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As a kid I wondered how

someone could talk if

they didn’t have a brain.

Then I got into politics.

Politics for Dummies 101

 As an unsoiled, wide-eyed newcomer long ago, I worked in the U.S. House, then the Senate, and finally as an elected official myself.  I quickly learned a couple of things. The first was this:  Few politicians know much about the issues they represent you on. Unknown to almost every citizen is that thousands of bills are offered up in congress every session — some contain a thousand pages or more.  No one sits there and reads them.  You don’t, they don’t, so who is running this thing?

 To answer imagine this:   Let’s say you are Senator YOU and the final bell rings calling you to the senate floor to vote on giving a billion dollars to widget makers, the widget makers that do read the bills and often actually draft them.  As you head for the door to go vote both your phones ring. You only have time to take one call.  On the first phone is that real you, just a typical voter in your district concerned about how your money is being spent.  On the other phone is that new friend, a widget maker who raised one hundred thousand  for your last campaign, or pushed a few thousand of his minion widget makers in your district to vote for you, or perhaps spent a half million on his own trashing your opponent so you wouldn’t get blamed for it. Which call are you going to take? 

Get it?

 Sometimes there is a bit of a wrinkle when widget makers fight with gizmo makers. They both fight over your dollars and when that happens many representatives feel compelled to find ways of filling both wallets.  As a gawky, googly-eyed new capitol staffer, I learned how that happens like this:  As a young pup, my first job in congress was to read the cards and letters from home sent to my congressman and select the kind of canned response they should receive.  (NO, they didn’t always read your letters, unless of course you are a widget or gizmo maker.)  

 The machinery back then to answer dozens of daily letters and machine sign (NO, those signatures on their letters to you were not always originals) responses to your concerns was noisy, so I worked at night after everyone went home. 

 Anyway, to my point, one night I opened a letter from a lady who was furious with my Arizona congressman’s vote to subsidize cigarettes.  I had not known that and became upset myself.  I stayed up a few extra hours to confront my congressman at the door as he walked in the next morning.   His condescending glance at me told his chief of staff, who had walked in with him, to handle this kid.  Which he did, pulling me aside.

 No, he said, the congressman doesn’t really support tobacco growers, but he needed Senator Jesse Helms of tobacco-growing North Carolina to support the billions in tax dollars needed to alter the course of the Colorado River so that it flows through Phoenix and Tucson instead. 

 Now if you’re not selling cigarettes or real-estate in a bone-dry desert, you probably didn’t know anything about this.  And that is just fine with those widget makers who do, and pump millions into congressional campaigns to get billions in return.

 At any rate, that was some time ago, long before people became so exasperated that the grounds became fertile for a traitor like Trump.

 Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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