Tag Archives: Election Reform

A Tale of Two Cities: The Plight of Local Politics

A tale of two cities…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was…”          -Charles Dickens

With just days until the 2014 election, Minnesota candidates were just required to submit their campaign financial data to the state to make it public record.  In my district, 58, Lakeville/Farmington and most of the rest of Southern Dakota County, the campaigns on the A and B sides are vastly different.

On the 58A side, which is most of Lakeville, Amy Willingham and Jon Koznick are competing against each other to win the open seat vacated by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg.  The two candidates are very evenly matched in donations, with Koznick edging out Willingham $41,964.77 to $41,558.29.  Together they have collected over $83,000!  That is a huge number in our area.  To put that in perspective, in 2012, Mary Liz Holberg and Colin Lee raised $26,433 collectively, and if you add in the 58th district senate race between Dave Thompson and Andrew Brobston, the total for all four candidates was $68,291.  Willingham and Koznick, have spent more than those four candidates raised in 2012.

On the other side of the district in 58B, the numbers are nowhere similar.  Incumbent Rep. Pat Garofalo has raised $13,038 this year, of course he started the year with over $52,000 in the bank, so he didn’t have to raise much, and Marla Vagts raised $7,065.  Together they raised just over $20,000, and one quarter of that was from the state public subsidy.

In summary, A side = $83,000. B side = $20,000.

It is understandable, that the A side would be higher, it is an open and contested seat, but there is another side to look at on the A side.  Both Willingham and Koznick have received over $5,000 each in individual identified donations from outside the district, and combined, have received over $10,000 from PACs and lobbyists.  In addition, together they have over $35,000 in unidentified donations, which probably increases those outside the district contributions.

Of course that is not surprising.  There are so many groups trying to influence elections, I expect it.  But that does not make it right.  Koznick and Willingham have raised more money from outside the district, than Garofalo and Vagts have raised total.  There is a fundamental problem with our election system when other people outside the district have as big of an impact on the election as the local voters – if not a bigger impact on the election.

When I hear people say government doesn’t work, well get a clue!  Where do you think it starts?  Right here, right now, on November 4th, and the 6-10 months leading up to that day.  If we want government to work, our election system needs to change to be about local voters, and local voters only!

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Occupy Farmington? Me? An Occupier? Maybe…

Am an Occupier?  I’m not physically protesting anywhere.  I’m not camping anywhere.  I am not resisting anything.  But, I am fed up with the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  I’m fed up that the same people who ruined the economy are donating huge sums of money to political campaign slush fund PACs and special interest groups so they can have the opportunity to ruin the economy again.  I am fed up by the fact that those same people are doing everything they can to keep from paying their fair share while maintaining their own interests at the expense of the interests of those who can’t fight them.  And I am fed up that politicians in Washington and in state legislatures across this country, including Minnesota, are doing very little to fix or combat any of it.  I’m definitely one of the 99%.

Does that make me one of those Occupy protesters?  Maybe not, but my Representative Pat Garofalo made a Twitter joke that made me think about being one.
 
@PatGarofalo tweeted:  “So disappointed that #OccupyFarmington skipped out on my tax townhall with Commissioner Frans. 🙂 Great meeting about vision of state.” (Tweeted around 8:30 pm, 1/11/12)

I responded with my own tweet:

@Quist_Galaxie tweeted: “@PatGarofalo, I am probably about it for #OccupyFarmington, but I had church last night.  Sorry to disappoint.” (Tweeted around 9:30 am 1/12/12)

I know Rep. Garofalo was making a joke, he makes a lot of jokes.  And it’s good to have a sense of humor about politics, so I applaud him for that.  But his joke got me wondering about my community of Farmington.  How many people would join an Occupy Farmington event?  I thought that maybe I would be it.  Just me. 

My tweet was also a bit of joking, but it had truth in it too.  My political district that includes Farmington and Lakeville, is among the strongest Republican districts in the state.  Strong Republican voters, but I don’t really think a lot of people pay very much attention to politics, and very few are involved.  Sen. Dave Thomspon held a town hall meeting last year that was attended by just a few people.  As a candidate myself, very little of my help came from people I didn’t already know in my district, little money, and fewer volunteers.  I’m guessing it is not much different for the Republicans, it is probably a lot of the same people doing everything.

It is difficult to stay energized, and difficult to maintain interest.  The same people can’t keep doing things, burn out is inevitable.  I had big ideas, and got a lot of positive response from a lot of people, but it didn’t really amount to much.  So Occupy Farmington?  Yeah, maybe it is just me.

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…

More Impact on Election Reform? Photo ID or Funding Source?

I listened to a radio show a while back that featured Dave Thompson.  On it they spent a fair amount of time talking about the problems of walk up registration.  Knowing that voter ID is very controversial, I asked Dave Thompson why work toward an extreme agenda item that won’t pass when you could make serious and possibly pass a change that requires photo ID for such things as same day registration.

Of course I know he and the rest of the Republicans prefer political statements, rather than seriously attempting to pass a bill, but I asked the question anyway.  He responded that same day registration is just one piece a photo ID solution would solve among many voting issues.

I guess it would solve how we stop some low income people from voting.  And I guess it would solve how we stop the infirmed and elderly from voting.  It sure would stop people who are distrustful of the government from participating.  And maybe it would stop a few people who want to vote illegally from voting.  But if he is attempting to really resolve “voting issues,” why isn’t he trying to reduce the influence spending and money alone have on the voters who step up to that little voting booth to fill in their ovals.

I am going to hazard to guess that the millions of dollars spent by outside organizations had an effect on the outcome of the governor’s race in a way the Republicans did not like.  I think that Tom Emmer drunk driving commercial was pretty effective early in the race.  Maybe the $5.7 million spent by the Alliance for a Better Minnesota had an impact on the outcome.  Maybe that played a more significant part in the Emmer loss than illegal voting.  But I’m just speculating… 

So why wouldn’t the Republicans want to control outside spending?  Because, outside spending benefits Republicans 2 to 1.  Republican apologists love to cry about how unions fund Democrats, but do you know who the largest outside donor in the nation was in 2010?  It is no surprise to me, The Chamber of Commerce.  And it wasn’t even close.  In fact the top four outside political spenders are groups that support Republicans.  Number 5 on the list, the first union, SEIU, didn’t even spend half what the Chamber of Commerce spent in 2010. I know what you GOP apologists are going to say, “yeah but all the unions combined…”

Yeah but… if we look at the numbers, for organizations that have either a “conservative” or “liberal” leaning, for every $1.00 a conservative organization spent to elect Republicans, liberal organizations, spent 48 cents.   And we are not talking just a few millions of dollars, we are talking $189,654,125 (just to emphasize that: 189 MILLION DOLLARS for Republicans) to $92,773,913.

Now we see why Republicans want “election integrity” only when it comes to who is voting, not when it comes to who is buying elections.  A Republican bully said “DFL obviously stands for dumb f-ing liberal.”  I guess I would rather be a f-ing liberal who cares about people and that those people might be disenfranchised, than a GOPer, because that can only stand for Greed Over People.