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My Senator Asked Me For $15,000

Why I vote independent of party lines now.

I am jaded. I admit it. The 16 years I lived in the Washington, D.C. area turned me off to being a one-party voter.

As a police official in Maryland, I occasionally went to Annapolis to testify before house and senate committees on bills. In a word, lobbyists.

There was the three years covering U.S. Congress as a reporter for several law enforcement management magazines that gave me experiences in trying to get straight answers from members of Congress. 

Finally, during the last five years in Maryland I was an investigator and regulator. One of the companies was filing hundreds of court cases against created phony corporations that funneled campaign contributions to local Democratic politicians. We nailed them, but the whole thing left a foul taste in my mouth.

How it happened

Maryland did not have open primaries like Missouri, where you can change parties every time you show up for a primary election. When you registered to vote in Maryland, you had to choose a party or declare as an independent.

I always thought as a law enforcement official and as a reporter it was important to be independent. This meant I never was able to vote in a primary election.

During presidential elections, Maryland was consistent—it always went Democratic. This allowed me to develop a completely different voting strategy, since no matter how I voted, it wouldn't seem to make a difference.

(In Missouri, I believed my vote might make a difference.)

I decided that regardless of a candidate’s party or platform, I would vote for the person who was the least likely to look into a TV camera and lie.

I developed this philosophy during the Bill Clinton years. It allowed me to vote for Ross Perot in one election and Ralph Nader in the next.

Fallout

Now my liberal friends would question me when I said I liked John Ashcroft. They said he was a far right-winger who wore white belts and white shoes in the summer, and had trouble separating God and government.

But I had two reasons why I liked Ashcroft.

When he was governor in Missouri, there were no criminal indictments of people in his administration. He might have said something that I didn’t like, but I don’t think he ever lied to me.

The other reason I liked Ashcroft: From 1997 to 2005 I reported on minor league baseball games for East Coast newspapers and websites. After 9/11, when Ashcroft was U.S. Attorney General, he would routinely show up in the evening to a minor league ballpark with his security detail in tow. The teams would always offer him free seats in the luxury boxes above the press box that included a buffet spread.

Ashcroft would always decline, buy a box seat ticket, a hot dog and a coke and sit with the fans. That always impressed me.

Ashcroft is now a lobbyist, a profession I do not hold in high regard. But I think back to watching him sitting with fans and eating over-priced hotdogs. It's hard to say something bad about the guy.

Now, my conservative friends are amazed that I like Claire McCaskill.

In 1980, I moved to Kansas City where I had a job as an arson investigator. McCaskill was just leaving the Jackson County prosecutor’s office where she was an assistant prosecutor specializing in arson cases. She made arson cases high-priority crimes.

McCaskill was then elected a State Representative and introduced legislation to reform Missouri DWI laws (driving while intoxicated.) McCaskill later was elected to two terms as the Jackson County prosecutor.

It's local 

After I moved to Maryland, I didn’t think about Missouri politics much. During those 16 years, the only person I gave a campaign contribution to was my local County councilwoman, who got my neighbor’s junked 32-foot speed boat off our street after the police and code enforcement claimed it didn't fall under their jurisdiction.  

I thought about that councilwoman's quick response to my complaint about the boat when I returned to Missouri. Here's why.

In 2008 I was elected to the Board of Aldermen in a West County city. There was an issue involving a Federal mandate about sound walls along highways, and whether MoDOT had followed Federal rules in a case impacting six homeowners.

I wrote to Claire and also called her office. I never heard anything back.

At the same time, a friend of mine who held a sensitive Federal appointment tried several times to contact Claire about a situation much more serious than my sound wall issue.

He also never heard back from Claire, after several tries.

I was an elected official, and he was an appointed Federal official and we could not get even a form letter from Claire’s office.

At last

Now three years later, I did get a letter from Claire. It was asking if I would like to attend a lunch with Claire and three other Senators at a hotel downtown. It offered the following selections: I could be an event sponsor for $2,500, an event host for $1,000 or just enjoy a late lunch or snacks for $500.

Inside the letter was an envelope. On the inside of the envelope it was marked with boxes that read: “Enclosed is my contribution of: [ ] $15,000; [ ] $10,000, [ ] $5,000 [ ] $2,500. [ ] $1,000, [ ] $500, [ ] $250, [ ] Other $___”

I wondered if the “Other” box was for people who wanted to contribute $25,000 or more.

I was more than amazed that Senator McCaskill could not respond to letters from me—and my friend—who had both represented Missourians.

But she had no problem sending me a letter asking for up to $15,000. For that amount, I would expect to get invited for the weekend to her Kirkwood compound.

Let's compare

All this reminded me of something else. I was a cop in Maryland, it was a Saturday afternoon, and I was patrolling the parking lot of a department store in Chevy Chase. I spotted U.S. Sen. Kit Bond’s car. (I recognized it from the special license plate on it.) Several people on Bond’s staff in Missouri were friends of mine, including a trooper who headed up his first protection detail.

I left Bond a short note on the back of my police business card saying “hi” from a transplanted Missourian. Five days later I got a very nice handwritten letter from Bond thanking me for leaving him the note.

Life lesson

While I completely support McCaskill and always disagreed with Bond on the issue of Congressional earmarks, I have to admit that McCaskill, who likes to tweet her every thought to the masses, could learn a thing or two from Bond about finding time to answer letters.  

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