Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pimp My Senator

The recent woes of Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, and Duke Cunningham remind us that in the U.S. we truly have a government of the people, by the people (with a shitload of money) and for the people (with a shitload of money). It's easy for the individual who does not have access to millions of dollars and a stable of lobbyists to feel shut out of the process and alienated.

I personally can not complain, though. For one brief moment a couple years ago, I had an opportunity to throw my lot in with a political action committee and be partial owner of a Congressho, the way a stockholder can be a partial owner of a corporation. I worked for a huge telecom company that had an employee PAC, and one day there was a mandatory PAC-related meeting for all the 'managers' at the company. Like 90% of the managers there, I had no underlings, but because I was called 'manager', I couldn't join the union, so it was a win/win. I had a meaningless title, and the company had no need to worry that I might ever try to stand up for myself in an inconvenient way.

At the meeting, the sub-sub-demi-President of our local nodule of the corporation made a few remarks and introduced our bi-partisan presenters. There was a former Republican State Senator who looked like the president of the Lambda Chi Alpha Chapter. There was a former Democratic State Senator who looked like an AME minister. They told us about the hard life of the state representative. It is a part time job that doesn't pay very well. Lots of very
thick bills full of legalese end up on their desks. "There is no way we could read it all". Fortunately, there is help for the overwhelmed freshman senator.

These guys were approached by lobbyists for the corporation. "Hey, we spent a lot of money on your campaign" they said. "We think we deserve some access as a result". Access means getting to tell the senator how to vote.

These guys acquiesced, but they weren't just two cheap trollops that got used up and thrown away by the lobbyists, it turns out. They ended up getting really nice jobs with the corporation after their stint was up. God Bless America.

The way the PAC worked was pretty clever. When you signed up, you'd chose a percentage or amount from your paycheck that went to the PAC. You'd also choose a charity from the corporation's approved list, and the company would match your PAC contribution with money going to the charity. That way they got your money in exchange for charitable contributions which, unlike your PAC contribution, were tax deductible.

After the presentation was over, a cynical old bag at the back of the room said, in a voice ravaged by thousands of smoke breaks: 'think of this as your management union dues'. The ex-congresshos laughed, but said 'well, we aren't allowed to say that, ha, ha'.

Some chump I worked with signed up to pay a dollar per pay period. He lived in fear and was really under the corporate fist. He slept at his desk regularly, but feared if he checked weather.com from his work computer the goon squad would take him away. Beep beep. I'm sure he thought if he didn't give them any money, his days were numbered, but I'm surprised it didn't cross his mind that the $1 would look like an insult.

As for myself, I signed up to give them nothing. I guess I only have myself to blame for my position of powerlessness and lack of say in what the government does.

(BTW, I don't know what happened to the grizzly story. Looks like blogger ate it.)

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