Opinion » Shredder

Money talks, empty pockets walk

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Our 24th District Congressional Rep. Lois Capps is super nice. In fact, she’s so nice that she was named the nicest member of Congress in 2006 by The Washingtonian magazine's “Best and Worst of Congress” poll of congressional staffers. Her pops was a Lutheran minister and she was a school nurse, which just adds to her lilywhite niceness, which probably got her elected in the first place. 

After her husband, Walter Capps, died of a heart attack just nine months into his term as the 24th Representative (well, then it was the 22nd District, but whateves), Lois Ragnhild Grimsrud Capps (which I suppose is normal name in Norway) won her husband’s seat in a special election against Republican Tom Bordonaro in 1998. She’s now 78, and she’s taking her niceness and leaving the congressional cesspool. Though Capps is much too nice to say it, I bet she’s thinking, “Sayonara, ya bunch of jackholes!”

Which leads us to the current race for her seat. Nine people—with questionable levels of niceness—want it: Katcho Achadjian, Salud Carbajal, Justin Fareed, Steve Isakson, Matt Kokkonen, Benjamin Lucas, William Ostrander, Helene Schneider, and John Uebersax.

Let’s start by weeding out the non-starters: Independent candidate John Uebersax, and Democrat Benjamin Lucas have raised so little money it’s legally un-reportable! Apparently, nobody knows how nice they are.

Steve Isakson refuses to state his political affiliation or even call himself an Independent, and he’s only fundraised from himself—a $45,010 loan to his campaign. I agree with his stance that Congress is dysfunctional, and I share his federal budget concerns, but I hear grumpy bear complaints, not nice guy solutions. Plus I think he’s a secret Libertarian, which is cool, but own it, dude!

William Ostrander’s nice until you talk to him about campaign finance reform. He won’t take money from PACs or corporate donors. I like this guy! Unfortunately, his no-money policy is fighting against take-money campaigns, and unless a grassroots groundswell miraculously rises up around him, it’s not looking promising. Sorry, Bill. 

What’s white, has three K’s in its name, and hates “illegal” immigrants? Well, yes, the Ku Klux Klan, but I was thinking of Matt Kokkonen, he’s the not-so-nice “legal immigrant”! He loaned his campaign more than $200K but has only received less than $3K in individual contributions. I’m going to miss all those harebrained things you say, Matt, but face the music before you spend all your dough on M&Ms. Your candy jar might get the wrong color in it.

So here’s what’s left on the left. Salud Carbajal, who the Democratic establishment seems to think is nice, has the most money raised—a whopping $1.7 million. Democrat Helene Schneider, who wears nice red lipstick, has raised a bit more than half a mil. One of these two could emerge from the primary as the Democratic choice. My money’s on Carbajal’s big money and his “safe” party-line predictability—also known as bor-ring!

On the right we have newcomer Justin Fareed, the 27-year-old scion of a wealthy family who’s garnered a lot of his money from outside the district and has raised a bit more than $1 million. Compare that to Katcho Achadjian with less than $700K. Achadjian, the current 35th District California assemblyman, is a reliably nice party-line voter, but he’s not exciting like Fareed, a former UCLA football bench-rider. Fareed’s the sort of guy the Republican establishment can groom—as long as he doesn’t say or do anything too stupid or too mean.

I’m no Cassandra of Troy, but if money talks, it will be Democrat Carbajal going head-to-head with Republican Fareed because the sad, pathetic, tragic truth is that money buys elections in America and these two dudes have the most of it.

A whopping $4 million was spent the last time Capps defended her seat, but there’s no incumbent this year, which means you can expect even more money to come pouring in after the primary has weeded the field to the final two.

I’ll tell you a secret. Come closer. Closer. Now that Donald Trump is the Republican heir apparent for president of the United States (Urp … I just threw up a little typing that), the Republican establishment has resigned itself to losing the presidency (again!) and will continue throwing the full force of its political contacts and fundraising behind holding as many incumbent Republican Senate and House seats and winning as many new seats as possible.

If I owned a TV station that aired in the 24th District, I’d start shopping for yachts and vacation homes right now because money’s going to rain down like manna from Koch Brothers heaven in a bid to wrestle away Capps’ seat from a Democrat contender and install a Republican. 

The only way this kind of big money madness will ever stop is if we get meaningful campaign finance reform like a constitutional amendment that blows up Citizens United and declares that corporations are not people and that money is not free speech and gets PACs and dark money out of politics. And if we’re really smart, we’ll limit ALL elections to publicly financed only. In other words, each individual American’s political power comes from his or her one vote. That’s a little thing I like to call “democracy.” 

The Shredder knows free speech isn’t free. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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