Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Senator Bingaman's Mad Money

The pundit-Goddess Molly Ivins has beat a steady drum about campaign finance reform for years. You probably have read something by her (e.g., Bushwhacked), and if you haven't you need to stop reading this right now and go to her Fort Worth Star-Telegram columns. Now that I think about it, if you haven't read any Molly Ivins by this point in your life you've definitely been experiencing a void that you didn't know existed. Until now. But, as we Lone Star Staters (Lyle Lovett included) like to say...that's right, you're not from Texas.

Yes, Molly is a bit Texas-centric (and with the multi-ring circus that is Texas politics who can blame her?), but her points about everything, campaign finance reform included, are germane to places outside the "whole other country".

I thinking about Ms. Ivins as I read in the Journal and elsewhere that Jeff Bingaman has about $1.8 million to spend on his fish-in-a-barrel race for re-election to the Senate. Now I have no real qualms with Senator Bingaman. He's been a pretty solid Democrat over the years, which makes him an absolute Leftist in today's functional politics. I haven't agreed with his every position, and he's a bit on the boring side, but all-in-all I think we've been lucky to have him sitting in Washington all these years.

My only question about the $1.8 million is the same question you have. Just what the Hell does Jeff Bingaman need $1.8 million for? The news stories are focusing on the fact that Bingaman has $1.8 mill while his fish-in-the-barrel, Allen McCulloch has $2,487. And yes, that's funny enough to fall out of your chair, although if the parties affiliations were reversed many of us on the Left would be pissed off big-time and calling it a vast Southern New Mexico conspiracy.

Which, of course, it is. Both funny and a conspiracy. Incumbency is so powerful in our political system, even in the U.S. Senate with six year terms, that we end up with plenty of cases like Bingaman's. I'd wager more than a six-pack of beer that if Bingaman was a Republican incumbent, who had voted the other way on every single vote he's ever cast, he'd have right at $1.8 million and quite a bit of it from the exact same companies. To illustrate this point, consider this list of larger donors to the Bingaman campaign, quoted from the Journal:

Among the top contributors to Bingaman's campaign: $10,000 from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association's political action committee; $8,000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers' PAC; $6,500 from the American Bankers Association's PAC; $5,000 from the American Podiatric Medical Association's PAC; and $5,000 from the PAC of the Microsoft Corp.
Indian tribes with casinos contributed $8,100 to Bingaman's campaign: Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in California, $2,000; Morongo Band of Mission Indians in California, $2,000; Hoopa Valley Tribe in California, $2,100; Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Michigan, $1,000; and the Pechanga Band of Mission Indians in California, $1,000.
Now everybody on that list above, with the possible exception of the Bricklayers' Union, would probably just as soon spend their money on a Republican, Green, National Socialist or Socialist Workers' Party candidate if they thought it meant the money would be spent on the person overwhelmingly likely to be sitting in the Senate (again) in January.

And with Bingaman overwhelmingly likely is an understatement. Now I realize everyone reading this piddling blog entry is saying to themselves (whether they've read Molly Ivins or not), "Scot, I know this already. Incumbents always win. What's the point?" And frankly, there's not much of a point. But I'll make two to close out anyway.

  1. Incumbency is the biggest reason I think Heather Wilson will scrape by Patsy Madrid (and doesn't everything in this election year really revolve around that race)
  2. I have a suggest or two for Jeff Bingaman on how to spend that $1.8 million, and STILL win his re-election race:
  • Give me $1.8 million (yes, I realize both that this is the answer you already thought of, and instantly thought of when you read the story in the paper).
  • Fly a dirigible over a Lobo football game early this Fall and drop the money out of bags just like Peter did that time in "Family Guy".
  • Drive around the State of New Mexico and give money to every single driver who has an expired paper license "plate" on his or her car. The money would be used to get a real license plate. Yes, I realize that $1.8 million will not even begin to cover the costs of such a project. Maybe the "American Bankers Association PAC" can pony up a few more bucks.
  • Blow the $1.8 million on a wild two-week bender at a local crack/meth house, buying drugs for everybody in sight and springing for pizza and beer while continuously watching Aqua-Teen Hunger Force DVDs. I mean there's NO CHANCE you're gonna lose, Sen. Jeff, so you might as well liven up that kinda boring persona of yours.
I'm sure Babble readers can come up with more ideas (remember, the "give me $1.8 million" is already taken). Pass them along via either comments here or an email. Of course, if I don't see any comments/emails on the subject I will assume that I have included every possible idea, and will avoid assuming that my few readers got terribly, terribly bored somewhere along the way and didn't even get to this last part before clicking elsewhere.

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