No sooner had we put away the Christmas decorations and untrimmed the tree, than we started to receive a flood of contribution solicitations from various state and federal political aspirants. I guess the one positive takeaway is that the U.S. Postal Service may make some money from this, as it does with other junk mail. But, otherwise, my general philosophy is not to give money to politicians. You could get a better return on equity by investing in Solyndra.
Last fall, I made the mistake of making a small donation to a Presidential candidate, which amount I can assure you was nowhere near the level of Fatcat Roundtable. I must have compounded the error by clicking the “like” button on Facebook for him. Instantly, my Facebook page was littered with soundbite bromides from this fellow, each urging me to “like” him even more. Judging from his uneven debate performance, he needed a lot of online affection. In due course, I “unfriended” him. But did that stop the junk mail? Of course not.
My e-mail inbox is not immune to political viruses. I receive weekly e-mails and surveys from a candidate for statewide office whom I happen to support. His e-mail surveys are generally thought-provoking and amiably worded, so I routinely respond to them and give my e-mail address, which he has anyway from the state bar directory. But goodness knows how many others, with more sinister motives, have access to my personal information. Big mistake?
You will note in the fine print of campaign contribution forms that, if you give $200 or more, you are technically required to provide personal information about your employment. The heck with that. If I make any more donations this year, I will limit them to precisely $199 apiece. Why should I max out at $600? Who do they think I am? Sheldon Adelson?
I will say up front that I agreed with the result in Citizens United and believe that corporations and unions are legal “persons” entitled to spend money to express their views on the issues of the day. What’s more, I believe that individuals should be entitled to spend as much money as they like in support of political candidates or causes, so long as there’s full disclosure. But I also insist on the correlative right to spend as little in such matters as I please, without fear of harassment or humiliation if I decline to give. Call it my freedom from speech.
It doesn’t promise to get any better between now and November. The airwaves will be crammed with misleading ads paid for with other people’s money. Talking heads and SuperPacs will have a field day. My recycling bin will fill up twice as fast as usual with political paper clutter. But I, Ebenezer Scrooge, will take great solace in concluding that it’s just not my fault.