Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hat's Off to Senator Dvorsky

This is the first "Hat's Off" to be awarded a politician: Iowa State Senator Bob Dvorsky.

Increasingly, over the last 30 years or so, politics has become more and more about money -- more and more money.

It's "pay to play" when it comes to a chance to be heard by your elected officials.

So unambiguously is this so that they actually set what amount to ever-escalating ticket prices for the honor of being in their presence.

To avoid this blog entry taking on a partisan tone, notwithstanding the outrageously delicious examples provided by Republicans, I'll use a Democrat, Senator Tom Harkin, as my example. I consider Senator Harkin a friend, and one of the best of our 100 U.S. Senators, for intelligence, creativity, and commitment to the public interest. So the only reason I'm using him for a contrasting examble to Iowa State Senator Bob Dvorsky is because I happened to get both invitations to their events about the same time.

Senator Tom Harkin holds an annual "Steak Fry" which he modestly characterizes as "one of the most highly anticipated, time-honored traditions in Iowa politics." This year, with an email subject line of "Rub Elbows with Harkin and Obama" -- clearly a draw -- he has put a price tag on "a special reception with Senator Barack Obama in a more personal and intimate setting" -- probably a "must attend" for anyone truly and literally interested in getting close enough to "rub elbows" or anything else.

For a mere $1000 a couple may become a "Sponsor" of this event. Those classified as poor, working poor, or working class -- once the honored base of the Democratic Party -- who find $1000 a little beyond their means can become a "Host" for a mere $300.

Sponsors get an invitation to the "Sponsor Reception . . . special recognition in the printed program, reserved parking, and a photograph of you, me, and Senator Obama." Hosts are permitted to attend a separate, "Host Reception," and get the other benefits as well -- with the exception, of course, of the photograph. (A politician can't afford to be pictured with just anybody; it devalues what can be charged for photographs.)

(Becoming a member of the mob scene, with no parking and no perks, is a mere $25.)

The saddest thing about these prices is how ridiculously low they are compared with the going rates in Washington, D.C.

Enter Iowa State Senator Bob Dvorsky. He holds an annual birthday party. For such events for state officials there is sometimes a "suggested" donation of $25 or so. While more reasonable, the message is the same: "You want to be in my presence? Pay up first, and then we can talk."

The invitation to Dvorsky's event reads as follows:

Senator Bob Dvorksy's
20th Annual
Birthday Fundraiser

With special guest Governor Tom Vilsack!

Friday, September 1st
6-8 pm

Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
300 East 9th St

All Contributions Welcome!

"All contributions welcome!"

What a wonderful message.

We all know that until America joins the ranks of civilized nations our elected officials have to beg for money in the corrupt political/governmental system we voters continue to tolerate. We know they need our contributions. So we give money, in such amounts as we believe we can afford, to those who share our views and appear to be doing a good job.

But we -- or at least I -- don't like to be told what minimum price has been set for my participation in their events.

I give what I give -- whether they ask me for it or not. When they put a price tag on themselves that's more than I'm willing to pay, a price tag that says "I'm only interested in talking to the wealthy," the net result is that I end up not giving anything.

So a first "Hat's Off" to a politician. "Contributions welcome." Of course they are. And my wife and I will make one. And it will be the same amount as if he'd set a "ticket price" for the event.

See you there.

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