Obama is out to clean up
By Michael M. Bates
Barack Obama says he wants to clean government up. At first blush, you might not think a Chicago machine politician and chum of indicted Democratic fundraiser/slumlord/fixer Tony Rezko would be the ideal guy for that assignment. Still, Barry's not blushing; he claims he's serious.
He gets that earnest and really, really serious look (easily mistaken for constipation) on his face and you know that Mr. Ethics is about to speak with authority, even gravitas, as they say in the mainstream media. The Chicago Tribune reported that last month in Iowa he lectured:
I'd like to know precisely who the "our" is in "our agenda." It's safe to conclude we're not talking here about people who believe in limited government, lower taxes, a strong national defense and traditional moral values.
That aside, it's those old boogie men, the oil companies, insurance companies, drug companies, and special interests, that are keeping Obama and associates from moving the agenda forward.
I believe Barry's biggest beef with some of the entities he cites is they're simply not shoveling enough bucks into his campaign. No, they're not overlooking him, far from it. They're just not being as helpful as they should.
The Center for Responsive Politics maintains a Web site (opensecrets.org) that has a great deal of useful Federal Election Commission information on who gives what to whom. It totals contributions from political action committees and from individuals giving more than $200 and shows contributions by selected industries.
In terms of money received from the oil and gas industry, Obama ranks third among the eight announced Democratic presidential candidates. He does the same with insurance, again coming in third. First place is reserved for Senator Christopher Dodd who, in his capacity as a committee chairman, can investigate the insurance industry if he wants to. Obama is number two in contributions from the pharmaceuticals and health products industry.
Senator Obama didn't include banking interests among those nefarious special interests. Then again, with over $600,000 so far, he ranks number one among all candidates of either party in money from commercial banks.
And you may have noticed he didn't mention teachers' unions either. Surely that has little to do with the $1.3 million he's gotten from the education industry, again putting him at the top spot among all announced Democrats and Republicans.
Railing against those abominable special interests is always a winner among liberals. If Mr. Obama were genuinely concerned about the deleterious effects of huge campaign contributions, he should set an example.
Let's see him return the more than $5 million he's taken from lawyers and law firms. He can also send back the more than $3 million from the securities and investment industry and attach a letter saying he doesn't need or want special interest funding.
Then there's the $1.3 million from real estate, the $1.3 million from the entertainment industry, and the $652,000 from hedge funds and private equity sources he's accepted so far. Send it back with regrets. He could bow out of Oprahlalooza next month, saying that he doesn't want to give even the slightest hint of impropriety by accepting all that dough from fat cats.
Moreover, he could return the $7,885 he's taken from what used to be called Big Tobacco. Or if he's still not been able to give up that filthy habit - smoking cigarettes that is, not taking special interest money - he could request an in-kind contribution.
Senator Obama has benefited significantly from "bundling," which involves supporters collecting smaller contributions, putting them all together, and giving them to a politician. According to Public Citizens's White House for Sale Web site, Barack's had 262 "bundlers" each gather at least $50,000 for him. One is Commonwealth Edison chairman Frank Clark. Perhaps the utility's millions of customers who saw rates skyrocket by 24 percent on average wish he'd spend less time on politics and more on providing energy at a reasonable cost.
Many years ago another Democrat quipped that money is the mother's milk of politics. That's simply a fact of life. I have no problem with political contributions, as long as they're not made for a quid pro quo, or at least not too obviously.
Barry is trying to distance himself from other candidates by suggesting that when it comes to political cash he's different than the others. He's purer than pure. It'd be easier to take his self-righteous pontificating about how malevolent the special interests are if he didn't have both hands out grabbing money from those same sources.
Sooner or later, even those salivating over Obama's candidacy will come to the awareness that he's nothing more than your standard-issue liberal hypocrite. He can only hope it's after he's on the national ticket.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the August 9, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.