Saturday, August 19, 2006

Swarmy Politics At It's Very Worst

In Oregon, extremist right wing Republican Speaker Of The Oregon State House, Karen Minnis, has moved politics to a new all-time low. Her Democratic opponent, Rob Brading, is by all appearances a perfectly decent and a gentle man. His kindly nature contrasts with the blunt "in your face" sytle of Minnis. Brading was shocked when a third party flyer on behalf of support for Minnis accused Brading of supporting children viewing internet pornography at public libraries ans even further accused Brading of "having a record of defending the pornography industry".

Brading simply volunteered some time to the Multnomah County Library Board, where it was likely that internet pornography filters never came up as an issue, as local library branches make the decisions how much content to filter based on the age of the computer user. Children or teenagers would receive more filtering and adults could receive less or none if they request. But it is likely that anyone using a library computer to view pornography would be asked to stop or leave the library. This is a far step from the swarmy literature distributed on behalf of the Minnis campaign by a third party group of right wing supporters that makes Brading look like a sinister weirdo who favors children being exposed to internet porn. This is smear and personal destruction politics of the very worst variety. It is nearly enough that gentle persons like Brading who run for office because they believe in public service to avoid politics altogether.

Minnis, the wife of a former policeman and legislator, John Minnis, who left office when very his rheumatoid arthritis left him very ill, took over his old seat in the state legislature. But since her rise to Speaker Of The Oregon State House, corporate and right wing special interests have showered her campaign with donations because Minnis prevents some legislature dealing with regulations of some industries from even comimg up to a vote. RJ Reynolds Tobacco gave Minnis a $1,750.00 donation in 2000 for example, and she prevented a bill that required cigarettes sold in Oregon be only self-extinguishing to prevent home, forest or grass fires from even coming up to a vote for example. Minnis claimed that any standards on cigarettes should be national, which has limited to only a few states the required sale of safer self extinguishing cigarettes. In Oregon in the summer months, about 900 grass or forest fires occur each year as careless smokers toss lit cigarettes from automobiles and set grass or forests on fire and do severe environmental damage to the beautiful greenry of Oregon and risk the lives of firemen to combat these fires.

Minnis also receives donations from many other industries including Oregon Restaurant Association PAC, $5,500 which helped to keep the minimum wage lower, and required voters to pass a higher minimum wage ballot measure on their own, Oregon Health Care Association, $3,700, which affects health and insurance related issues, Credit Union Legislative Action Fund, $3,000, which affects finance, insurance and real estate related issues, Association Builders & Contractors/ABC State PAC, $3,000, which affects construction related issues. Numerous other industry interests are also noted among the $170,682 in political contributions for an office that only pays $1, 437.00 for a regular legislator and twice that amount for the Speaker Of The Oregon State House.

Smaller contributions to Minnis were farther down the list and smaller compared to the larger industry donations. Interestingly normally Democratic leaning labor unions, such as AFSCME Council 75 offered a $2,420.00 contribution so as not to lose all clout with the Speaker Of The Oregon State House.

The problem is that politics continues to become a pay for influence industry, where you only gain or lose influence if you offer or don't, political contributions. When those like Rob Brading who volunteers time helping his local library board discover that politics is not a welcome home for citizen legislators or those who believe in public service, and instead just a mean and rotten business of buying and selling influence, then decent individuals will avoid politics and leave it up to the professional politicians and the big corporate powers that influence them. This is deeply sad.

Politics needs more public servants like Rob Brading, not less. But the horrible and offensive, library pornography attacks on his character, only serve to make decent persons want to avoid politics. This would be a huge loss to a sensible and moderate centrist government for the citizens.


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