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Campaign ‘finance’: sickening, depressing, frustrating, infuriating

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To represent a New York congressional district slightly larger than the state of Connecticut, with a population of just 1.8 million people who, on average, earn between $23,000 (Yates County) and $37,700 (Monroe County), the incumbent congressman and his principal challenger have raised nearly $1.4 million so far in the 2006 election cycle.

Most of that money comes from outside the district each seeks to represent. It demonstrates the distressing, access-peddling role of money in American politics. That’s depressing and unlikely to change.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Rep. John R. “Randy” Kuhl, R-Hammondsport, has raised $888,756 as of June 30. His declared Democratic challenger for the District 29 House seat, Eric Massa of Corning, has raised $499,136.

Of Rep. Kuhl’s total money raised, nearly $600,000, or 67 percent, comes from political action committees (PACs). That money principally came from outside the district and outside the state. See his detailed PAC contributions.

Rep. Kuhl has raised about $271,000 from 281 individual contributions. Of those, 67 percent came from zip codes inside his district. About 25 percent came from zip codes in and around Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Of Mr. Massa’s total money raised, about $86,000, or 17 percent, came from PACs. Of that PAC money, virtually all of it is from outside the district; more than $47,000 came from single-issue groups and unions.

Mr. Massa has raised about $311,000 through 187 individual contributions. Of those contributions, about 30 percent came from zip codes in or around Washington, D.C.; 22 percent from in and around New York City; about 26 percent from elsewhere around the country; and only 15 percent from zip codes in District 29.

These latest filings show that of Rep. Kuhl’s total money raised, about 77 percent came from outside the district.

Of Mr. Massa’s total, about 70 percent came from outside the district. Had he not loaned or contributed about $97,000 to his own campaign, the percent raised outside the district would be considerably higher. Mr. Massa, a retired naval officer and cancer survivor, first moved to the district in the early ’90s. Rep. Kuhl has been a professional politician in and around the district since 1980. That may explain the discrepancy in in-district individual contributions.

Both candidates have received campaign contributions funneled to them through top GOP and Democratic House leaders.

Rep. Kuhl has received $139,426 from GOP “Leadership PACs,” including about $45,000 from the House speaker, majority leader and majority whip. (See earlier post.)

Mr. Massa has received about $25,000 from leading Democratic politicians, including $7,000 from the House minority leader and minority whip and the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He’s received more than $4,000 from Sens. Clinton, Kerry and Feingold.

None of this out-of-district fundraising necessarily reflects on their ability to serve in office or their abilities to be independent thinkers and leaders.

But when was the last time someone gave you a considerable sum of money when you needed it? What obligation to the giver did you feel?

People and organizations of financial substance who give money to politicians want something — usually access to power, so they can protect or enhance wealth or power. If most of the candidates’ money comes from such people outside the district, to whom do you think they’ll provide the most access? Not the voters of District 29. Or provide the most benefits? Not the voters of District 29.

As long as the American political system relies so heavily on purchase of access by such wealthy and powerful donors, those of us who actually elect our leaders will have poor choices, no matter how the Democrats and the Republicans differentiate themselves with sloganeering and negative attack ads.

I’m frustrated and angry. I can’t do anything about this. This system is so corrupt and entrenched that the likelihood that it will change before I die is zilch.

It doesn’t matter one whit whether I vote for Rep. Kuhl or Mr. Massa. Each is trapped in a system that does not promote intelligent, thoughtful representation of the people who vote for either. Each will (or would) spend more time raising money to take or keep office than acting individually or in concert with other House members to solve the horrid problems that beset us.

I haven’t a clue how to bring about change. I can write about their money; that’s easy to do. But it hardly seems enough … Maybe I should follow the advice of Howard Beale in Network:

Things have got to change, my friends. You’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open your window, stick your head out and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 20, 2006 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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