Headlines in the New York Times the past 24 hours read “A Donor’s Gift Soon Followed Clinton’s Help” and “Richardson Withdraws as Commerce Nominee”. This won’t make the Times, but yours truly used to write and deliver personal $100 checks to be bundled with similar checks for a cranberry industry lobbyist to donate to Massachusetts state legislators.

From the first story:

An upstate New York developer donated $100,000 to former President Bill Clinton’s foundation in November 2004, around the same time that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton helped secure millions of dollars in federal assistance for the businessman’s mall project.

Mrs. Clinton helped enact legislation allowing the developer, Robert J. Congel, to use tax-exempt bonds to help finance the construction of the Destiny USA entertainment and shopping complex, an expansion of the Carousel Center in Syracuse.

Mrs. Clinton also helped secure a provision in a highway bill that set aside $5 million for Destiny USA roadway construction.

And, from the second:

A federal grand jury in New Mexico is investigating accusations that Mr. Richardson’s administration gave substantial contracts to a California financier who contributed heavily to the governor’s political action committees, The New York Times reported last month, citing a person familiar with the grand jury proceedings.

Questions about the contracts almost certainly would have been raised in Mr. Richardson’s Senate confirmation hearings.

Since August, federal investigators have been examining how the California company, CDR Financial Products Inc., won two consulting contracts in 2004 worth about $1.4 million to advise the state on a large bond issue.

My wife and I were part owners of a cranberry farm here in Massachusetts and on a regular basis we were asked by the growers’ association to write $100 personal checks to state legislators. I strongly objected to participating in what I viewed as a corrupt though common practice. My wife, who was the real owner of the farm, insisted I take the checks to the go between who handled this because she felt it was part of her being a responsible cranberry farmer.

The checks supposedly assured that our lobbyist would have the ear of legislators who were involved in dealing with laws involving the industry.

I felt then and do now that our elected representative’s jobs are to listen to lobbyists who make their case with objective information whether or not they come bearing checks.

I don’t care whether it’s a legislator being more willing to listen to a lobbyist who comes with a campaign donation or a business owner wanting favorable action on a bill who before or after donates money to a politician’s campaign or pet cause.

I want our elected representatives to be so antiseptically clean that you could safely lick bouillabaisse off their buttocks.

I want them to be so above reproach that they could live every waking hour with truth serum coursing through their veins.

While it would disappoint me if something untoward turned up about Barack Obama along these lines, it wouldn’t surprise me. You don’t have to be a cynic to wonder how a reasonably honest person could get as far in politics as he did without slipping up just once.

Having to be a Boy Scout? Hell, he’d have to be a saint, and I haven’t been drinking that much Obama Kool-Aid to believe there isn’t some Whitewater-like incident we’ll learn about down the – uh – river.

That’s because lines have become blurred between the blatant pay-for-play corruption of a “Rod” Blagojevic and the business as usual of thousands of elected office holders at every level of government.

I’d like to see lobbyist donations to be made illegal.

I want laws to be passed to prevent any particular industry or business from exercising undue influence over legislation or the awarding of government contracts

I’d like a new set of federal and state laws to be passed that makes it a criminal offense punishable by prison time and hefty fines for anyone to betray the public trust by trying to shape government policy or decision making at any level for personal monetary gain.

Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I have a suggestion for anyone who wants to express appreciation to politician for any of the above.

Send them a thank you card.

If you absolutely can’t express gratitude without opening your wallet, send a donation to your own favorite charity but keep it between you and your God, even if said god is gelt.

Hal Brown is a clinical social worker and former mental health center director who is mostly retired from his private psychotherapy practice. He writes on the psychopathology of public figures and other topics that pique his interest. He can be found online at www.stressline.com . He also publishes a website about his hometown of Middleboro, Massachusetts (aka Middleborough) called Middleboro Matters. Archive: of previous columns.

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