Monday, May 15, 2006

Don't Just Follow the Money; Run Against It!

The Washington Post reports that a West Virginia Democratic member of the U.S. House is under scrutiny because of apparent links between federal projects and non-profits that he has ties with.

Congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans is also under investigation for linking assistance to an information technology company to financial gifts to his wife and children.

The fact of the matter is that the relentless pressure to raise money for campaigns is at the heart of the corruption that is killing our political institutions, particularly the House of Representatives, where members must run every two years.

Whoever the Democrat who runs against Charles Boustany turns out to be (yes, there will be a Democratic opponent for the PAC Man) needs to make money a central issue in the campaign.

Boustany is a Congressman, but he is not our congressman. Instead, he's the congressman for the hundreds of political action committees that have contributed millions of dollars to his two congressional campaigns.

The fact is, money talks to Boustany. Look no further than the money Tom DeLay gave his campaign and the votes Boustany took on his first day in office to help DeLay by changing the rules under which the House Ethics Committee operated. Boustany voted to protect DeLay from the embarrassment of further Ethics Committee investigations.

No one from the 7th District had an interest in protecting DeLay. In fact, voters in the 7th District had every reason to believe that Boustany would stand by the posture he assumed in his 2004 campaign advertising, where he said he would not be part of the old, corrupt politics of the past.

No, instead, Charles Boustany leapt in with both feet in the new corruption of the present, backing the principle of party over people, of K Street over citizens, of the soft "one dollar, one vote" corruption that has come to define the Republican majority in the House.

In order to highlight the corrupting influence of PAC money in campaigns, the Democratic candidate for the 7th District seat should begin the campaign by refusing to accept PAC contributions. Yes, it will make it harder for the Democrat to raise the kind of money that Boustany has raised and will continue to raise. But, if money is, indeed, the problem that could actually work to sharply and clearly define Boustany's ties to the corrupt order in Washington.

It will also provide an opportunity to engage in truly grassroots campaigning and fund-raising by Democrats in the 7th District -- not just pay it lip service.

Corruption is the defining issue of the 2006 congressional campaign season. The public record is replete with examples linking contributions to congressional favors.

The message for 7th District Democrats is this: Don't just follow the money; run against it!

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