Reform Campaign Finance Now

The normally clear sky is hazy. We had hoped to catch the International Space Station passing overhead at 9:31 p.m., but visibility is unlikely. If you compare today’s panorama with earlier ones of the Wet Mountain Valley, you’ll note the degree of haze resulting both from fires in New Mexico and here in Colorado.

A fire-fueled sunset.

To the north 15 miles west of Fort Collins we have the “High Park Fire” burning in Roosevelt National Forest. It began with a lightning strike on June 9 and still it rages. As of today, 75,537 acres have burned and the according to Colorado State University, the fire is only 45 percent contained. With temperatures in the high 90s and gusts reaching 35 mph, it is unlikely that the fire will be extinguished soon.

There’s temperature hot, and then there is hot-under-the-collar hot.

The phone rang and brushing the garden dirt off my knees, I rushed inside to grab the call. “Hello?”

“It is so good to hear your voice! It’s been a while. How have you been?”

The voice… the voice… who was this person? His personable voice was that of a good friend who knew me well. I would let him talk another minute, and perhaps his name would register.

He wondered about the weather… asked about the forest fires up north. And while he talked, I racked my brain for a name. And finally, when he sotto voce’d, “You know… my mother’s name is Doris,” it came to me. I had talked to this man before. And I asked, “Are you calling for the Democratic National Committee?”

Somewhat surprised, he asked me how I knew his affiliation. I told him that I recognized his voice. (Out of courtesy, I failed to say that I recognized his patter… his used-car-salesman approach of engaging a person in conversation at length to assure a sale.)

“You are wasting your time,” I told him. “I am not about to give any money at this point in time. I am disgusted by the amount of money spent on the 2012 Presidential Campaign – by both parties… money that could be better spent in a thousand other places.”

“I know… I know,” he replied. “We at the National Committee just hate it. We don’t like it, but at this point in time, money is the name of the game. You are perfectly right; we do need campaign finance reform. Meanwhile, we have to be competitive.”

“I’ll probably break down and contribute, but not now. In October maybe.”

“But you gave so generously last year. I was so touched when you donated on my parents’ anniversary. Their anniversary is coming up.”

His parents’ anniversary… that would be his mother Doris and his father? Enough! I was tired of being hustled. Courtesy went by the wayside, and I hung up on him.

I am not angry at either political party; I am angry at both. And I am angry at the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision to allow super-PACs, which allow individuals and organizations to give unlimited amounts to political campaigns. Although the super-PACs cannot coordinate with the candidates, they are run by the candidate’s former employees. They’ve shared a meal and been in bed – what’s to coordinate?

The Supreme Court, no doubt, based their decision on Free Speech. But what is free when high dollars are involved? Why are we allowing Fat Cats to buy elections? Quoting Reuters’ news agency, Romney’s primary campaign spent $76.6 million or $18.50 per vote to capture the Republican nomination. Super PAC money bumped that to a total of 122 million or $30 per vote.

Not to point fingers at the Republicans, the Democrats are equally guilty. To keep up with the total monies spent by both parties go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/campaign-finance.

The April 2012 aarp.org/bulletin took readers back a few centuries when the editor, Jim Toedtman, wrote of the splendid buffet served by George Washington at the polling booth. In 1757 Washington treated voters to “a barrel of punch, 35 gal. of wine, 43 gal. of strong cider, and dinner.” It cost about $195 in today’s money. It was money well spent: Washington was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses.

Washington’s colleagues immediately passed a law barring candidates from giving prospective voters “money, meat, drink, entertainment or provision or… any present, gift, reward or entertainment etc. in order to be elected.”

If the negative impact of money on a campaign was so evident in the 18th century, why does the need for campaign finance reform seem to be beyond us in the 21st century?

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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