Richardson, Clinton and me: It’s just got to stop

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 . He also publishes a website about his hometown of Middleboro, Massachusetts (aka Middleborough) called Middleboro Matters. Archive: of previous columns.

Read “additional for rules and guidelines for commenting on this column.


  1. Carl Nemo

    Let’s forget about politics, donations and other such pedestrian nonsense for a bit.

    The main thing is that cranberries and their juice are very good for us.

    They are rich in antioxidents along with being a great anti-bacterial for the urinary tract. In fact, cranberries share the same benefits of both aspirin and quinine.

    So setting aside the endless travails of both mice and men concerning donations etc.; I highly recommend the regular intake of cranberries, either freshly made, or their extracted juices sans corn syrup. The organic suppliers are your best bet and concentrates without the added sugar are recommended.

    My wife and I always make it a point to ingest at least eight ounces of the wonderful juice daily and always integrate its fresh preparation along with our meals.

    Truly, a wonderful fruit! : )

    Thanks Hal for your great article, but to me linking politicians with cranberries regardless of how tenuous the connection does grave injustice to this wonderful berry.

    Politicians and cranberries surely do not relate and never will. The cranberry has a lofty application concerning nutrition and health while politicians along with their corrupt antics represent the detritus of civilization itself; ie., the material expelled as “waste” from a functional organism… : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Carl Nemo

    Thanks Hal for the queue concerning your association with cranberries. All I can say is “wow”! Who would have ever “thunk” there was so much intrigue associated with the cranberry industry etc. This will give me even more respect for the berry and you too sir… : )

    We don’t buy Ocean Spray berries, but generally stick to the smaller organic producers from the Oregon coast since we are Pacific Northwest residents. I’m even leary of producers that claim they adhere to organic methods. California supposedly has the stiffest laws concerning this issue, but enforcement of the guidelines and laws seem somewhat dicey.

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. Swift2001

    Okay, seriously, the only way around making even the most honest of politicians look smarmy is through our crazy method of financing elections. One part of the answer will come by making the acceptance of free ads by broadcasters mandatory. They do it in Canada, and people get informed there; it works. But the other part will have to be through public financing of the elections for all offices. There’s just no other way to feel reasonably assured that the politician who supports Israel’s latest invasion, to take one example, is saying so out of conviction rather than begging for campaign cash. Glenn Greenwald has written a stunning article where he shows that 71% of the public wants the country to stay strictly neutral in the Israel-Palestine issue, whereas almost all politicians, on both sides of the aisle, are totally pro-Israel. Do the Palestinians just not give enough campaign cash?

    The outlines of a better campaign financing solution are well known, respecting Buckley v. Vallejo. We need it to tell the honest politicians from the pure crooks. And we need a broader spectrum of views on many subjects, not just a parroting of the views which will bring the avalanche of cash.

  4. Hal Brown

    on pay-to-play

    in today’s New York Times:

    Pay-to-play is a staple of bad government. Proving an actual quid pro quo that can be prosecuted can be difficult, especially under porous state laws. But appearances — the fawning recipient, the deep-pocketed donor — taint all politicians. And pleas of “I didn’t know,” or “everyone else does it” aren’t fit for middle-schoolers let alone elected leaders.

    Read editorial