Rick Oswald has tried before to win an election. And lost. But the point of democracy is to run, and so that's what he's doing again.

"> Letter From Langdon: Low-Hanging Fruit And Yellow Dogs - Daily Yonder

Letter From Langdon: Low-Hanging Fruit And Yellow Dogs

Rick Oswald has tried before to win an election. And lost. But the point of democracy is to run, and so that's what he's doing again.

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"The Power of 'O'" signs cost 20 bucks each. I bought 40 of them.

For some Missouri politicians, campaign contributions are nothing more than low hanging fruit.

That’s because in May of this year, the Republican-dominated Missouri state legislature removed all limits on campaign contributions. Since then I’ve seen contributions to a single candidate go as high as $50,000. That’s a lot of juice.

Given the fruit of their labor, most Missouri Republicans have already picked a sizeable crop. I figure that, true to conservative standards, they’ll be putting up preserves and making apple sauce for a rainy day. For them, that rainy day may come on November 4th.

But instead of picking low hanging fruit for my own campaign fund, I find myself waiting under the tree hoping for changing winds to blow something loose.

I lost my first political contest in 2006. Asking for contributions was the worst part of a mostly good experience. Even though political winds are shifting my way this time, thanks to the current financial crisis, the money thing is hard as ever for a farm boy like me.

Just the other day a farmer buddy and candidate in his own right called me on the phone with some advice.

“You better sell a load of soybeans,” Mike said. Llooks like you’re down to your last $600.”

He was talking about the balance in my campaign account. The newspaper down in St. Joe published the totals. That’s where Mike got his information.

“Did you happen to notice my opponent’s total?” I asked, hoping he hadn’t.

“Yup” he said. “I saw it.”

“How much?” I asked.

“Fifty-six thousand dollars,” he drawled into the phone. That slow Missouri twang of his made it sound more like a million.

Out here in the country around Langdon, we have a saying that even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while. That pretty well describes my fundraising.

I’m doing better with the help of friends, but I still have trouble begging for money. It’s difficult to shake the feeling that some of my donors may just feel sorry for a poor old blind, yellow-dog Democrat like me.

Back in 1994, Missouri voters weren’t feeling sorry for politicians when they affirmed by a million-vote majority that there should be limits to the amount of money state candidates can pocket compliments of wealthy donors. But the politicians overruled the voters this spring and removed the campaign contribution limits. Now, in Missouri, it’s legal to take any amount of money as a campaign contribution from anyone, anywhere.

The new rules hadn’t gone into effect the day the St. Joe newspaper published campaign account balances. The next report is due October 15. It should be a real eye-opener.

By the time the election is over many candidates will have collected and/or spent an amount in campaign funds about equal to the salary for their entire term”¦or more.

It’s no secret how we politicians spend at least part of our money. This time of year the roads are lined with evidence. Yard signs sell for $2 and up. Some of the big 4 by 8 signs you see along the highway can cost $75 each.

In my yard, I have low-hanging apples — and a yellow dog named Claus.

Radio time goes for $65+ per minute. I have 4 stations to choose from.

A full page spread in the local newspaper retails for $400 to $600. There are 10 local papers in my district.

And those glossy political post cards showing a smiling face but revealing little in the way of substance? They cost at least 40 cents apiece. If I mail the smallest postcard (that’s a 4 1/4 by 6 inch) to households where someone has voted in my district in the last 6 years, it’ll cost somewhere around $4,000. That’s for one mailing.

Of course better-heeled candidates in bigger races have money to spend on limos, entertainment or airfare. Some have made the news lately for golf trips to Scotland or intimate “companions.”

That brings to mind a story I first heard from my mother. I was about four when she started my religious education by reading to me from a book of Bible stories. One of the first and best was the story of Adam and Eve.

There are very real similarities between the Garden of Eden and American politics, especially when it comes to low hanging fruit.

Adam might best be described as a candidate. The serpent was a special interest. In order to get to the candidate, the special interest needed some help. A lot of special interests like to use a lobbyist. Some of the most effective lobbyists are not only smart, but also pleasing to the eye. That’s where Eve comes in.

We all know what happened next. The special interest enlisted the lobbyist’s help. The lobbyist used a little gentle persuasion on the candidate, and then together they raised a little Cain.

This is just as bad today as it was back then.

Under Missouri law today contributions still have to be reported — we’re all naked in the garden — but without contribution limits, no one seems to care.

Of course we all know that God banished Adam and Eve from the garden and sentenced them to life at hard labor.

Now a lot of Americans are losing their homes and jobs. Many of them are in Missouri where unemployment is the highest it’s been in 17 years. I guess you could say they’ve been banished from the garden because our politicians have taken too many bad apples, compliments of you-know-who.

I hope we can get this thing fixed.

For my part, I’ll keep running for office until I get too old, until I win, or until we get our state and nation straightened out. In order to do that I’ll have to shake the tree from time to time and see what falls out.

But what if it’s a snake?

I haven’t forgotten what my Momma taught me about that. You just leave those snakes alone.

 

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