Brrring-Brrring-Brrring. We are sitting down at dinner, and the phone explodes off the wall. Well not really, but it is seriously unhappy. I get up and dutifully check the caller ID.
It says “Private Caller,” so I figure it is John Beresford Tipton Jr. about to offer me a million dollars, or given inflation, Warren Buffett with a billion. So I pick up.
Surprise, surprise, it is someone wanting my answers to a short questionnaire, but first I have to listen to House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich explain how ObamaCare has led to the conquest of Crimea, the impending rule of America by China, and global warming. Well, not the last one.
Like the reasonably well-bred liberal Republican I was raised to be, I listen and then tell the nice voice that “No, I do not think Newt should run for president again, even if he is offered another gazillion dollars by Sheldon Adelson.”
So much for dinner. I need to be on a diet, and this gave me an excuse to read about campaign financing. Why would anyone give a heap of money to people who run off and act silly by riding in a tank wearing a dumb helmet or forgetting which of three government departments to abolish?
The answers seemed pretty murky, but expensive. They are called Political Action Committees. These committees gather up heaps of money and send it to the media to show scary ads proving our leaders are even dopier than we thought.
The organizations, also known as 527s, are mechanisms for extracting unlimited amounts of money from the pockets of the grumpy as a gift to the media.
The 527s need only eventually reveal who is being grumpy. It’s a good deal for the media unless the donor is shy.
As I probed further, I discovered something weirder called a 501(c)(4) organization. This can do the same harvesting as long as it is in the name of social welfare and education. The big difference is that a 501(c)(4) does not need to reveal the names of the grumps.
Whoa Nellie, that is a license to steal from the rich and grumpy and give to the media. No wonder we do not hear about them. Well, actually we do.
They have discovered direct mail and robo calls. What a deal! They can call you on the phone, natter on about someone who is the ghost of elections past, and persuade you to secretly send them money so they can repeat the process. This reminds me of shampooing: blather, fleece, repeat.
These organizations pay their staff well. Recently, Jim DeMint discovered being a U.S. Senator three days a week was too much work and he had already qualified for a pension with benefits.
When the Heritage Foundation offered him $1 million to think about money making devices he jumped at the chance. What else would you expect a self-absorbed former advertising guy to do?
This is not limited to ginormous corporations like Heritage. Locally, we have groups like Clark Services that help aspiring young Republicans.
The fact that these local services include well paid political consulting, advertising and direct mailing shows that small businesses can make for noisy politics.
Well, back to dinner with the phone off the hook.
Dan Freeman lives in Galveston.