Wednesday, May 24, 2006

V.P. Cheney in CA - "Lord, Tonight's All About Raising Money"

As Mark Barabak reports in the Los Angeles Times, Vice President Dick Cheney came to California this week to raise money for three congressional candidates. The beneficiaries included Brian Bilbray, who is vying to fill Duke Cunningham's recently vacated seat (CA-50), and current Reps. John Doolittle (CA-4) and Richard Pombo (CA-11).

Both Doolittle and Pombo are facing what appears to be significant opposition in the primary for the first time in years, so Mr. Cheney's visit only two weeks before the June 6 primary was likely intended to send a signal to district Republicans how the White House feels they should vote. But signal-sending aside, the real reason for the Veep's trip was described by a local pastor in the invocation before the Pombo event.

"Lord, tonight's all about raising money."

Indeed, elections have become increasingly about raising money, and almost exclusively from the nation's upper crust, rather than constituents. So it was refreshing to see that ticket prices to Doolittle's fundraiser were $250, rather than the $1,000 or $2,000 prices you normally see at fundraising events in Washington D.C.

That being said, Cheney's visit is a reminder that the Beltway's answer to falling approval ratings is to raise more money than God and then to blow your opponents out of the water by outspending them, rather than outarguing them on the issues. And for every $250 fundraising event in the district*, there are 10 more events in D.C. where the corporate lobbyists and PACs are all giving $2,000 or $5,000.

The system of funding campaigns has given a clear and decisive advantage to wealthy interests over average Americans when it comes to electing our representatives. Until we change that system, the rest of us will be on the outside looking in at our democracy just as surely as we would be standing on the outside looking in at a fundraiser charging $2,000 for admission.

*Doolittle represents a district that includes a portion of suburban Sacramento. The fundraiser was held at the downtown Hyatt, which is not in his district, but is close enough to be easily reachable by many of his constituents.

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