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Candidates, tell us more about who you are

If I hear another candidate whining about his or her opponent taking “special interest” campaign contributions, I’m going to rip my sample ballot in half and shove it in my ears.

Knock it off. Anyone who gives you money has a special interest. The more money they give you, the more interested they are.

Valentine’s Day candy works the same way.



Take Sen. Kerry, for example. He finally shut his special interest pie hole after it was reported that he had a very cozy special interest relationship with the nation’s largest insurance company, which has a special interest in making sure we all pay lots of money for insurance.

Prior to that revelation, the would-be president liked to rail against the “special interests that are taking over America.”




Closer to home, a Board of Supervisors candidate sent a direct mail piece accusing her opponent of accepting $500 from a “special interest” group, namely the Contractors’ Association (you know … those terrible plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other folks with tool belts that have been propping up our local economy far too long). She forgot to mention the $5,000 she got from a private citizen who just happens to be president of another prominent “special interest” group down by the river.

Another supervisorial candidate continues to rant against his opponent’s “contractor” ties, while failing to disclose that a fellow tied to a large local development project signed his election paperwork. Oops.

Just so we’re all clear on the subject: It takes money to run for office. Researchers have found that 8.5 out of every 10.3 Americans spend 23 of every 24 hours each day watching television. They don’t answer their door. They don’t open their mail. They don’t sleep. They don’t eat. They don’t read. The only way to reach them, then, is to drop an expensive political commercial on them during breaks in “American Idol,” or “Ed TV,” or “Survivor” and hope they haven’t gotten off the couch to use the bathroom.

Sad, but true.

That’s not to say most Americans don’t have special interests of their own. Many are interested in Michael Jackson and his sister, Janet. Others are interested in Paris Hilton, Kobe Bryant and Justin Timberlake.

So if you want to get most Americans interested in something as uninteresting as the federal deficit, for example, you need to spend some money to punch it up a bit. Add a little sex appeal, even. You could produce a reality television show, I suppose. Cameras follow the Treasury secretary 24 hours a day as he tries to figure out where all the money went. When he can’t find the money, the president rushes in and rips his left shirt pocket off, exposing a bare bureaucratic breast. News talk anchors could spend the next two months debating whether the bureaucrat’s bare breast was appropriate for prime-time television.

You could even create a political version of “Survivor,” where viewers get to vote one candidate off the ballot each week until there’s only one remaining. Candidates would have a chance to win immunity through weekly mud-slinging contests.

If you’re not afraid to catch anything, go to Sacramento and see how the political game is really played. Legislative halls are filled with sleazy, oily lobbyists with all kinds of special interests. Most all of them are especially interested in money. Yours and mine.

And don’t think the sleaze doesn’t cross all party lines. Democrats are just as sleazy as Republicans when it comes to special interest money. They are just more peaceful and loving about it.

While I don’t share his political views, Peter Camejo from the Green Party is at least sticking to his guns, refusing to be sucked into the Democrats’ plea for the Green Party to stay out of the presidential race or face the prospect of having Dubya re-elected (the battle cry on the left this year is “Anything But Bush Again”).

Camejo, who ran for governor earlier this year, essentially told Democratic leaders the other night that their party is just as corrupt as the Republican Party and that it’s time to end the two-party system that is controlled by “Corporate America.”

I bring this up only because I thought things would be different this time around. For some silly reason, I assumed most of us knew that it takes money to run for office (as much as $100,000 for a $30,000 Board of Supervisors seat) and that our local candidates would need to raise some if they hoped to get elected next month. Candidates who “refuse-to-accept-special-interest-money-so-help-me-God” generally lose, which explains the Green Party’s won-loss record.

I was also hoping the political rhetoric would be toned down a bit from our last election season, which saw enough dirt to fill a Super Bowl halftime show. I’ve spoken with all of the candidates, and they’re a smart bunch of people. Maybe some are hoping to convince a few not-so-smart people that they have no special interests other than getting elected.

It’s not too late. We still have a couple of weeks before the polls open. It would be really refreshing if, as someone recently suggested, candidates spent the remainder of the election season telling us who they are rather than whom their opponents aren’t.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears each Tuesday.


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