I was asked by management at the Joplin Globe to take down this entry, and since the paper pays my meager wages, I will comply. But in lieu of actually taking it down, I opted for editing out the parts that I suspect management objected to. In place of the original text, I have inserted ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥’s. Someday, I may write about this episode, which in my opinion confirms the original point of the piece, but for now, here is the redacted post:
The Joplin Globe clearly expressed its official editorial position on the mixing of money and politics today:
We continue to support unlimited individual contributions to political parties and candidates.
That must mean the paper is prepared to hold accountable those politicians who accept large amounts of money from donors. Well, it said today it was:
No doubt the public and we, the media, should carefully monitor any politician’s position and watch for changes in such positions based on financial incentives. If there is reasonable evidence to suggest vote “buying” in any form, it should be made public.
That must also mean the paper is prepared to scrutinize the motives of those who would give large amounts of money to those politicians. Well, it said today it was:
If an individual chooses to spend a lot of his or her money in support of politicians, they should be able to defend such contributions. The bigger the sums, the greater the public scrutiny and demand for accountability.
So, the Joplin Globe has taken the position that it is okay for individuals to give any amount of money to politicians, so long as the donors are subject to questioning and politicians are closely watched to make sure they’re not selling their votes.
But how on earth can the Globe do that? In other words, how can the paper know for sure just what the motives are of huge donors? And how can it know whether a politician’s vote has been purchased or even just influenced by large amounts of cash?
It can’t. That’s why allowing unlimited contributions is a serious mistake and will inevitably lead to public cynicism and a complete lack of confidence in our state’s political system.
Unless a politician is willing to admit that, yes, I voted against health reform because I received $1 million from the insurance companies, all we can do is speculate as to his motivation.
Unless a donor ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
As an example, Sunday’s Globe featured an article by Susan Redden regarding the current debate in the Missouri House over ethics reform, specifically the connection between campaign contributions and potential legislation.
The article included the various ways proposed to reform the system. One way suggested (contrary to the Globe‘s editorial position) was, “reinstating campaign contribution limits that were removed in Missouri in 2008.”
In the article, Redden wrote:
Reinstating contribution limits would affect some local donors, including ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, which gave more than $1.7 million to state Republican candidates, groups and committees in 2008, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
That was just in 2008. Last year, the Kansas City Star reported that,
Within days of a controversial vote last April in the Missouri House, rumors flew that a reward was coming for the Republican leaders who pushed it through.
And those rumors proved true. $25,000 poured in a week after the vote. Then $5,000. Then $50,000. Then $100,000, followed days later by another $25,000. And another $50,000.
The campaign contributions — more than $250,000 in all — came from ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
Hmmm. So here we have ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. Beats me.
The Globe attempted to contact ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, but [as Redden wrote]:
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ did not respond to questions about the purpose of his contributions, or about whether there is a link between contributions and favorable legislation.
But it is fair to ask ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. The vote in April of 2009 that the Star referenced involved the way Missouri chooses its judges who sit on the state’s highest courts.
Our appellate court judges, including supreme court judges, are not initially elected in Missouri. A lawyer-heavy commission recommends three judges to the governor, who then appoints one of the three. Subsequently, the appointed judge must stand for a “retention election,” and upon approval serves a 12-year term.
As the Star put it, “conservatives have assailed the process, arguing that it gives too much influence to trial attorneys.” And we all know what Republicans think of trial attorneys.
Anyway, the Star continued:
Some companies believe that, through the political process, they can put judges on the bench who are more conservative and sympathetic to corporations.
Okay. What does that ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? Read on:
At the forefront of the fight has been ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
According to Follow The Money, in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$20,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Louisiana. Yes. Louisiana. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?
Well, the candidate, Republican Greg Guidry, was widely perceived to be a friend of business interests. And Guidry himself criticized his Republican opponent for tainting himself by acting as a “personal injury lawyer.” And we all know those personal injury lawyers are ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥? Taken together, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥to the Louisiana candidate for the Supreme Court ranked ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ as one of his top three donors.
Also in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$6800 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Michigan. Yes. Michigan. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?
Well, the incumbent candidate, Clifford Taylor, was part of a block of four conservatives on the court who consistently voted as one. And guess what? According to one source,
Taylor’s tenure was marked by complaints about conflicts of interest due to the campaign finance system.
Again in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$5,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Mississippi. Yes. Mississippi. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?
Well, the candidate, another incumbent, was James Smith. This stalwart conservative was the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and was part of a controversial decision involving the insurance giant, Prudential.
By a 7-2 decision the court overturned a jury award of $36.4 million against Prudential, and Justice Smith was among other judges in the majority who were criticized for previously taking money from Prudential and later reversing the jury award in favor of the insurance company. According to one source, he had taken in a mere $316,077 from a collection of “lawyers, physicians, and insurance companies” in 2004.
Once more in 2008, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥$5,000 to a candidate for the Supreme Court in Wisconsin. Yes. Wisconsin. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?
Well, the “non-partisan” candidate, Mike Gableman, was challenging Louis Butler, the incumbent. Gableman was supported by the business community, which did not like Butler’s opinions in cases involving medical malpractice and product liability cases.
Hmmm. That’s a total of $36,800 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ to candidates for the supreme court in other states.
What did the Kansas City Star say again about the fight to change the way Missouri appoints its judges?
Okay. So ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
But shouldn’t there be limits on those contributions? Here at home, won’t unlimited amounts of cash injected into our political system taint it in the eyes of the public?
Aren’t Missourians justified in wondering about the independence of, say, our own local legislator, Ron Richard, when he reportedly received $55,000 in cash* from ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥?
In its account of the atmosphere surrounding the process, The Star‘s story discussed Richard’s role in the House’s passage of the judicial “reform” bill in 2009:
Suspicions arose almost immediately on both sides of the aisle. Several Republican lawmakers told The Star that their leadership held a series of closed-door meetings with freshman lawmakers and veterans who had voted against a similar bill in 2008.
“We got our asses chewed,” said one lawmaker who was called before the speaker. The lawmaker asked not to be identified.
Tilley, who as floor leader directs legislation in the House, told lawmakers the bill’s failure would be “unacceptable” and House Speaker Ron Richard bullied subordinates into supporting it, according to legislators’ accounts and contemporaneous memos.
Aren’t we entitled to a little cynicism here? If Ron Richard chewed ass and “bullied subordinates into supporting” a bill ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
That’s the problem. Because the money flows freely and without limits in Missouri, there is nothing ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
And that is why the Globe is so wrong about endorsing “unlimited individual contributions to political parties and candidates.” At the very least, the paper should be prepared to ask some tough questions of the givers and receivers, even if they don’t want such scrutiny. Continue calling them, visiting their offices, sending them letters—whatever it takes—to get some answers.
And I’ll be here watching to see if it does.
*Actually, the amount turns out to be $60,000.