Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Campaign Finances: Government Of, By, and For the Rich

"Money is the mother's milk of politics." -- Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, former Speaker of the House

Scott Fitzgerald (supposedly): "The rich are different from you and me." Ernest Hemingway (supposedly): "Yes, they have more money."

Unless something important comes up -- and it usually does -- I want to write some this week about one of my favorite subjects: money in politics. I'm inspired in this direction because of discussions I've had with several Mike Huckabee supporters, most of whom are also supporting Gov. Sarah Palin.

In the second quarter of the year, Mike Huckabee raised three-quarters-of-a-million dollars. He's said he has enough money to get him through the Ames (Iowa) Straw Poll, which takes place in late August. Mike believes if he places second at Ames -- Mitt Romney will be the winner -- he will be more attractive to donors and will raise more money.

He needs it. Unfortunately, $750,000 (give or take a few bucks) is a drop-in-the-bucket. Barack Obama raised $32 million; Hillary Clinton raised $27 million; Rudy Giuliani raised nearly $18 million; and Mitt Romney raised about $14 million -- after surprising everyone by raising $21 million in the first quarter.

How does a guy like Mitt Romney raise so much more than an attractive conservative (and super guy) like Mike Huckabee. There are two explanation: as a former head of Bain Capital, Romney knows a lot of very rich people. Second, he got major contributions from a relatively untapped group, Mormons (Latter-Day-Saints).

One Provo, Utah man and his wife had never before contributed to a presidential candidate gave Romney the maximum allowable, a combined total of $4,600. They were not unique among Latter-Day-Saints, especially those in Utah and California.

Mike Huckabee has served as a Southern Baptist preacher and is a former governor of Arkansas. On average, Baptists and other evangelicals are not nearly as well-heeled as Mormons. Also, Arkansas is NOT a big-money state, unlike Romney's Massachusetts (where he was governor) and Michigan (where he was born and where he headquarters his campaign).

I'm rather intimately acquainted with the problems Mike faces. In 2006, I was extremely active in Diana Lynn Irey's campaign against the odious John Murtha in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District (an area mainly in southwestern Pennsylvan, including Johnstown (Murtha's home) and Washington (Diana's home.

In that campaign -- you can find most of this information at link on the blogroll -- Murtha raised $3.5 million, most of it from political action committees (PACS) and big donors. Diana, with an heroic fundraising campaign, raised nearly $900,000.

At one point, Murtha accused Diana of being financed by "out-of-state" sources, which was -- let me put it politely -- a lie. Nearly four-of-every-five dollars Diana raised came from Pennsylvania, some of it from my wife and me, as well as from friends we solicited for contributions.

Murtha got most of his money from the DC suburbs of Maryland and Virginia, where million-dollar-mansions are a dime-a-dozen. Who lives there? The LOBBYISTS -- the people benefitted by appropriations from John Murtha's activities and "earmarks" -- live there. They weren't handing Murtha thousands -- and tens of thousands -- of dollars for his work in solidifying good government.

Well, since Murtha raised four times as much money as Diana, he must have had a lot more contributors, right? No, WRONG. He had a total of 6,500 contributors. Diana had 7,000, with contributions from all 50 states, including some from Hawaii and Alaska.

(Someday, when I'm in a really nasty mood, I'll tell you how Murtha spent that money. He uses an approach that my wife, who's half-Italian describes as, "You sratcha my back, and I scratcha you back." It's basically a transfer of funds, where a vendor of services contributes to Murtha, and the congressman "contributes" back to the vendor. . Gee, why don't the local newspapers expose this scam? The owner of one important newspaper -- Richard Mellon Scaife -- has lunch regulary with Murtha. The owner of the other paper has ensured that periodical endorses Murtha every two-years.)

In short, Diana and I know how Mike Huckabee feels. In politics, the rich not only get richer, but also get elected -- and re-elected. Murtha has now been in Congress for 33 years, and he'll be carried out of that august institution feet first.

Diana, my friend and political ally, is the perfect conservative candidate -- not just a Sarah-Palin lookalike but a Sarah-Palin act-alike. And she had and has no chance of defeating Murtha, singled out by one independent group as one of the 25-most-corrupt congressman.

When I hear Republicans snarling against campaign finance reform and using "McCain-Feingold" as almost a curse term, I get driven almost to tears. This is NOT a good system. It rewards the rich and those who do political favors for the rich. It leads to "government of, by, and for the rich." And it stinks.

Stephen R. Maloney

P.S. If you want to know what Diana Irey is up to these days, look on my blogroll and click on her link. She's running for re-election as Washington County Commissioner. She's also serving as a fundraiser for one of the Republican presidential candidates. She'd very much like to meet Sarah Heath Palin, and she will.

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