People drowning in their own Kool-Aid

The top two letters on today’s editorial page make manifest that The Silly Season is indeed upon us.  The writer of one letter gacked up a hairball of discontent, but it’s the other that brings to mind, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

As if right on cue, the writer of the second letter gacked up a hairball of discontent over the newspaper simply doing its job: reporting facts.  She regurgitates the foolishness that all participants–voters, candidates, and the media–in non-partisan elections ought to be absolved of the taint of party affiliation.  She writes:

I was very disappointed that [the Sun‘s report on the City Commission candidates] included their party since they are non-partisan races.

As I try to make clear in my page on the myth of non-partisan elections, “The definition of a non-partisan election is that all voters get to vote in the election, without regard to the political pary in which they’re registered, and candidates on the ballot are not identified as to their political party. That’s it.”  Period.

When I ran for the City Commission, many people asked me about my party and I would answer that it’s a non-partisan race. They would say if you’re an “R” I can’t vote for you and they never asked me any other questions. Interesting to say the least.

Oh, piffle! Can she not even bring herself to write the R-word in a family publication?  She would construe non-partisan to mean anti-partisan–hear no party, see no party, speak no party.  In other words, don’t be concerned about the elephant in the room.

But it’s the first letter that brings to mind the quote, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Background: County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson offered a rather modest campaign reform proposal: that “non-person” campaign contributors (i.e., PACs, 501(c)(4)’s, and businesses) be clearly identified as to the real persons directly responsible for those contributions, in required campaign reports.  The Sun editorialized in support of the proposal.

Well, that provoked a seismic reaction from the Chair of the county R-word Party.  He wrote:

The Sun argues that Alachua County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson’s proposal is worth exploring if it would bring more transparency to local politics.

It doesn’t.

Well, yeah, it kinda does, if by “transparency” you mean the dictionary definition, “free from pretense or deceit; easily detected; readily understood;  characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”

It adds no information that isn’t already reported or freely available.

It would add the information directly onto the campaign contribution reports.  Yes, that information might be available in public records somewhere, but does the average person know where to find it and have the time to track it down?

Who actually owns and/or controls PACs, 501(c)(4)’s, and businesses can sometimes be next to impossible to trace because of the daisy chain of one entity begetting another entity, which begets another entity, and so on, each registered with a different agency in a different jurisdiction.  That tactic was invented for the sole purpose of obscuring the ultimate source of massive campaign contributions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, allowing wealthy and powerful special interests to exceed the so-called individual contribution limits many times over.

Just because information exists somewhere doesn’t really fit a reasonable definition of “freely available.” Is the absence of that information on campaign reports going to bring out the investigative reporter in all of us?  Does it now?

It does add an additional layer of bureaucracy and compliance,…

Blatantly false sophomoronic scare tactic–the Supervisor of Elections isn’t going to be adding a research staff to ferret out the information!  There’ll probably just be one more box on the campaign finance report for the campaign treasurer to fill in, when required.  What’s the burden in that?  Writer’s cramp?

…which could have a chilling effect on free speech…

If by “free speech” you mean “money is speech,”  and by “chilling effect” you mean “intended to prevent the hiding of anonymous sources bankrolling local campaigns,” then, yeah, it would.  But if it’s so nearly effortless to get that information, as the writer suggests, then wouldn’t that already have the chilling effect?

…and the process of determining whose name gets reported as part of a corporate or organizational contribution.

If a company contributes and the CFO signs the check, who do you report, the CFO or the CEO? Police and fire unions often have PACs that give to whichever candidate union members decide to endorse. Who do you report, the union president, the PAC chairman or the members that voted for that specific endorsement?

I’m pretty sure a lawyer can be found who can address those criteria, don’t you think?

This doesn’t increase disclosure,…

It discloses non-obvious information in an obvious, readily available format.  If it’s supposedly so trivially easy for the public to get that information now, then why all the fuss about someone having to include it on a routine campaign report?

…it hands Hutchinson’s allies an enemies list on a silver platter.

If you can believe the letter’s second paragraph–“no information that isn’t already reported or freely available”–wouldn’t you expect “Hutch and his allies” to already have it?  And wouldn’t these same disclosure requirements also apply to “Hutch and his allies?”

The writer completely whitewashes the point of the proposal: it takes considerable time, effort and specialized knowledge on the part of individual voters to dredge up such information, if it can be found at all.  Furthermore, if the information is as readily available as he wants you to believe, how can it simultaneously be such an onerous burden to report it?

Yeah, make this all about Hutch instead of the corrupting influence of money on the political process. We don’t want people to be persuaded by, you know, actual facts.

Seems to me somebody’s already compiled an enemies list, and “Hutch and his allies” appear to  be near the top.

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Filed under Local politics, Sophomoronic editorials

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