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PAC Evil

Jim Hightower encapsulates the horror of big money politics in a few paragraphs.

From pp 80-81 of If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates by Jim Hightower.

I love this book. It set my political clock back ten years; it did the same for my neighbor, and made us both unreconstructed leftists with Marxist tendencies, spinning me into an uncontrollably angry disgust at my government, and pushing me into a one-man letter-writing campaign. -pef

Steve Sovern found that out a few years ago when he ran for Congress from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A Democrat, he was a promising candidate with a terrific group of volunteers and an enthusiastic base of support. The party brought him to Washington for a two-day candidate's workshop put on by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Steve says he was excited to be among some seventy other grade-A Democratic candidates attending this how-to-win workshop: “I looked forward to returning to Cedar Rapids filled with ideas, ideals, issues, and inspiration.” He came to the meeting all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with his notepad and tape recorder, ready to absorb all the wisdom the party could offer.

“Understand how the game is played,” offered a big-time media consultant as the workshop opened. “Game?” thought Steve, as it quietly dawned on him that this might not be about ideals and issues. “Money drives this town,” intoned a DCCC staffer, followed by another consultant who informed the budding members of Congress: “You have to sell yourself to Washington first,” by which he meant the lobbyists who control the PAC funds. Rep. Peter Hoagland, then a lawmaker from Nebraska, came in to assure the group that “raising campaign money from Washington PACs is much easier than from individuals because it's a business relationship.” Steve's eyes squinted as he thought, “Business relationship?” The DCCC staffer clarified the point, in case any of the seventy innocents didn't get it: “These people are paid to give you money. You have to do certain things, but they want to give you money.”

What if you don't want to take their filthy lucre, which Steve did not? Congressman Hoagland: “Some of you may be under pressure to repudiate PACs. I strongly suggest you not that the hook. Restrain yourself, and don't let zeal for reform influence you.” Hmmm, thought Steve: “Let lobbyists' money influence you, but not zeal for reform?”

To put theory into practice, day two of the workshop began with a “mating dance” brunch. The DCCC invited a flock of PAC directors to eat croissants and look over the seventy congressional prospects, who in turn were expected to preen, strut, and do whatever it takes to mate monetarily with the PACs. Steve reports that the candidates wore blue name tags, while the PACs sported red ones. Rep. Beryl Anthony of Arkansas led the dance, informing the candidates that the assembled PAC directors were their friends, that PACs represent “little people.”...


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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