SINCE I CAN’T AFFORD A LOBBYIST, ALL I CAN DO IS ASK
I read four daily newspapers on a regular basis: two national, one regional and one local. My main interest is politics and commentary on politics, and my needs are met pretty well. So I should have enough reason about me to read between the lines and figure out who’s pushing what agenda. Most columnists are obviously to the left or right; a few try to straddle the fence, but everyone has an ideology. Journalists supposedly writing straight news have an agenda. Thirty years ago, a reporter would have to mask his personals views, but today it’s apparently acceptable to editorialize on the front page of the New York Times.
We all do it, though. We all have our own agendas. Speaking only for myself, I get upset when I hear politicians talk about cutting back on military benefits. Sen. Lindsey Graham thinks we need to tweak Tricare, the military health insurance system. I say leave it alone. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not broken and does not need fixing. It’s my sacred cow – don’t touch it!
The reality is this: On the state level, for every issue that arises in our legislature, there is a special interest group that will either support or oppose the issue. There are simply too many vested interests out there – too many tax dollars up for grabs.
Consider the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, a “non-partisan” and “non-profit” organization. The name sounds really altruistic, doesn’t it?
Without getting into arguments about whether we should or shouldn’t raise taxes, may I just peel back the onion a little? Is it okay to follow the money?
A brief look at this alliance’s website reveals that most of its officers and board members are affiliated with companies that stand to profit immensely if we spend more of our hard-earned tax dollars on road construction. To me, this sounds like a pretty powerful group of vested interests – one that stands to gain handsomely if we put millions or billions in new revenue toward the construction of new roads
Now, what about my vested interest, Tricare? If I call, write, or email Sen. Graham’s office, I will get a robo-response thanking me for my interest in the issue, and that’s about it. I don’t have the means to contribute enough money to any politician’s campaign fund to affect the outcome of any vote.
This alliance, however, has clout. It represents big bucks when it comes to campaign contributions, and can always host a reception or a “meet and greet” at a fancy location in Columbia. I’ve always thought they should call it “meet and legally bribe.”
Let’s face it. That’s what corporate campaign donations are, a legal bribe to encourage a politician to protect someone’s sacred cow.
I think most of us who follow South Carolina politics can agree that our legislature is dysfunctional. There are so many “associations” and “alliances” and lobbying groups holding receptions with some pretty good catering that it’s a wonder our elected officials can even roll out of bed in the morning. One state representative even told me that his biggest problem in keeping his weight down.
It’s easy to point out a problem, but the solution is another thing. I don’t know the answer, but in the meantime, please leave my cow alone.
Steve Maxwell, a resident of Abbeville, is a retired postal manager and retired U.S. Army staff sergeant. He holds diplomas in both Hungarian and Russian language from the Defense Language Institute.