Friday, July 01, 2016

How To Make Money From Blood In Two Easy Steps

In the heyday of Tammany Hall, an intrepid reporter regularly interviewed a Tammany Hall chieftain, ward boss George Washington Plunkitt, and later put together in a small book an illuminating and unintentionally hilarious compilation of the interviews, “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall.” One of the book’s chapters is titled “Honest Graft.” There are two kinds of graft, Mr. Plunkitt explained: dishonest graft, which benefits only the grafter, and honest graft, which benefits the grafter, usually a politician, and the general public as well. Honest graft advances the public good, dishonest graph advances only the private ambitions of bad men. Distinctions of this kind, though subtle, are important for politicians who wish to put a halo around questionable activities.

Democrats in Connecticut recently ran into a moral speed bump when, following a sit-in arranged by 1st District U.S. Representative John Larson, the Democratic Party used the occasion to raise funds for politicians in Connecticut, a politically and morally tacky blood-money drive. Sit-ins are supposed to be moral dramas pointing to large, ethical, Alamo-like, principled stands in which the good guys, surrounded by the bad guys, die with smoking guns in their hands. When selfless moments like this are used to generate funds for political purposes, the acquired loot takes the bloom off the purported heroism.

After the sit-in arranged by U.S. Representative John Larson – Will the silly sixties EVER be over? – the prospect of making money from blood shed by an Islamic terrorist in an ISIS inspired ambush at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida brought a blush to the cheek of Mr. Larson, who told a reporter that he did not think the fundraising was a good idea. Mr. Larson was right. The remaining members of Connecticut’s all-Democratic U.S. Congressional Delegation, six of whom are running for office this year, offered no resistance to the generation of campaign funds stained with the blood of innocent victims.

The method seized upon by the national Democratic Party to change blood into money was pure genius. First, the national Democratic Party issued an uplifting e-mail, which read in part: “Reps. Elizabeth Esty, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, Joe Courtney, and John Larson along with Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are all on the House floor right now as part of the sit-in. They're fighting for us – let's join them.”

The petition asked only for signatures, no blood-money contributions. The petition, which generated several thousand signatures, said Connecticut Democratic Party spokesman Leigh Appleby, “was aimed at building support for ‘real action’ on gun legislation, not fund-raising, we are told in a CTMirror story. Step two” The several thousand signatures then were send to a Connecticut State Democratic Party fundraiser and used, according to the CTMirror story, “to solicit campaign donations,” the proceeds from the campaign pitch to be held in a federal slush fund that later may be shared with Democratic members of the state’s U.S. Congressional Delegation – the very people, now running for re-election, who participated in Mr. Larson’s 1960’s style sit-in and who had mercifully spared the country a rendition of Kumbaya while fishing for campaign cash.

Agreeing with Mr. Larson was Republican 2nd District State Representative Dan Carter, who this year is running against the sainted Dick Blumenthal, one of the squatter-Congressmen who interrupted the work of his own legislative body. Mr. Blumenthal’s compatriot in the Senate, Chris Murphy, had earlier, through his filibuster, effectively terminated discussion on an amendment that, had it been adopted, might have satisfied both Democrats who wanted to tie a no-fly list to gun restrictions and Republicans who wanted to insert in the denial process a review measure that would have assured to American citizens whose  names had incorrectly appeared on the list a U.S. Constitutional right to due process. Mr. Blumenthal participated energetically both in Mr. Murphy’s filibuster and Mr. Larson’s sit-in.

Calling the donations “blood-money,” Mr. Carter, stepping on a painful corn, added, ““I know the Connecticut Democrat Party is desperate for contributions after being fined a record-breaking $325,000 for circumventing campaign finance laws, but raising money on the backs of innocent victims of terror is reprehensible.”

The fine to which Mr. Carter referred was levied as a result of a “settlement” arranged between the State Democratic Party and the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC). The Democrats agreed to pay a fine to settle a suit involving a charge that the Malloy administration has skirted Connecticut’s clean election laws. Settlements between government agencies generally do not advance the public good; they are, like Mr. Plunkett’s honest graft, arrangements that advance political interests.

The silver lining in this miasma of confusion is that one Republican, Mr. Carter, agrees with one Democrat, Mr. Larson, that political parties should not use the blood of murdered innocents to generate campaign funds. It’s a promising beginning to a bipartisan agreement that would, if seriously pursued, advance the public good. 
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