“The love of money is the root of all evil.” — 1 Timothy 6:10
“Money, it’s a gas… it’s a hit… it’s a crime…” — Pink Floyd
“SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY!” — Jerry Maguire
Money money” — “Cabaret”
“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” — Mark Twain
It’s what fuels our elections. It’s what fools our elections. It’s the single root cause of everything you hate and complain about in our government, whether you’re Tea Party or Ice T.
Even before the Supreme Court’s shameless Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of money and influence (they’re the same thing), our election process that depends on massive campaign contributions was fatally flawed, incapable of producing real democracy.
It is legalized, sanctioned bribery, plain and simple, but few American voters see it that way. It takes money to get elected, we shrug. That’s the way it is.
How long are people running for president now? Two years? How much in advance of an election do hopeful politicians set up their campaign funds?
That run time has become longer and longer, in my lifetime. The longer you’re running, quite simply, the more money you will spend.
But in England, they’re about to adjust the law that says an election is held 17 days — 17 days! — after Parliament is dissolved. It will soon be 25 days, then by 2015 bumped all the way up to 38 days. Oh, those profligate Brits.
But their cousin Canada needs much more time. The longest election campaign in Canada’s history was in 1926, admittedly an aberration, when it went 74 days. Usually it’s more like 36 to 60 days.
As we’re painfully aware when our election day approaches, most of the money is spent on TV. But in France, there are heavy restrictions on political advertising on TV. In Norway, it’s not allowed at all.
So, there are other ways of doing it. But every time a voice is raised for campaign finance reform here, every decade or so, such as the McCain-Feingold Act, it gets stomped down. That one, with its modest reforms, was overturned after opposition from such strange bedfellows as the NRA, the California State Democratic Party, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
Nobody, especially those who believe they can raise a lot of money and buy an advantage over their opponent, wants to be the first to say, “Stop the madness! I won’t take corporate money. I won’t take big contributions. I won’t be beholden to special interests.”
Early in his national candidacy, Barack Obama was hinting at that, but by his second campaign both parties raised and spent a combined $2 billion.
Locally, we’ve seen a kerfuffle over a lousy four grand given to Mayor Pam O’Connor by the huge Texas real estate developer Hines. But that amount paid off all her previous campaign debts. Our local laws declare that’s not even a conflict of interest that should prevent her from voting on projects involving that donor, like their controversial Bergamot proposal.
Are you kidding me?
Our local Kennedy, and former-city councilman and mayor, Bobby Shriver has recently jumped into the race for county supervisor, and made quite a cannonball splash for the other candidates. He rejected voluntary campaign spending limits that had been accepted by his opponents, that would have limited them to spending no more than chump change, $1.4 million each, indicating he’ll spend at least $300,000 of his own money to get elected.
Even though his opponents are not likely to be able to find that kind of coin in their sofa cushions like he did, at least he’s beholden only to himself for that 300 Gs. But he’s already raised more than half a million on top of that, from folks like Warren Buffet, Bill and Melinda Gates, Steven Spielberg, Wolfgang Puck, Chevy Chase and Frank Gehry. The two times he ran for City Council he raised record amounts of money, and with buddies like those throwing cash there’s no reason to think he won’t top himself here.
All this comes right on the heels of endorsements for his opponent, Sheila Kuehl, from Democratic Clubs and Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights. So, if you can’t persuade the kingmakers, just drive around them in your Maserati.
“It’s very difficult to communicate with $1.4 million,” lamented Shriver’s chief strategist, Bill Carrick, who also said Shriver has not yet decided how much of his personal wealth he will spend. I presume he meant, “only” $1.4 million.
Please, people, someone somewhere stand up tall and promise not to take big money, and challenge their opponents to do the same, and if they don’t, pound the message home that those candidates are accepting bribes and would be representing special interests if they get elected, not the people who voted for them.
We need that kind of personal courage from a candidate, but what we really need is nerves of steel and the will to succeed from an already-elected rep in DC who will push through a real campaign finance reform law that all will back, and not try to sabotage it in a back alley.
You can fight all you want for your pet reform or cause, but until we admit we’re doing it wrong on campaign finance, nothing else matters, because as Deep Throat warned us 40 years ago, the answer to all political corruption can be found when you “follow the money.”
May I bring my own aspirin, please?
True stories pop up every few days about outrageous hospital charges. Now I’ve got my own.
I probably have more than one but I haven’t yet waded through the mountain of paperwork resulting from a couple of procedures last year.
But I noticed in one itemized bill from Saint John’s, here in Santa Monica, that I was charged $14.10 for a baby aspirin (one, not a bucketful), and $14.73 for a multi-vitamin (one). Also almost $200 for a liter of dextrose — that’s sugar water, right? — times two.
I think Saint John’s is the greatest, but I think the way we deliver and pay for healthcare in this country is ridiculous. Single payer check, please.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 28 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org