The ruse of representation

Why would elected officials hire a lobbyist? Isn’t that what we elect them to do? Represent us?

The city of Dayton spends money on lobbyists, directly, and indirectly via funding to organizations like the Dayton Development Coalition. In all my years of following the Dayton City Commission, I don’t recall them having meetings with state representatives, state senators, the governor, our congressmen, where they have a discussion about the issues that they are our first line of government on. Sure, they go hob-nob at events, and every once in a while they will talk one-on-one with these people at higher levels, but other than a joint meeting with County Commission or the School Board, I’ve never seen them invite Congressman Turner back to his old haunt for a discussion of the issues. Of course, until just this election cycle, they would have had to invite John Boehner as well, since Dayton used to be split in two congressional districts (conveniently, the line was at Mike Turner’s old back fence on Huffman).

Can you imagine the military working like this? Where the platoon sergeants never met with the company commander? Or the company commander never met with the battalion commander, etc? If the politicians are truly our representatives, they should be meeting with other representatives for a coordinated plan of attack.

Unfortunately, due to our insane system of holding auctions instead of elections, our elected officials are more likely to meet with donors to their campaigns than with constituents. And lobbyists work for who pays them, not who elected them, since they never had to suffer the humiliation of having to panhandle for campaign funds.

This even boils down to within our city. When was the last time you saw the city commission meet with all the neighborhood presidents for a discussion of goals and strategies? Instead, we had the elected priority board system, but, they didn’t meet directly with the commission or the city manager either. All these disconnects are indications of the ruse of representation- if we were truly electing representatives, they’d all be meeting together at least a few times a year to discuss how they could best represent us.

Where are the public forums, hosted by our “leaders” to discuss our plans and purpose? The three minute stand at the podium is regarded by most on the Dayton City Commission as an annoyance. Where is the formalized process of taking citizen issues raised to the commission and issuing an official response to all? Shouldn’t the first order of business each week be a status update on actions taken by the city manager to resolve the citizens’ issues? On the web- we use a software solution “help desk” that tracks issues through resolution- where is the City Commissions help desk?

I started attending City Commission meetings because I went to my elected leaders over an issue that I thought was a farce: the city order to remove new garage doors from my house because they were vinyl imitating wood grain in a historic district. I was met with blank stares and very little feedback. I was punished for fixing up a dump of a house that I bought for $14,500 after it had been on the market for 2 years and dropped in asking price by a third. Maybe, just maybe, had we had representation that listened and acted in a structured, sensible system that utilized the entire “chain of command” we’d have a government that better represented all of us.

When elected to the Dayton City Commission this November, I assure you that you will have at least one voice that believes that it’s my job to represent the voters, all the way to the top, not just where the bucks flow. If this sounds like the kind of elected representative you want, please consider donating to my humble campaign that’s limiting to $10K in donations.

The tax the 1% don’t mind paying: the political tax

In the last presidential election cycle, over $5 billion was spent on political campaigns. This cycle with the newly allowed superPACs, it could be double that. The mass media will never point out how ludicrous this all is directly, because it’s keeping them alive. If there is one reason to move the elections to July 4 instead of the first Tuesday in November it’s because it’s becoming near impossible for anyone other than politicians to buy media space until after the election and it makes it harder for real businesses that depend on fourth quarter sales to survive to advertise.

The billions don’t come from a majority of voters, a majority of the money comes from the 1%. It’s a voluntary tax on the wealthy who think that buying, I mean donating to, politicians is a better investment than just paying slightly more in income tax and putting this whole system of auctions/elections out of business.

It’s not just the direct political donations either, it’s the entire “lobbying industry” that costs them as well. From the NYT we read how the super rich from other countries come in and buy up politicians as well- despite laws against foreigners donating directly to campaigns:

In the summer of 2009, a Malaysian billionaire took an unexpected interest in a small town in the Catskill Mountains in New York. With little notice, he bought a stake in a racetrack casino where the owners had struggled for more than a decade to develop a gambling complex

It was the first move in a brash attempt by KT Lim, chairman of one of the world’s largest gambling conglomerates, to muscle his way into the potentially lucrative American market. But Mr. Lim’s company, Genting Berhad, did not go it alone.

First, Genting hired a lobbyist named John L. Cordo, who was once on the staff of the Republican majority in the New York Senate. Then, with the company rapidly expanding, it amassed a who’s who of influential lobbyists.

Now, as Genting pursues multibillion-dollar projects in New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack and in Miami, its lobbying offers a primer on how a well-heeled newcomer can make up for its lack of experience and connections in the United States.

Because casino gambling is highly regulated, the industry has long drawn swarms of lobbyists promising to help navigate state capitols….

Christian Goode, a senior Genting executive on the New York and Miami projects, said in an interview that Genting had hired so many lobbyists in those locations because it wanted to participate in the political process “like any other company.”

Mr. Goode declined to discuss the lobbyists’ specific roles. “We are a large multinational company with lots of exposure,” he said. “Things come up from time to time. We just want to make sure we’re properly represented.”…

“Being a relatively unknown Asian company has not been an impediment for Genting in New York or Florida,” said Grant Govertsen, a principal of the Union Gaming Group, a research firm. “More than anything else these days, money talks.”

Gambling critics said Genting’s ability to spend so lavishly on lobbying suggested how much the company stood to gain.

“They intend to soak so much money out of our community that spending millions on local and state government isn’t much more than a rounding error,” said Dan Gelber, a former federal prosecutor in Miami and the chairman of the No Casinos group in South Florida.

via Genting Berhad Muscles Into American Gambling in New York City and Miami – NYTimes.com.

In another article in the NYT today, the one tool that can level the playing field in politics, the Internet, is being debated as well. The activists that call themselves “Anonymous” have launched “Operation Hiroshima” to attack those who want to pass SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) by posting private data and  smearing those who support it.

The technology industry, including giants like Google and Yahoo, and advocates for Internet freedom say the bills would censor the Internet, stifle free speech and give the government too much power to regulate and shut down web sites in the United States. Both sides have spent millions on lobbying in Washington. But at the grass-roots level, the issue has galvanized Internet activists, who lack lobbying power but have promoted the cause among the online community.

“You take our speech, you take our Internet, you take our Bill of Rights, you take our Constitution, we fight back,” said a monotone voice on a YouTube video posted by Anonymous before the Operation Hiroshima document drop.

Lawmakers and their aides have also been targets. A photograph of a 25-year-old aide for the House Judiciary Committee was superimposed into pornography by a group related to Anonymous, according to another aide who was briefed on security threats to lawmakers and their staffs. “Why can’t they just hire a lobbyist like everyone else?” this aide said.

via Fighting Antipiracy Measure, Activist Group Posts Personal Information of Media Executives – NYTimes.com.

And the articles on money buying politicians and influence just keeps coming- with Newt Gingrich even calling off the dogs of a “SuperPAC” that is smearing Mitt Romney:

Misleading and exaggerated claims in a film portraying Mitt Romney as a heartless job killer led Newt Gingrich to ask on Friday that the group behind it change or withdraw it, even though Mr. Gingrich is the intended beneficiary of the film….

But the group running the video, the pro-Gingrich “super PAC” Winning Our Future, made no move to alter the work….

By calling for the ads to come down or undergo changes, Mr. Gingrich was potentially getting to have his cake and eat it too, reaping the benefits of attacks that have been nationally branded as false while publicly distancing himself. Yet he also faced the risks of being associated with an attack by a group that has a former close aide, Rick Tyler, as a senior adviser….

But in questioning the advertisements’ accuracy on Friday, Mr. Gingrich was providing an early test of the benefits and risks to political candidates like him who, with little of their own financing, are being sustained by super PACS, which can use unlimited resources to help candidates and attack their opponents as long as the campaigns do not coordinate with them.

So far, these groups are running nearly as many advertisements per day as the candidates themselves, according to an analysis by Kantar Media/CMAG, which reports that they are spending far more than the actual campaigns because they do not get the same discounted rates from stations that candidates get. Winning Our Future is heavily in the mix, having received a $5 million commitment from the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

via Gingrich Calls for Withdrawal of Ad Against Romney and Bain – NYTimes.com.

Do you get the feeling that it’s not our election anymore? Most of the people I know can’t afford to make $2,500 donations to multiple candidates or hire a lobbyist to try to get their tax burden reduced. Many of the people I know dread the return to $4 a gallon gas, put off going to the doctor because even if they do have insurance, the hassle of the multiple bills coming from three different places overwhelms them.

When we elect a person, we don’t even expect them to be able to work without the support of lobbyists. It seems the entire region believes that somehow we need to pay for the Dayton Development Coalition to tell our elected representatives how to save our collected communities. We’ve got the best politicians money can buy, but their price tag is beyond the average voter’s pay scale.

If we really want to cut taxes on the wealthy, the first one that needs to go is the political tax. Let’s take the money out of politics and just pay the bill to send all voters a printed guide with equal space for every candidate and issue. Give the voter time to study it, research further online and vote by mail (like Oregon does). Let’s implement “Instant runoff voting” so that we skip the long primary season and never ever have to vote against someone, or vote for the lesser of two evils again. Why should anyone ever feel their vote is wasted?

Watch this video from www.rootstrikers.org

Striking The Root of Wall Street Corruption from Sean McDaniel on Vimeo.

There will be no last stand for Dayton: transactions before common sense

Reading today’s Dayton Daily News, where the obvious gets reported years late, I realized that resistance is futile, we may as well throw in the towel and give up.

More than four decades after racial discrimination in home lending was outlawed, lenders in the Dayton area deny a much higher percentage of loans to blacks than whites, even when income levels are comparable.

Blacks are also more likely than whites to be sold a high-cost, subprime loan.

via Well-off blacks denied loans more than low-income whites.

So much for the “community reinvestment act” and all the other “do good/feel good legislation” that has been passed off as an excuse to solve the sins of the past- they’re all window dressing- on a building that’s been allowed to rot.

The banks, who’ve been allowed to grow beyond state lines, and turned the financial markets into a giant casino have succeeded in killing the American dream. They may be “too big to fail” but they are also now too big to understand the damage they’ve wrought.

The inner city wastelands of Dayton, Detroit and points near and far are infrastructure that they’ve written off. The value of those roads, utilities, public services, schools etc. have all been tossed aside, because there is no way to keep the churn of money moving in these forgotten areas. And the churn is what makes the banks able to take their scrape.

Investment is no longer investment. Our monetary system has turned into a transactional junkie, with a need for stock, or debt, or credit default swaps to change hands frequently. We don’t care about you buying and holding anything- it’s all about flipping deals and taking a cut/commission/fee.

Be it your 401K, or the lease, or the ownership- nothing is about building wealth based on anything except trading paper.

We don’t make things anymore. We don’t want to invest in things for the greater good- we just want to set up shell companies, dealing in futures, making paper trades on businesses that don’t make sense.

How else can anyone back the building of a new HQ for Teradata in a region that is already 50% overbuilt- with a 25%+ commercial vacancy rate- and zero population growth? Because they need that fix of issuing debt, to be flipped over and over until we can’t tell who’s holding the bag for the next time Teradata wants to move.

The fact that your tax dollars are being “invested” in this deal- both directly in the building ($500k) and in the new interchange-just adds insult to injury.  That no one is screaming stop this madness is even a clearer indication that we’re doomed.

I look at the Tea Party screaming foul about “Obamacare” and wonder why the antipathy goes toward Obama instead of the insurance industry that just got a guaranteed bump in government-required business. Why are we not just paying the doctors and nurses- and cutting out the middleman? Who is writing our laws these days? It’s certainly not anyone interested in the well being of the public.

To look at Jon Husted, a lobbyist pretending to be a politician- smearing the idea of a return to rail in Ohio- complaining about the subsidy it will require, while ignoring the huge subsidies given to fund road construction- and the sprawl induced by government handouts like those funding Teradata.

Yet, somehow houses can lose half their value in 3 years. However, it’s not just happening to blacks in West Dayton- it happened to me in South Park. My home was valued at $130K a few years ago- and now is worth $60K according to “Bank of America.”

If we allow this wholesale write off to continue- our entire country will be worthless.

It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to require accountability. It’s time to stop writing laws that favor corporations over the community. It’s time to take a stand and require investments to be held- and tax the transactions.

It’ time to stop putting money into private hands to do public work.

It’s time to stop the insanity of writing off entire areas because the flip won’t fly anymore.

Your thoughts?

Evan Bayh Bayh.

Evan Bayh bailed at the last minute on the people of Indiana. Two days before the petition turn-in date, he surprised them all by saying he wouldn’t run again for the Senate. Of course, by sitting on a huge campaign chest he’d already sent a “don’t run against me” message to all.

Right there is the root of the problem. We don’t encourage debate, challenges or the questioning of our leadership anywhere near the level we should. In a day of instant communication- where transparency should be easier- it’s actually gotten harder to nail down exactly what these jokers are saying. It’s so complex- some of them don’t even know.

And why is that? We’ve got the best politicians money can buy.

Bayh is kidding himself if he doesn’t think that he’s just another pawn of the K St. lobby contingent. Until we take the huge money out of politics- we’ll never elect our best thinkers- because they rarely have the dashing good looks that being a sound bite politician requires these days.

Abe Lincoln would never have made it in today’s political environment- too ungainly and plumb ugly.

Bayh gives a good swan song in today’s New York Times– which some read as a set up for him to run as a “centrist,” third-party candidate in 2012. Bad news Evan, if Michael Bloomberg decides to do the same thing, your campaign chest is rounding error.

Of course, we can blame the voters for being apathetic to the screwing we’ve been given by these puppets of corporate America, or we can blame partisanship, or the rules of filibusters, or any number of things as he does in his piece:

Of course, the genesis of a good portion of the gridlock in Congress does not reside in Congress itself. Ultimate reform will require each of us, as voters and Americans, to take a long look in the mirror, because in many ways, our representatives in Washington reflect the people who have sent them there….

Our most strident partisans must learn to occasionally sacrifice short-term tactical political advantage for the sake of the nation. Otherwise, Congress will remain stuck in an endless cycle of recrimination and revenge. The minority seeks to frustrate the majority, and when the majority is displaced it returns the favor. Power is constantly sought through the use of means which render its effective use, once acquired, impossible.

What is required from members of Congress and the public alike is a new spirit of devotion to the national welfare beyond party or self-interest. In a time of national peril, with our problems compounding, we must remember that more unites us as Americans than divides us.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Why I’m Leaving the Senate – NYTimes.com.

But maybe it’s way beyond that. Maybe the world has changed faster than our vaunted system. I find it almost criminal that our local elected officials feel a need to hire lobbyists to represent our interests to those who are supposed to represent us. But, I’m in the minority- as most voters have no clue this is going on.

Maybe we’ve gone wrong from the git go? Maybe the parliamentary system with its ability to call an election at will is a more viable solution these days? No more long planning horizons, no more spending a third of your time in office planning for the next election. Maybe we shake things up to stop the buying off of our elected offices- until the system devolves back into larceny.

Today’s Dayton Grassroots Daily Show talks about Evan Bayh and his swan song. Greg calls for a return to the original electoral college system. I call for complete elimination of cash in politics. Take a look- and weigh in.

Follow up on the Greene County cutting allowance to the DDC

I first wrote about this back on Jan 22nd– patting the Greene County Commission on the back, for taking a stand for their taxpayers.

On Jan 28, 2010- the Dayton Daily News called them on the carpet:

Greene County’s commissioners are either being petty or they’re lost in the financial weeds.

Last week Commissioners Marilyn Reid and Alan Anderson approved a $44.7 million operating budget, in which they cut funding to the Dayton Development Coalition to $25,000.

The coalition is an economic development organization that is funded with contributions from local governments and area businesses.

Commissioner Rick Perales voted no, in part, because he wanted to guarantee that the coalition will receive $50,000. A Greene County development agency may yet decide to kick in another $25,000.

You’re reading all of this right. Greene County has an almost $45 million budget, and elected officials are haggling over peanut shells — not even the peanuts. But there’s more.

Last year, Greene County contributed $50,000 to the coalition, while in 2008, the commissioners allotted $195,000.

The commissioners paint the reductions as a statement about cost-cutting. But that’s not serious.

via Editorial: Greene County snubs its best advocate | A Matter of Opinion.

Why do our politicians feel incapable of lobbying directly? Isn’t that what the layers of government are supposed to do? Move things up the food chain?

Greg and I have a little discussion for you on this- questioning how this group of lobbyists gets a virtual free pass from the Dayton Daily News- and we wonder why?

It’s about time our politicians started doing the lobbying for us directly. Otherwise, why bother electing them at all- we can just cut the checks directly to the DDC and cut out the middle men.