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A researcher would later tell me it was the longest filibuster anywhere by anyone. Not sure that is true, but it somehow helped me believe that I did what I could.  The thing is this: the how and why the gas tax bill bite out of taxpayer earnings was done is not unique or even unusual. It is just how and why the big fish eat the little ones.

 It explains, I suppose, what Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others…”

 Citizens could correct much of this with a bit of campaign finance reform, but the degree of difficulty in fighting for that appears more arduous than just taking it in the chops year after year.

 What remained of my second term would have passed in a pillowy snore if it were not for one other ritual of institutionalized political corruption.

 It was that in-your-face, sacramental, decennial mugging of a free people celebrated in every state legislative body called reapportionment.

 It started with Elbridge Gerry, one of our Founding Fathers, a very wealthy privateer, who once claimed, “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.” As Massachusetts Governor, he signed a bill setting the borders of a political district to include only those he liked so absurdly as to look like a salamander. A precedent that state legislators still strive to duplicate today. The practice is named in Elbridge’s honor: Gerrymandering.

 After each decennial census defines the redistribution of people, congressional and legislative district borders are redrawn, and Gerrymandering is the common accepted practice by which every legislature routinely destroys most voters’ ability to fairly elect someone to represent them in congress or their state legislature.  They do this openly, wantonly, and most impressively, directly in front of every citizen they are screwing. They easily anoint the winners and losers in almost every district’s races, while maintaining the voters’ sense that they matter, but without any real need for those pesky voting booths.

 It is an entirely partisan affair, where the controlling party’s sole objective in each state is to exterminate the opposition by dismembering the citizens’ ability to have choices other than those they have pre-selected. This is done so outrageously that some district lines are drawn to support or oppose a single human being.  In one example, in my state, during the last year of my legislative service, that person would be me.

 From the controlling party’s view, it is just a huge complicated, computerized numbers-mashing political affair too convoluted to trouble citizens comfortably sedated in their Barcaloungers with a cold beer, engrossed in Dancing with the Stars.

 Following the Gas Tax mess there seemed to be consensus between the leadership in both parties as to what should happen with a certain central Phoenix district, my district. They all agreed that the four surrounding districts should expand inward, each adopting a chunk of my central Phoenix supporters and repositioning my district, or at least its number, out on expansive wasteland in an upper eastern corner of the state that had been reserved in an earlier century to screw Indians.

 Supporters were surprised that I didn’t call foul. I was no longer attending party caucuses, where I knew my district boundaries were left undefended.  I had no interest in running for re-election, they could do with me as they willed. I was going to be happily done with elected office, nothing could make me want to run for office again. Well, OK, there was one thing, perhaps the only thing: a hot-blooded desire for revenge.

 Following the filibuster a few of the Breakfast Bunch and I decided to take a holiday.  We took a four-hour ride south to a dusty Mexican beach town called Puerto Penasco.

 Those of us who had arrived early were sitting on the beach talking about Marsha Weeks (the Breakfast Bunch’s vacation member) and her husband, Jim. Jim was on the three-member Corporation Commission but had been diagnosed with cancer some months earlier and let it be known that he would not run for re-election.

 The Arizona Corporation Commission is one of those odd unique things that the progressive Arizona of old had created in its constitution. It was designed like a fourth branch of government. Power in the state was to be divided between the Executive, Legislative, Judicial and Corporation Commission branches of government. The Commission regulated the state’s railroads, securities and utilities, including the nation’s largest nuclear plant, called Palo Verde. It was powerful and of considerable importance to banks, developers, unions and of course utility companies, all those that I had fought on the gas bill. 

 Anyway, a few of us were sitting on the beach talking about Jim and Marsha when they drove up.  They quickly walked down to where we were sitting, clearly with something to tell. “Guess what?” they said as they approached, “Terry Goddard is going to announce his candidacy for Jim’s seat on the Corporation Commission.”

 I froze. Then someone said, “So that’s it, they’re all going to back him for Jim’s seat on the Commission, that was the pay off.”

 I was instantly catapulted to my feet. “When is he going to announce?” I asked as I headed up to toss my unpacked luggage back in the car. “We heard it would be sometime around noon tomorrow.” I slammed the car into gear and disappeared in front of a billowing cloud of dust that followed me the entire four-hour drive back to the Capitol.

 At 10:00 a.m. the next morning I stood at a press conference in Phoenix announcing my candidacy for the Arizona Corporation Commission. It was a big surprise to everyone, mostly to me.  I only knew two things about the Commission. One was that the two remaining commissioners had a reputation for hobnobbing with the utilities they were supposed to regulate, and now a second thing.  It was the price Terry extracted from that bank meeting to get him to switch horses and screw Arizona citizens.

 The fact that I didn’t know much didn’t much matter to me or to the press.  People in the know, knew what I was announcing. “Come and get it Terry!”

(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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