It’s OK apparently to offer false solutions to serious problems – a national replication of Connecticut’s gun restrictions will not prevent mass slaughters such as happened at a Country and Western concert in Las Vegas – but profiting politically from wading in blood may be a bridge too far.
Concerning U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy’s most recent campaign money grab, Kevin Rennie writes in a Hartford paper, “If a politician is going to try to raise money off the dead and wounded of the Las Vegas slaughter only hours after the attack, be honest about it. U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy wants the money but wrapped his fundraising appeal in a deceptive request of support for control advocates. Murphy’s Monday email sought contributions for Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, Everytown and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. When supporters clicked through to the Act Blue donation site, there was a fourth organization splitting contributions, Murphy’s re-election campaign.”
Incumbent politicians rolling in campaign dough is one thing: Federal Election Commission reports indicate that Murphy presently has a campaign war chest of a little over $5 million and rising. Blumenthal, recently re-elected, already has $164,367 in his campaign kitty. No opposition party challenger can meet these figures, which is why incumbents roll in money for as long as they continue in office. Rolling in blood money, however, is still frowned upon in some quarters.
Four years ago, a newspaper commended Governor Dannel Malloy and U.S. Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy for providing a public platform to victims' families. Far from politicizing a tragedy, the mass murder of school children in Newtown, the politicians were “helping [to] give voice to the victims' families. [Governor] Malloy went so far as to send public Twitter messages to U.S. senators who were blocking a vote on gun legislation, asking that they return phone calls from the daughter of murdered Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung.”
This noble effort was followed by a pitch for campaign funds. The paper noted: "'In the wake of the horror of the December 14, 2012, massacre of 20 beautiful children and 6 dedicated educators,’ Blumenthal is asking supporters to send money to his 2016 re-election campaign! ‘As your senator, I will continue fighting for the rights of all the people, not the special interests. But I need your help,’ Blumenthal wrote in an email to supporters Thursday morning. ‘Please contribute $5 now as the Senate debate continues on common-sense gun reform legislation this week.’”
This craven grab for blood money produced an editorial rebuke: “Using the ‘horror’ of the ‘massacre of 20 beautiful children’ at a time when critical legislation honoring their memory is at stake to beg for $5 for your next political campaign is as tasteless as it gets.”
Asked if he thought he was misusing the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, Blumenthal sought to defend the money grab the paper had characterized as “disgusting." The money, the paper reported, "is not for one of the relief funds set up to help victims' families, or to fund mental health services, or to support autism research.”
Blumenthal said he regularly taps people for campaign contributions. “I have been immersed in seeking to achieve an end to gun violence. I have been immersed in advocating for sensible common sense preventive measures dealing with gun violence. This outreach is done regularly and usually about the work I am doing in the Senate. Gun violence has been the work I have been doing in the past weeks."
And Murphy rose to Blumenthal’s defense. "People want to support the work that we do,” said Connecticut’s Junior Senator. “And right now people supporting the work we are doing is on this bill."
The paper noted that Blumenthal “had no comment when asked if it was insensitive or whether he specifically authorized it.” Silence, as they say in the legal profession, signifies assent.
Asked the same question, then Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola remarked, “The Newtown tragedy engendered shock and sympathy across the world -- two emotions that are now and will always be felt keenly by the greater Newtown community and citizens across the country. Senator Blumenthal's fundraising appeal was at best insensitive. I would also say it was ill-timed, but I cannot imagine a time when such an appeal would be appropriate."
Labriola was right, but modern politicians are not Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln’s favorite politician, who said “I’d rather be right than be President.” Most run of the mill politicians would rather be senators than right, even if they have to wade through blood money to get there.