Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fighting Fire with Fire - Money with Money

In politics, you often end up using tools you have denounced when others use them. But you use them when you have no other choice. If you are being relentlessly attacked by an opponent who's got gazillions in the bank from corporate donors, polluters and hedge fund managers, you need to have a healthy war chest yourself.

This doesn't mean you take money from the bad guys. You seek out the good guys who share your values, and also coincidentally (lucky you!) have the means to back it up and infuse your campaign with much needed cash.

Until such time as we enact real campaign finance reform, that prevents corporate donations and independent expenditures, stops considering corporations as people, therefore imbued with the same First Amendment rights as a "natural" person, money is still very much needed in the political game.

And sometimes, money is the only weapon you have to check the alarming advancement of bigotry, climate change and ironically, income inequality.

See Tom Steyer as an example of someone with money who is using that money for good (we will suspend taking a deeper look at how he came about that money as a hedge fund manager for now) to fund campaigns against climate change deniers all over the Country. He is also seriously considering funding an oil extraction tax initiative in California, if the Legislature proves to be too beholden to major oil and gas companies for their campaign contributions, and the strings that those companies hold even on the floor of the legislature.

Politics is a game, and it can be a deadly one, but if you can't play in the big leagues you'll never be in a position to make serious change to the rules. Just be sure you adhere to some of your own. I advise my clients to look carefully at the sources of their donations. I advise against taking money from insurance companies, tobacco, pharmaceutical firms. And watch out for lofty sounding groups whose goals may not reflect the names they call themselves. (Example: Civil Justice Association of California, claiming to stop frivolous lawsuits, but actually seeks to limit the ability of consumers to sue businesses for unfair practices or damages, and supports maintaining a 1975 cap on damages awarded for pain and suffering to patients inured by doctors committing malpractice.)

In politics, as anything in a capitalist society, it's buyer beware. And if you don't, your opponents will. They are watching.