The Agitator #120: Cash is King(ston)
by Oliver_Halle
 The Agitator
June 12, 2014 11:05 AM | 719 views | 5 5 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The Georgia Senate primary runoff is six weeks from now, a lot of time for allegations of one sort or another to turn up against either of the two candidates, David Perdue or Jack Kingston. Until this year, so it seems, Republicans liked to run as the “outsider”, the candidate not tainted by all the bad things associated with Washington, and if you had a business background, as they say in New York, you were in Fat City. In the May 20th primary you had Karen Handel and David Perdue running as outsiders, and Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun disingenuously trying to distance themselves from the pejorative of being Washington insiders.

The tables have turned and all of a sudden Perdue’s business background is bad, Kingston’s record of obtaining whopping earmarks (before being banned) for his district is good. Gingrey, Broun, and Handel, the three outsiders, now support Kingston the insider. Funny how politics work. (To be clear, I have no dog in this race, didn’t vote for either in the primary, and still don’t know who I will vote for in the runoff.)

I suspect that over the next six weeks I could write six commentaries on the accusations that will be lobbed back and forth between Perdue and Kingston. The current topic pertains to Kingston’s acceptance of $80,000 in bundled contributions from convicted felon, Khalid A. Satary, a Palestinian who served more than three years in federal prison for operating a major counterfeit CD business in the Atlanta area. He is currently fighting a federal deportation order. When this story unfolded, Kingston proclaimed to be surprised and would return the money.

First, I wonder why Kingston, who has not opposed the two recent Supreme Court decisions overturning campaign finance laws, would return the money. After all, the Supreme Court said that it is not a crime to pay for influence, that it is only a crime to bribe a public official. There isn’t even a whiff of a bribe in this instance, and all Satary did was attempt to gain access to Kingston, presumably to get his help to stay in the country. Since politicians take big dollars all the time from wealthy folks, from PACs put together by special interest groups---all seeking access and influence---what makes Sataray’s money so objectionable? There is zero information at this time that Satary asked for anything for his contribution. Perhaps he’s just a good citizen who supports good government, and Kingston is worthy of his largess as the right man at the right time to “restore our country.”

Actually, I am very cynical about this deal and all money in politics. For Kingston to argue that he didn’t know anything about Satary is willful ignorance. A very inexpensive data base search on the man would have turned up that he was a convicted felon and lots more. I’m not suggesting that due diligence be done on every contributor, especially those who can only afford token amounts, but I am saying that for someone that is virtually unknown to come up with $80,000 for a candidate, red flags should have been flying with hurricane force winds. Kingston is hardly new at raising money, and he should have known better. His explanations for accepting the money without some background check ring hollow.

There is currently a bill in the Senate to limit money in federal elections. Since no Republicans are supporting it that I know of, I assume that they agree with the Supreme Court rulings that money in politics is a form of free speech under the First Amendment. For those who claim that we need to go back to the original meaning of the Constitution, I can only ask where in that amendment there is one word or inference that money in politics is a protected form of speech. In America there should be political equality. No one should be able to buy access or pay for influence. Recently, casino owner billionaire Sheldon Adelson had prominent potential Republican candidates for president meet with him one on one for vetting. Surely none of these candidates were influenced by the money Adelson will bring to the 2016 race and his chosen horse. Wonder if any of the candidates would fly to Las Vegas to meet with an ordinary citizen to discuss issues? As long as money pays for access and influence, the rest of us can only hope to influence our representatives through another provision in the First Amendment, freedom of assembly. Remember that when there are more Occupy Wall Street movements.

Comments
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Kevin Foley
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June 17, 2014
It figures Twomey would be in favor of a mysterious Palestinian felon handing illegal bundled cash to Kingston, who says he never heard of his #1 contributor.

Twomey, give it a rest.
Oliver G. Halle
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June 15, 2014
My main point in this commentary was to demonstrate the evil of money in campaigns, particularly large sums from special interests. Kingston is today's target; tomorrow it could be a Democrat. We could debate all day, which I would enjoy, Supreme Court decisions, but my focus here was merely how money corrupts in politics, and that the recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance reform have done no favors for the common man who seeks access to his elected representatives.
scottchad37
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June 14, 2014
Ollie, it appears that in your world, it's OK for leftists to contribute to leftist causes--but it's taboo for conservatives to contribute to conservative ones--or candidates! As for the "freedom of speech" issue you raise--I suspect you can find it in Amendment I to our Constitution. I think Justice Blackmun found a right to slaughter unborn children under Amendment IV to that same document, much in the same manner as the five SCOTUS Justices did the campaign finance issue. After all, don't you agree that our Constitution is much more likely to allow people to voice their support or opposition to a particular person our cause by exhibiting that support in the form of monetary or other types of contributions? Isn't that a form of "speaking your mind"? I think that is much more likely to have existed in the mind of the framers than would have some "penumbra" allowing the slaughter of the unborn as a "right to privacy"...
EM Buckner
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June 13, 2014
I cannot speak for Mr. Halle--though I know him well enough to guess he'd likely mostly agree with me on this--but I can say to Mr. Twomley that my disdain for candidates or parties extends to any who let the cash speak louder than the voters. I certainly do think that includes the Democratic Party and many if not most Democratic office-holders. I would part company with you regarding Soros "owning" Obama or others, but I have no doubt whatever that he has more influence than a mere citizen without millions--or billions--at his disposal. He's a partial counterweight to the Koch brothers and Adelson, but that's NOT how I'd like to see it sorted out. There's no easy answer to this, but reversing the US Sup Ct's abominable Citizens United decision would at least make it possible for Congress to enact sane restrictions on out-of-control influence peddling. I have little confidence that Congress would do that even if so enabled, but I wish we could find out.
Ben Twomey
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June 12, 2014
I wonder, Mr. Halle, how you feel about the campaign and other money coming in to Democrats from sources like George Soros,(who for all practical purposes owns the President, lock , stock and barrel) and the dozens of Hollywood types, athletes and show biz types,(including the rich and powerful Oprah Winfrey). Does their influence, bought and paid for with cold cash, earn you disdain also?
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