LETTERS

What political money buys

Posted

To the Editor:

Money is the root all of evil. That statement is never truer than in RI Politics. You can call corporate donations “Pay to Play” or “Corporate Influence” or “Favor for a Favor” or any other term. But let’s call it what it is: Bribery. Pure and simple bribery!

I am not talking about the $20, $50 or $100 donation you might make to you son’s former soccer coach running for town council. You don’t raise $1 million to 7 million dollars from $20 donations. $50 doesn’t buy the constant TV ads. What gets you the big money is the PAC contributions, the people who work for them, and the corporate lobbyists who write the laws our reps vote on. And those people want value in exchange for the big money they contribute, and if you believe otherwise then I have a really good video game company run by a former MLB pitcher to sell you.

And what does that money buy? It buys TV ads that call a sitting U.S. senator a “doofus,” or ads that list statistics of more than dubious nature (how can we be 12th in college preparedness and only in the low 20’s in math proficiency?), or perhaps the one that claims that his opponents’ donations are from organizations less holy that the PAC money he takes.

Because it really doesn’t matter if you take your money from Big Pharma, or the NRA, Wall Street, insurance companies or if it is from the teachers, the firefighters, construction trade unions, environmental or affordable housing construction. They all donate in the hopes of getting a candidate who will give them something in return. Or the big individual contributors who plan on getting state jobs from the candidate elected. A bribe is a bribe and these are all definitions of bribes.

My friend Bob Healey ran for office for years not taking these bribes. The media often treated him as a joke. He certainly could have raised big money in the last cycle, where Bob Healey received 21 percent of the vote, spending $35 to get it. If he ran this year I think he could have either won or have been very, very close. Bob was proving a point that people would vote for you without saturated TV airways, hundreds of mailings, and dozens of phone calls at all hours, that you can keep your dignity just run on the issues and still run for office. A lesson that is regretfully is still lost on most candidates today.

But what is worse, the media that uses money raised as a yardstick for candidate’s viability. The prevalent view that unless you raise big money, unless you are bribed, that you should not run, and cannot win. And it is the media that dismisses a candidate that doesn’t raise the big money.

On Lively Experiment last Friday it was suggested that the lack of money should keep people out of debates because it might take votes from the highly bribed candidates. Are our elections to be wholly bought and paid for? I find this despicable. Is it any wonder that we have such poorly functioning government? Is the media saying that someone cannot be an acceptable candidate because he didn’t take enough bribes?

Well Bob Healey didn’t think so. I had breakfast with him a couple weeks after the last election, I was amazed he did so well on $35 and I told him that if he ran again I would run for lieutenant governor. Sadly, Bob passed away three months later. I felt honor bound to run anyway.

Will I win? I don’t know. Put me in the debates and I might. But I won’t be taking any bribes. Excuse me, big corporate donations. Like there is a difference.

Joel Hellmann

Endorsed Moderate Candidate

Lieutenant Governor

East Providence

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