless the bank does something about my spending problem, I am not going to be paying my mortgage or my Visa bill anymore.”

Silence.

Sounds pretty ridiculous doesn’t it?  But that is exactly what Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are doing about the debt ceiling.  The debt ceiling isn’t for future spending, it is for past spending.  Congress has already agreed to spend that money, and now Republicans are basically calling up taxpayers and saying, Congress has a spending problem, and the only way we can do anything about it is to become deadbeats and do what Donald Trump keeps doing and just quit paying the bills.  Sounds pretty ridiculous doesn’t it?

Here’s how you fix it.  Step one: raise the debt ceiling to account for what you have already spent.  Step two: cut future spending so you don’t have to worry about the debt ceiling anymore.  Hello? McFLy??

It isn’t that difficult.  Well maybe you need a step 1-1/2, get corporate money out of politics so politicians don’t spend money on crap to keep donors happy.

Advertisements

An epiphany about political involvement – money has to get out of politics

I’ve had two epiphanies about politics in the last week. First, politics is too time consuming. Shocking I know. Second, politics is too money consuming. Neither of which I have much to spare, and like many people, I’m beginning to question whether my personal commitment is too great for the amount of satisfaction I receive in return.

This Thursday, I am hosting a fundraiser for Mike Obermueller at my home. When all is said and done, my mom (who graciously offered to help) and I will have spent over $200 on food and drinks. But it isn’t just the cost of food to have a get-together, it’s the little expenses to fix and clean the house that adds up too. Now you have to realize that we never have people over to our house. It is small, poorly laid out (a family birthday party is uncomfortably tight,) the cement and blacktop need serious work (I hope nobody trips and sues us,) we have a dog, two cats, and three smelly boys that quickly turn furniture into pieces homeless teen shelters wouldn’t accept, and don’t get me started on the carpet.

Needless to say, it is uncomfortable for us to have guests over. But when we do, we feel the need to fix all those little things we tend to procrastinate on fixing. Getting a new toilet seat to replace the cracked one. Our dining room chairs need new fabric on the seats since we got a new table. The valance above the patio door needs to be fixed or replaced, and that lacrosse ball hole in the wall should probably be fixed. It costs a fair amount of money to host a fundraiser from that standpoint, for things a majority of people wouldn’t even notice or care about if they did notice. By the way we are not spending the $12,000 to fix the driveway. I just hope the air conditioner survives the week…

When you combine our little foray into the world of fundraising with our desire to support our local candidates who bravely put themselves out there to run for office, we are spending a fair amount of money that should be going into our boy’s college funds, well, probably my vacation fund is more realistic…

The cost of being involved in politics is draining. I think it makes people who might like to be involved in political activities uncomfortable. There are pressures to donate. Each candidate running for state office needs to raise a minimum amount of cash to receive the state campaign funds. For House candidates, it is $1,500 and for Senate candidates it is $3,000 by July 23. What makes it challenging is that no amount in contributions over $50 from any individual counts toward that goal. So candidates who start late have to push to raise the right amount of cash in the right increments. And the activists are the first people asked. Not only are they asked, but they are practically guilted into it. Trust me I know, I begged people to donate this year to our candidates in DFL58. And once they donate, they are on the donation lists and begin getting regular calls from the DFL and the DCCC asking for money.

Some people say they don’t donate cash, but they donate their time. I do that, and it is just as draining, maybe more. I probably spend as much time as anybody in our district, outside of Jeanne and Charlie Thomas, working on DFL projects. But that time is time I should be spending doing other things probably. I am pretty good about going to my children’s events, but I want to finish some things to advance my career, I hardly ever write, I seldom play golf, I need to lose more than a few pounds, and all the junk I do for the DFL is taking away from some serious television and movie watching! In my case, I think that not only am I spending money on politics, I’m losing money by not concentrating on things to make more money. I’m not doing things I would enjoy much more, and although I would not enjoy it, let’s face it, a little more exercise would do me good.

My wife and I spent last night talking about what we do and whether what we do is worth it. This morning at a Bible study I attend (Monday mornings, 6:30 AM at Caribou on 185th in Lakeville. Feel free to join us, it is casual, friendly, Lutheran led, but not Lutheran specific, and we have a couple of open seats at the table.) my father-in-law said he just finished a book that asks the question of organizations why are you an organization. The question on the giant chalk board at Caribou today was something to the effect of “if you had a personal guiding principle what would it be?”

I’m trying to answer those questions and I think a lot of people are asking those questions about politics. Is being involved in politics worth it? Why are we involved in politics? If we had a personal motto, would anything vaguely political be part of it? People look at politics very cynically right now. How much money will be raised to win a local house race? Probably $25,000, most of it spent on advertisements mailed to homes that are more often than not thrown away without being read. And what do they get in return? $40,000 and a load of headaches. What about the Senate Race? Amy Klobuchar has $5,000,000 raised so far. In 2008 Barack Obama spent $730,000,000, what’s it going to be this year? A billion?

So even people who want to be involved are asking themselves “What’s the point?” Is it worth it? What do I get out of it? Small factions of people control politics and it’s distressing. There is nothing more disturbing to me than the partisanship shown by politicians towards constituents on the other side of the political spectrum. But I can’t do anything about it because if I were to help elect a DFLer, in most instances, the same thing would happen, just in the other direction.

When money is out of politics, or maybe I should say IF money is ever taken out of politics and people are truly elected on their own merits and on their beliefs, then people who shun politics might come back. But when we are rigging systems with hoops to jump through to vote with things like advanced registration and voter ID, or the Supreme Court telling Montana that all those years that Montana tried to keep money from influencing politics, Montana was wrong, or when we learn that a majority of the time members of the House serve in Washington is spent fundraising or at least rubbing elbows to open doors for fundraising for the next election, we decide it isn’t worth it. It’s not worth the time, energy, cash or frustration, when the 5 hours or the $200 can be used for something that significantly affects your own life. That’s what even hardcore activists are becoming. The base is smaller and smaller, and the crazies are becoming more prevalent. The normal person is stepping to the side and deciding to forget about it. It’s not about a belief anymore, it’s about sides. I’m happy when my team wins and pissed when my team loses. And politics is returning to the smoke filled rooms of yesterday, only the rooms aren’t smoke filled anymore from cigars and cigarettes, they are smoke filled because of the screen those people are trying to hide behind.

Politics needs to change; I just don’t see that it will happen. I’d make the analogy that it’s like a marriage, and the divorce papers are being prepared, but I know a family that broke up because of commitments to politics, and it just wouldn’t be right.

There is nothing illegal about auctioning off access to John Kline? Really? Nothing?!?

Down here in Senate District 36, we were trying to come up with an idea to raise some funds to help our 2012 candidates.  When we contacted the Campaign Finance Board with a couple ideas, we were told we could not do any kind of a raffle.  We ended up doing a silent auction. We had golf balls, buttons, mugs, signed books, you know the typical stuff.  One thing we didn’t have was a legislator.  Raffles are a no no, but apparently it is legal and acceptable to auction off access to congressmen and state legislators.

City Pages recent story “Carver County Republican Party tries to auction off legislators, then denies it” reports:

“There’s nothing illegal about auctioning off access to U.S. Congressmen and high-ranking state lawmakers to the highest bidder.”

I had no idea.  I would have just assumed that to be illegal.  I know you can have $2,000 a plate dinners, and special meet and great events based on donation levels, but the actual physical auction of a politician just seems extra dirty.

Sally Jo Sorensen and her news site Bluestem Prairie has done a great job of making this public. 

Sorensen wrote:

“While all of those who passed this on to Bluestem are registered lobbyists, without additional investigation, we cannot assert here that only lobbyists received an offer to bid on Republican legislators. We might also assume, for instance, that corporate CEOs, bank fat cats, private sector ALEC members, and other folks who who might wish to bid on chance to golf-with-a-shotgun with lawmakers, also have been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

And they don’t have to worry if they don’t have their own shotgun, shells or experience. The invitation continues:

If you are not able to attend this event, please do your contacts a favor and forward this email on to others that could benefit from this opportunity.”

Did you notice that last line?  I know the pronoun usage of “that” rather than “who” is grating, but not what I want you to concentrate on.  It says “forward this email on to others that could benefit from this opportunity.” This is definitely being promoted as an opportunity for somebody to have one-on-one access to somebody like John Kline, who might be willing to sell his vote, or introduce a law written by the lucky winner — an “opportunity” at least.

It is no wonder that the Carver County Republicans quickly removed this event when it became public.  This is obviously nothing more than a smarmy way to let the fat cats and insiders control Republican politics a little more, while the rest of us giving ten bucks to our favorite politicians get treated like little kids at one of those spinning twisting coin drop donation bins just hoping for a little personal gratification in the end.

Partisan Political Attacks Create Angst and Apathy (in me)

I’ve noticed myself ignoring my unread item notices on Google Reader regularly recently.  I follow 14 blogs, most of them overtly political, the rest of them vaguely political, and all of them local.  Not only am I ignoring the unread notices on a regular basis, when I do decide to clean it up, I hardly read them, I just clear the unread notice.

I’m not sure if it is the current political subject matter that bores me, or if my recent political run has just jaded my outlook.  I do feel a little depressed based on the news.  Right now, you have the Chamber of Commerce in alliance with The Republican Party together attacking workers in what I see as a divide and conquer manner.  There is no chance that the assault on unions here in MN or WI is budget related or freedom related.  It is purely and simply politically motivated. 

The goal in the Republican ideology is to prevent unions from influencing elections.  But instead of passing laws to stop the influx of money influence in elections that might come from Unions, which by the way was dwarfed by the Chamber of Commerce, Republicans have decided to destroy unions with phony “right to work” laws designed specifically to bankrupt unions and constant blame for everything from lazy workers to them being “cause” or at least scapegoat for budget deficits.  But labor is not the issue, and it will not solve budget problems.  These “solutions” simply weaken workers and thus, to the delight of the Republican Party, it will eventually weaken a strong funding mechanism for progressive politics.

Side Note: Notice I said “progressive” and not Democratic politics.  Despite the demonization of the word progressive by Republicans, maybe I should say by Glenn Beck, the word progressive in politics is simply a word that labels a group that supports an agenda of political action to fix the problems plaguing our country.  Republicans were called progressives at one time, Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Cumming, Robert La Follette, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and his dissenting partner Justice Louis Brandeis, even Abe Lincoln was a progressive in action, if not by label.  But Democrats started out-progressing Republicans under Woodrow Wilson and later under Franklin Roosevelt.  As political parties are want-to-do, the Republicans couldn’t just agree, they had to counter and become more conservative.  If nothing else, grasp at straws to destroy.  Unions will support whoever supports workers, today and for three-quarters of a century is has been the Democrats who have been progressive on labor issues.

The problem is that we could solve everything without destroying the rights of workers and save a ton of money in society by passing election laws that limit election spending and create publicly financed elections.  How many millions of dollars could be saved and invested in a businesses and workers if as a state we weren’t spending many millions of dollars on lobbying and commercials to influence politics.

How much time would be saved in our legislature if legislators could just go ahead and vote with their conscience instead of based on their reelection campaign funding or based on the support they pledged to get an endorsement?  And how much better would our state be if legislators were beholden to all of their constituents instead of only their financial supporters?  How many more people would feel good about voting if they felt they had a voice instead of the feeling that the biggest spenders have control?

Maybe that sounds a bit jaded, but I am tired of what’s happening now and I’m tired of the snarky remarks and blame being tossed around, when the system is what is flawed.  I was recently the subject of a “comment lecture” on Facebook blaming Democrats for something Republicans were equally responsible for, if not more responsible for.  The partisan rancor is absurd, and at a point that drives the average person away from the political process, creating even more extreme ideas and extremist control in each party.  I specifically got involved in the DFL Party because of that.  And despite my growing angst about the rhetoric, I keep moving deeper in to the process.

I started this rant by mentioning blogs.  I did have a point.  The blog post I enjoyed reading the most recently had nothing to do with politics.  It was called Insecure About Money by Joey White at the blog Wide White.  It isn’t some major piece of great writing, but it is a subject I completely identify with.  I think that is what so many bloggers are missing right now, personal identification.  Popular blogs are filled with crazy and shrill remarks to draw readers.  A blog shouldn’t be a popularity contest or a ego builder, it should be honest opinions.  I don’t write about a DFL political agenda, although sometimes I think I should.  I write about what interests me and what are truly my opinions.

Joey and I have differing views on a lot of political issues, probably most issues, but he and I are very similar when it comes to partisan politics.  Using a quote Joey made on a blog post of mine he said “I realize partisan politics is really the only option in America, I just hate it.”  That’s why even despite our differences, I like his blog, he is honest and I respect him for his honest conviction and opinions.  I’m not sure I always get that from the extremists on either side.

I know what my right-wing attackers are thinking.  On my blog I attack Tim Pawlenty and John Kline regularly, as well as “Republicans!” in general.  But that is because I see so much hypocritical Republican Party politics in them.  Party agenda first, constituents second.  I respect Republicans who have honest beliefs that jive with the party.  I don’t have a problem with the conservative agenda if that is what you believe in, that doesn’t mean I have to like it or agree with it, but I believe you have a right to work toward and think that way, just like I have the right and deserve the respect for my beliefs.  It is that partisan rhetoric and attack that needs to stop.  We need to be honest and respectful, and we need to stop thinking one side is always right and one side is always wrong.  There is a middle ground and there can be compromise.  There are adequate solutions that will make the state, nation and world a better place, that do not rely on one single political outcome.

I got to interview former congressman, Minneapolis mayor and state legislator Don Fraser for a project I am going to work on, and the thing I really liked was his discussion on political parties in the state.  He said state legislators were not aligned with parties until recently.  Just like city council races, all races were nonpartisan elections.  He felt that was a good thing because there were bills that two people would be on complete opposite sides of an issue, and in debate on the next bill be strong allies.  That can’t happen now.  Partisan politics prevents it.  Look at the override 6 here in Minnesota, Blanche Lincoln, Joe Lieberman, Richard Lugar, Orin Hatch and the term RINO in general.

I think I’ve rambled long enough here, and I fear my blog is reaching the end of its usefulness.  I find myself becoming more cynical about politics and more cynical about the extremist actions of many politicians today, especially those aligned with the Chamber of Commerce.  I find it harder to pay attention, and am less willing to, even when it is a person I support.  I strongly believe in the ideals of inclusiveness, equality and justice, and the DFL fits with where I am right now, I’m just not sure this is the best avenue for my work, the problem is based on my short time experience with the State DFL Central Committee, I’m not sure the DFL is either.  I guess local is the way to go.

That may be my longest post ever, and if you got this far, I think I am sorry…

Fill me with soma and let the corporations decide what to do with me.

Where are all the cries coming from right-wingers about activist judges?  Our politicians are already overly influenced by corporations, now they are going to be selected by corporations too.  Great!  And it isn’t just GE, Exxon, Citibank, Wal-Mart or UnitedHealth we need to worry about.  There is nothing to stop a Saudi or Chinese corporation from buying ads to influence our elections now.  Thanks Supreme Court. 

Thanks for setting the course for all those sci-fi movies and futuristic books with mega-corporations running the world.   When do they start determining who costs too much to live – oh wait, insurance companies already do!  Pfizer can start feeding us soma to keep us happy, Wal-Mart can instruct us in what is OK to buy, and UnitedHealth can start eliminating the surplus population that costs us a little too much as a society.

Do you think I am overreacting?  Think about a local election.  The total campaign expenditures in 2008 for both candidates in my house district 36B was under $50,000.  What is stopping a company from spending $50,000 or $100,000 on one candidate to send their own henchman to the State House?  How much do they spend on lobbyists?  Who needs a lobbyist when a company can have their own Joe Leiberman.

And what about the cost of ads now?  With the influx of spending, the cost will go up.  It’s called supply and demand.  That will make it harder for a local candidate to afford to advertise.  It will make running a campaign even more expensive, thus more beholden to big money.

Let’s be honest.  Republicans have got to be most happy about this decision.  Not because they will likely benefit from more corporate spending than Democrats, but because the onslaught of commercials will just turn more people off to politics.  The fewer people engaged the better Republicans do.  Suppressing the number of voters is good news for the GOP.

Republican leadership is spewing first amendment talking point trash, but the only ‘persons” who will soon have first amendment rights will be “persons” with money.  John McCain has every right to be “disappointed” Mitch McConnell.