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Political Campaign Ethics

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
I promised several weeks ago to lay off of the government and that I would try to be a somewhat 'kinder and more gentle' person this coming year.

I'm sorry to say that even though I have tried, I simply cannot do this. It is against my nature.

In my pile of things I wanted to comment upon is an article detailing some facts concerning our recent elections. One of the big items which certainly needed to be cleared up is political campaign ethics. I suggest to you that the words …'political campaign' and ethics are somewhat of an oxymoron and do not just roll off of the tongue very easily, do they? In fact when you say those words you get a somewhat bitter taste in your mouth as well as that feeling you get when you are in a cemetery and step on someone's grave. It just isn't natural.

Anyway, here in the lovely Lone Star State of Texas, the so called 'Texas Ethics Commission' recently ruled that state officials must report the fact that they received checks from the donors but not the amounts given. For example, if you wanted to give a check to some state official, your name would have to be reported if the gift was more than $250, but not the amount that was given to that person. So, in effect you could give some state official, elected or otherwise, a check for $100,000 for some reason or another and all the receiver would have to do is report your name and the fact that they had received a check.

Does this make any sense? Not to me, it doesn't.

Another critic of this system stated that it would be possible for some one to give a large sum of cash to some official in a wheelbarrow and all the person would have to do to fall under the guidelines of being 'ethical' is to say they had received a wheelbarrow.

Another nice little feature allows the state legislators to 'rent' facilities from themselves using campaign contributions to pay for these. The commission 'urged' the legislators to stop this practice, but it is unclear if any penalties or sanctions would be imposed upon those who violated the rule. It was discovered that several legislators had either rented offices or apartments from some family member. It makes one wonder if they were getting a discounted rate or paying more than the market prices. I think we all know the answer to this question.

Our current law prohibits corporations from donating directly to political campaigns. This does not mean that a corporation is prohibited from donating funds to a political campaign as long as those funds are used only for 'administrative' expenses.

Hello? What is this?

This obviously means I cannot give Joe Blow a check from my company for his 'campaign', but I can give him a check if I designate that it must be used to pay for telephones, printing and mailing of campaign materials. Isn't this what contributions are to be used for in the first place? How is this any different? The commission on ethics did say they were looking into this matter and hoped to obtain a clearer idea of what should be reported. Don't hold your breath.

This week, we saw the Speaker of the House take the form of Nancy Pelosi. Mrs. Pelosi has stated that she is in favor of enacting strong ethics rules and limits on campaign contributions. We'll have to wait and see what happens in this situation, won't we?

Speaker Pelosi got off to a fine start, the night before she was sworn in, she was attending a $1,000 a plate dinner (for 400 'friends') in her honor at the Italian Embassy. The evening of her swearing in she held a fundraiser for 1200 'friends and supporters' at another $1,000 a plate soiree.

I don't know how you could eat enough to justify paying $1,000 for a dinner. I suppose it's because I'm not in the know or that I don't understand the cost of living in Washington. Brussel Sprouts must be really expensive. I can't imagine what strawberries cost.

Anyway, to top off Mrs. Pelosi's coronation, she wrapped it up on January 5th with a so called "People's Party" at the House Office Building. I consider myself a 'people', but couldn't get in even if I wanted to do so, since it was strictly by 'invitation' only. So much for the people.

Does the saying…'same song, second verse' come into your mind when you read these things?
© Peary Perry
Letters From North America >

January 11, 2007 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
Comments go to www.pearyperry.com
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