Ten years ago while teaching political science at New England College in New Hampshire, I directed Common Cause, the nonpartisan good government lobby known for controlling--or trying to--the floodgates of money in politics.
In 2010, mega money in politics is at its highest watermark. Case in point: Meg Whitman's attempted purchase of the California voter.
Whitman makes no secret of her devotion to using whatever money means necessary to win the Governor's office in November. So far her own $104 million donation has garnered a slight lead over the rope-a-dope thrifty tactics of her Democratic challenger, Jerry Brown.
A quick visit to Whitman's campaign website is a stomach turning venture in Megland. You can download the official 2010 Meg iPhone app and learn about how this M.E.G. (Money Earns Government) is going to cut spending--ostensibly any social spending, not her own.
As a card-carrying member of the GRITS (Girls Raised In The South), I'm much more enamored by a person who can do more with less. This applies especially to those using OPM (other people's money) as in government officials. Down South we call this being frugal or even cheap. A person who flaunts wealth is unseemly. And this gal is a virtual peacock in flaunt.
You might argue that since she is spending so much of her personal wealth to win office, she can't be bought. But slow your roll. Her message to young people and young professionals, with whom I regularly circulate, is that money more than substance is what will get you a place in politics. It's the money arms race that is ruining all semblance of credibility in the public sphere. What might have impressed is Meg Whitman's agreeing with Jerry Brown to limit campaign spending, but she chose the opposite--the sky's the limit, or at least November 2nd.
If she wins, she promises less spending and lower taxes. Haven't we heard all this before? Second verse, same as the first. What this translates into is reduced government spending for lower and middle-income voters and lower taxes for the wealthiest supporting her candidacy. Her endorsement yesterday from the California Chamber of Commerce is a yawner. Of course the former business CEO is going to receive the endorsement of the largest pro-business lobby in the state. Given all the business malfeasance in the last several years, it makes me worry that a business-minded state office holder may reinforce corporatization of the public sector.
Whitman has hired a presidential size campaign team to propagandize the California voter. I know that using the P word with Whitman got Jerry Brown in trouble some months back, but having campaign consultants like Mike Murphy bill $90,000 a month for campaign messaging should make us wonder who's being suckered here.
I could never support any candidate who is willing to buy her seat to elective office, even if she wants me to call her by her first name. But then, maybe Ralph Nader is right that only the Super-Rich can save us. What do you think, California?