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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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February 18, 2010
The timing could not have been worse for the liberals—including President Obama—wailing in protest over the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision holding that First Amendment freedom of speech guarantees give corporations the legal right to spend money on television ads and other efforts to influence elections.
Obama and other liberals vowed to seek ways to ban or limit corporate expenditures for such purposes. Their assumption was, predictably, that Republicans would be the principal beneficiaries of such corporate spending.
Then came last Sunday’s New York Times blockbuster expose of the way that corporate expenditures are solicited by and/or accepted by the Democrat-dominated liberal-oriented Congressional Black Caucus.
Will Obama and other liberals seek to ban or at least limit this kind of corporate expenditures, which benefit primarily Democratic politicians?
Some excerpts from The Times expose:
“It (the Black Caucus) has a traditional political fund-raising arm subject to federal rules. But it also has a network of nonprofits and charities that allow it to collect unlimited amounts from corporations and labor unions that otherwise would have to obey strict guidelines on political giving.
“From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions…only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee. The rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network…
“The bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as on the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and annual visits to a Mississippi casino resort.
“In 2008, the caucus foundation spent more on the caterer for its signature legislative dinner and conference—nearly $700,000 for an event one organizer called ‘Hollywood on the Potomac’—then it gave out in scholarships, federal tax records show.”
Other facets of this legal use of corporate dollars to buy influence among black members of Congress as cited by The Times:
“Some of the biggest corporate donors have seats on the board of something called the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute, which drafts positions on issues before Congress.”
Corporate dollars have gone to personal charities run by caucus members for events such as the annual golf tournament run by the family of a black House member, an event which it received $14,000 in industry contributions in 2008.
The Times reported that the biggest Black Caucus event of the year is held each September in Washington. The 2009 event began with a rooftop party at the new W Hotel. There was a separate dinner party at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
The next night, AT&T sponsored a dinner reception at the Willard International. The Southern Company, dominant electric utility in four southeastern states, spent more than $300,000 to host an award ceremony honoring the Black Caucus chairwoman. The bill for limousine services exceeded $11,000. A separate party, sponsored by Macy’s, featured a fashion show.
“All of this,” The Times reported, “was just a buildup for the final night and the biggest event—a black-tie dinner for 4,000, which included President Obama…
“Annual spending on the events…has more than doubled since 2001, costing $3.9 million in 2008…
“By comparison, the caucus spent $372,000 on internships in 2008, tax records show.”
Don’t expect any cries of protest from President Obama and other liberals over this use—a good many Americans would call it outrageous misuse—of influence-seeking corporate dollars. After all, liberals might argue, these corporate dollars were dedicated to the support of members of the Congressional Black Caucus in their open-minded public service in the United States Congress.
* * *
The Republican National Committee hasn’t caught up with the fact that I changed my voter registration from Republican to Independent several years ago in reaction to the growing influence of religious-right extremists in the Republican Party.
So I continue to get fund solicitations thinly disguised as supposed samplings of voter opinion.
The latest GOP pitch to come my way was called a “National Referendum On America’s Leadership.” My participation was requested in a document which is “registered” to me as a “representative” of Omaha, Nebraska.
The “referendum document” itself asks questions such as this: “Should Nancy Pelosi be replaced as Speaker of the House?” Then I am asked, “as a representative of Omaha,” whether I think Pelosi’s liberal views are out of step with the majority of voters.
If I were to take part in this “referendum,” I would, of course, vote “Yes” on each of those two questions.
Then there is the request for funds, soliciting “my most generous financial gift,” with options starting at $20. (As I see it, if the Republican National Committee knew more about how to raise funds, it wouldn’t start “most generous” options as low as $20.)
If you contribute at all, even as little as $20, you are entitled to answer a “Bonus Question” asking you to choose from a number of issues—from abortion to lower taxes—as to which issues you think Republicans should focus on in the 2010 Congressional elections.
All in all, a silly way to try to raise money so far as the Andersen household is concerned. If this approach really works to any significant degree among Republican Party members, the GOP has a bigger membership problem than I had realized.
* * *
On and on it goes, focusing on the Nebraska side of the Nebraska-South Dakota border to address the problem of rampant alcoholism on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Oh, there is an occasional passing reference to the fact that the Lakota Sioux Tribe should get involved, but the continuing emphasis seems to be that it’s somehow largely Nebraska’s fault that Indians from the Pine Ridge Reservation are alcoholics because they get most of their beer—probably nearly all of it—from beer retailers in Whiteclay, Nebraska just across the state line.
Rarely if ever mentioned in a news story or editorial is the fact that on other Indian reservations in South Dakota, including the Rosebud Reservation some 45 miles to the east, there are liquor sales controlled by the tribe on the reservation. (This is not to suggest that this approach cures the alcoholism problem, but at least it makes the tribe itself primarily responsible for dealing with it.)
The latest initiative by well-intentioned Nebraskans includes a look at options for further regulation on beer sales in Whiteclay. The discussions of what Nebraska might do also include stepped-up law enforcement and the possibility of a clinic to treat alcoholics.
As I see it, a reasonable starting point for any Nebraska efforts should be a clear statement from Pine Ridge Reservation leaders as to why they don’t follow the example of other South Dakota reservations in attempting to bring legal liquor sales under their control on the reservation itself and whether they recognize that the problem is primarily theirs, not Nebraska’s.
I think editorial comment from the Scottsbluff Star-Herald made excellent sense. The Star-Herald said:
“To the extent that Nebraska can help, it should. Some of the funding could come from the taxes collected on liquor sales in Whiteclay. But real progress is impossible without popular support from the Lakota people.”
As I see it, it is a sad commentary on parental responsibility when school districts decide they need to offer “attendance prizes,” to keep significant numbers of pupils from being tardy or missing classes entirely.
A recent news story told of a case in which an eight-year-old student at Ralston’s Mockingbird Elementary school gets a star on his assignment notebook when he gets to school on time and doesn’t have to leave during the day for an appointment. (An excuse from school for an eight-year-old to keep an appointment? That’s a new one on me.)
The Ralston third-grader has a lot of stamps on his assignment notebook, stamps which could earn him a video game or a bike. “We can win prizes,” the third grader was reported as saying. The prize, I would think, is an education, and I would think also that it’s not too early for a parent or parents to teach an eight-year-old the importance of education. Time, too, for a school district to make a third-grade education attractive enough to appeal to a youngster without the prospect of his winning a bike.
But perhaps parental responsibility has fallen so low that the prospect of winning a bike must substitute for a mother or father or both taking responsibility for seeing that their child gets to school and on time.
That, apparently, is the conclusion of the privately-funded Building Bright Futures program which is putting money into an attendance-incentive program at 15 schools in the Ralston, Millard and Omaha school districts.
One, I suppose, must be realistic and hope the bribes work in significantly reducing the number of students—an average of more than 6,000 a day in the metropolitan area--who don’t show up for classes.
* * *
For those of you who so often have told me that you enjoy column endings which involve Marian and the dogs:
Prairie Avenue social note:
Mr. and Mrs. Harold W. Andersen entertained at their home last Sunday with a birthday party for two members of their extended family—Claire, who turned eight on Valentine’s Day, and Charlotte, whose sixth birthday was Monday.
A next-door neighbor named Muggins, a Nebraska Humane Society graduate who has brightened the life of Mrs. Ed (Sue) Conine, was a special guest of the Andersens’ two cocker spaniels.
Watching the proceedings—and enjoying cookies provided by Mary Ann Bamber, a special friend Claire and Charlotte—were Mrs. Mark (Janet) Kratina and Mrs. Greg (Diane) Stine.
A cupcake and ice cream were served to each Claire, Charlotte and Muggins, with the dishes spread far enough apart to discourage a fast finisher from poaching.
The cake and ice cream were consumed in approximately 20 seconds. Despite the brevity, a good time was had by all.
Marian, recuperating from artificial knee replacement surgery, shows the treat (ice cream) to come to Charlotte, Claire and Muggins.
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