Sunday, June 24, 2007

Money Matters

Former candidate for Governor, Billy Harper spent a phenomenal $6.1 million dollars in his attempt to win the Republican Primary. In a recent article by the Courier Journal, Harper, a Paducah businessman who owns a construction company, outspent incumbent Governor Ernie Fletcher, who raised $3.2 million dollars and former Congressman Anne Northup, who raised a comparatively paltry $1.6 million dollars. Most of Harper’s money came from out of his own pocket. Whenever you see a candidate funding their own campaign to such a degree, the first thing you should ask yourself is why?

Generally self funding is the result of one of two possibilities. First, the candidate is trying to make a statement that they aren’t for sale. The candidate often feels that by accepting money, particularly from Political Action Committees, better known as PACs, they are subscribing to that group’s agenda, and by accepting their money, is beholden to whatever piece of legislation is either introduced or needs to be “chaperoned” through committee. Of course, a candidate may accept money from a PAC without either agreeing with their agenda or agreeing in any way to support any issues which comes his or her way, but it’s a pretty sure bet that if they don’t offer some measure of support, not only will that individual not see any more money from them, they can expect that PAC to actively work against in every way possible.

The other reason a candidate self funds is more telling, and often the more likely scenario. They are unknowns. They have little support or name recognition among the general populace and/or among the moneyed power brokers. This belies the importance of a candidate laying their groundwork at least a year to eighteen months in advance of their intent to announce they will be candidate for a particular office. Unless you just happen to be well known by everyone in your district, a candidate needs to get out and meet as many people as possible well in advance of the election kickoff. This serves several purposes, but key is letting people meet you (called “getting the name out” and “pressing the flesh”). It also gives the candidate and the voters an opportunity to start a conversation about the issues. As a candidate, you may have certain ideas about what you think the issues are, but after meeting with the people, that may change. You may find that the citizens of a given district have completely unrelated ideas as to what is important. So, you get an opportunity to start defining your message. It also lets the power brokers learn a little bit about the candidate and decided whether or not this is someone they may be interested in supporting.

All too often the big money goes to the incumbents. Unless there’s a compelling issue which can be capitalized on, the candidate has to seriously consider self funding or dropping out. Fletcher was able to redirect the issues which landed him and his administration in so much hot water. As an incumbent, he was still going to be the odds on favorite unless someone came up with some deeply incriminating information (I’m thinking pictures here folks). This is often when races start going dirty, which, if not substantiated, will have a backlash on the accusing candidate. In the end, Harper wasn’t able to get his message through to the voters. He violated the so-called “Golden Triangle Rule”, by picking someone from the same part of the Commonwealth as where he came from rather than from Triangle. What he needed was someone from the population centers of Louisville, Lexington, or Covington, which would have given him a statewide audience rather than keeping his voter base locked up in Western Kentucky. I guess this election should put to rest the old notion that money can always buy an election. As for Harper, I hope he isn’t done yet. He had some great issues. He needs to keep his name out there and give it a go again.

MSD Meeting

I want to give a brief update on the MSD meeting which took place on June 3rd at the Government Center on Dixie Highway. The meeting was hosted by Metro 25 Councilman Doug Hawkins and representatives of MSD. There were approximately 60 to 70 people in attendance, including several Southend community activists and two other Metro Council members. Basically this wasn’t a meeting to discuss if there was going to be an increase, but why there was going to be an increase of just under $7.00 on your water bill. The estimated annual cost will be $390.00 for each household.

It seems that MSD is 1.4 billion dollars in debt. The EPA has ordered the City Louisville to rebuild its sewer and water system to a tune of $800 million dollars. This unfunded federal mandate, we were told, was not open to discussion. If the City failed to comply, a federal judge could introduce their own plan, which would leave the city with no recourse (and we all remember just how well forced bussing worked out after it was ordered and implemented by a federal judge).

The revamping will affect approximately 225,000 homes and cover some 3200 miles in total. One piece of good news came out of the meeting; seniors (and presumably those on a fixed limited income) may be eligible for a 30% discount on the increase. So, when does this go into effect? We expect seeing the increase showing up on our bills in September and continue through 2040 (I have my doubt that once added, it will ever come off).

Lastly, I’d like to thank Doug Hawkins for taking the time to schedule this meeting with MSD. We, the public, need to be aware of the actions of our government and how our money is spent. Councilman Hawkins made this possible.

Odds & Ends

I was watching one of my favorite talk shows Saturday night, Glenn Beck, and heard a really interesting statistic. Did you know an estimated 2/3 of eligible voters don’t vote? Only 1/3 of Americans actually show up at the polls on a regular basis. One of the main reasons I suspect is the utter disgust the people have for Washington politics. According to Glenn, some 80% of Americans describe themselves as centrist. I doubt the number is actually quite that high, but there a large and significant amount of people who feel alienate by both political parties, and the folks in Washington just don’t get it. The majority, and I dare say, the overwhelming majority of Americans feel a complete disconnect with government. But what can we do? Well, there are a number of thing, but none more important than voting (to that, I add that we should vote for the individual and their stance on issues not the party label…ever).

Politicians, and the special interest groups which control both major parties, want us to believe that we have no choice. We have to take what they offer, be it on the issues or the candidates they put up. There’s nothing we can do about the way things are being run. Like hell there isn’t. We---you and I---have the ultimate power. It’s called the vote. We can remove any politician we collectively decide to. I don’t care what you’re registered as, Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Third Party. Just vote, and get others to vote. The one thing politicians and their masters fear more than an independent prosecutor, is a large voter turnout because they can’t control the outcome.

But we need to go further than that. We need term limits. The longer a politician is in office, the more beholden they become to the moneyed special interest groups and the less they listen to the people. If we can limit a president to two four year terms, then why can’t we limit Senators to two six terms? Why can we limit Congressman to six two year terms? We also need to limit the money which goes into campaigns, and we need to make it instantly available to public. If these people are going to represent us, then we deserve to see who is giving them money. I can assure you they aren’t going to do it themselves. We will have to force the issue by intentionally voting for the challenger candidates no matter who they are, especially those having the courage to step up and publicly endorsing term limits and campaign spending limits.

Lastly, it looks like the Senate is trying to revive the “Amnesty” Bill. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is key to the bill’s success or failure. Please contact Senator McConnell and tell him we don’t want any part of an “Amnesty” Bill for illegal immigrants.

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