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Category: ETHICS


What a half-assed threat Biden delivers to Netan-yahoo and his vengeful, rightwing Hitleresque thugs attempting to exterminate Palestinians civilians.

We should be doing nothing less than opening America’s own humanitarian corridors to feed and water those staving, thrusting, bloodied civilians. That is the tradition American and Israel’s creation was built upon.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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                                    New Arrivals

                               Researchers taking a picture break                                    

 It pained Aili every time I told her story, making her a greater prize for it. Her Vote Smart work was, of course, exceptional, and years later after going on with her life, she became both a great success and one of Vote Smart’s major contributors.

 As it turned out, Aili was unusual but not unique. There would be other brilliant, committed young and old steaming through our doors, far more applicants than we could possibly accommodate.

 So many interns, and member volunteers were flooding the ranch that the entire office staff agreed to move to town, 26 rough miles away to make room.

 I couldn’t keep up with the media recognition they received coast to coast, so I hired a clipping service to capture stories and mentions of their work. Imagine one of those New York Ticker Tape parades burying Broadway somewhere underneath, only with all the tapes smothering our office ceiling.

 Usage of our data was going into the millions but none of it seemed to increase our contributions. Were we too academic? Was the truth, the facts just too boring? Was non-partisan politics unstimulating and unappreciated Was outrageousness winning the day? Was what we were doing wrong, what was I doing wrong?

 Was I not advertising it enough? I paid for a full-page ad in the New York Times ($90,000) and PSAs that played on dozens of radio and TV stations across the country.

                      Full page ad New York Times

 Was we too complicated. It took almost ten seconds per issue.  I had the staff build Political Galaxy, an interactive tool where a user would only need the name of a candidate and any issues they were interested in, and everything associated would instantly appear.

 More users, but still little financial help!

 The accolades continued to come, the users continued to grow, but the funds were stagnant, running about one million to $1.5 million a year, a whole lot of nothing when compared to the billions now being spent by candidates to manipulate emotions.

 My first thought was it was because the “Greatest Generation” was dying off? Then maybe because civics education had been decimated and people had no sense of what it takes to self-govern?

 Vote Smart could only keep doing what it was doing and hope that new term “viral” would eventually apply to us.

 I was miserable and a noxious poison to everyone. I just did not get why we were not hitting what I called “critical mass,” where every citizen understood they did not have to take it anymore.

 For eighteen years our Ranch operated without adequate funds necessary to hire experienced hotel, maintenance, food, or recreational managers. We existed because I put more pressure on interns and staff who were willing to take it for a time.  The best of them, those who could stand the line doubled down on their efforts. With some I was able to combine departments or slice the very best, brightest, and most committed right in two. They would spend their days doing what they were terrific at—research–and their nights trying to keep the whole place organized, doling out domestic chores, cooking, maintenance or simply hand holding the homesick or the partiers sick on snuck in booze.

 Aili, Cornelia, Jessica, Sara, Becky, Lisa, Josh, Brandon, Brian, Ruth, Jerry, Kathy, Sally, Pat, Steve, J. J., Al, Jean, Jim, Marsha, Aaron, Laura, Goldie–even Good Bunnie and Bad Bunnie, nick names staff gave to two of our member volunteers named Bunny, all come to mind in advancing us toward the Grail.

 Hope Springs Eternal: Despite the financial issues, I continued to build as if user success would develop financial success, tomorrow, and if not, then the next day.

 We built additions to offices, new cabins, a library, saved the historic 1800’s homestead cabin, built a basketball/tennis court, new bridges, a horse barn, boat dock, a two-story tree house and two-story gazebo with rocking chairs and swinging seats overlooking the river and wilderness to enjoy for the hundreds coming to help over the years. For those less adventurous we constructed a beautiful library overlooking our lake with thousands of books and a bus – well the buss was not for enjoyment it was for work and took off one day going thousands of miles from coast to coast stopping everywhere they were invited which seemed everywhere.

    National Bus Tour

 Everyone struggled, everyone gave and boy, did they hang together.

 Take BOO BOO, a name she earned one excruciating night, an exceptionally talented intern in both the office and out on various wilderness roads, where she would run enormous distances after work, including that night she never returned.

 As the sun began to set, panic set in. My first call was to local Search and Rescue where I was told they did not work after dark – “too dangerous at night,” they said. That would not stop her friends, which were everybody. I put together water bottles, flashlights, and whistles to organize teams of three to go out on likely routes. But word of Search and Rescue’s refusal got out before I could gather them. I had to chase down her besties who had headed out on their own without any of those things. I planned routes to search, times to report back, for fear we would have not one, but a dozen youngsters out lost or hurt in the dark, with no knowledge of where they went.

 A half dozen teams were organized and sent out, on specific trails outlined on my map with a specific time to be back, or else others would go out looking for them, a rule I gave as a threat.

 The searches went on through the night – no sign of BOO BOO. Four hours in, I had to make a second call, the most horrid of calls, to her parents.

 With dawn the local Search and Rescue team finally arrived in a room full of the disheartened, limp-legged young people. The very first words they said were, “It was probably a mountain lion.”

 The wails and tears instantly pounded the lodge walls. I did what I do on some occasions: I boiled, ordering the rescuers out of the lodge to go do whatever it was they do.

 It was 10 am when “BOO BOO” walked in the door. One of our search teams had found her walking down a remote dirt road. I immediately had to excuse myself and go blubber on my own where no one would see me.

 “BOO BOO” had gotten lost by mistaking a path that was a long deer route, typical in Montana, eventually petering out. As darkness fell, she did what her Eagle Scout twin brother had once told her, “Find the biggest tree, it will cast your odor out the furthest for the search dogs and cover yourself with any leaves, pine needles or whatever you can to insulate against the cold.”

 She did just that. In the middle of the night when a couple of bears paid her a visit, she successfully defended her bed of forest rubbish by growling two little ghostly words: “BOO! BOO!”. Thus her new name.

 The staff and interns made things GREAT even in the dead of winter. One year they organized the Cold As Hell National Football League where lunches were spent fighting it out in the snow.  They even had a Commissioner who kept each player’s statistics, in case you think these people weren’t great at stats.

                Vote Smart Follies Thespians

     Summer Olympics, Vote Smart Style

(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder 1988

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I have not written about politics lately.

I needed to take a breath. The world has become so alien to all my experience. It is an alternate universe, where I am no longer familiar with my fellow inhabitants.

A Congress that prohibits my dollars to aid a free people being savaged by a tyrant who eats his own to stay in power?

My friends in Israel, who now pass into a gruesome, detestable vengeance in the Middle East, unwilling to count how many crushed infants it takes to equal the worth of a single combatant.

The millions goose stepping for a Republican candidate so utterly vile in his conduct, he represents the antithesis to all his predecessors -Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, the Bush’s, even Nixon once triumphantly held the torch for freedom.

Now each frozen embryo is a human. Next up is the 525 billion sperm ejected during my lifetime, each one independent, struggling to continue its life. Without my employing measures to protect each am I to be a mass murder of galactic proportions.

Where are the thoughtful, rational leaders that were once able to steer us clear of the imbecilic.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Couldn’t Be More Perfect

  There is a special spot at the Nation’s capitol reserved for doing television interviews where you will notice this figure standing behind most as you watch the news.  I don’t know if journalists choose the spot intentionally, but I hope.  As the figure looks down on the participants, I can almost hear him tell another joke. A short sampling from Will Rogers about a 100 years ago. See if you spot any that still apply today?

 “I don’t make jokes.  I just watch the government and report the facts.”

 “The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”

 “If America ever passes out as a great nation, we ought to put on our tombstone: America died from a delusion she had Moral Leadership.”

 “The problem in America isn’t so much what people don’t know; the problem is what people think they know that just ain’t so.”

 “We always want the best man to win an election. Unfortunately, he never runs.”

 “I remember when being liberal meant being generous with your own money.”

 “America has the best politicians money can buy.”

 “I hope there is some sane people who will appreciate dignity and not showmanship in their choice for the presidency.”

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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 Well now he’s done it.  Promised, if elected to “root out all vermin” that disagrees with him. People like General Milley, Pense and so many other former friends he wants put to death.

 I am not very liberal, but I am proud to stand by his vermin, a term first used in the 14th century referring to animals that are difficult to control.

 I don’t think he can control me or you, or any thinking conservative or liberal, unless of course you’re amidst the mindless goosestepping boot lickers that are making him possible.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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OUT OF MY ASHES -Chapter 45

 With the 1990 CNIP test successful, a bit more money, and the goal of covering the entire congress and presidential races in 1992, we needed more space and a lot more help.

 I tried to convince The University of Arizona’s modest Political Science Department, but it was a no go. They thought I was just doing what I was doing as a platform to run for congress again.

 When other universities found out that we were looking for a home, Rutgers, Duke, the University of Florida, Cal-Berkeley, New York University College of Law, the University of Washington, and a dozen others offered a minimum of 2000 sq. ft. of office space, all utilities and computer support. The picture was clear: I was moving.

 The number of offers was great for my ego, since my lofty senate aspirations had deflated it much the same way as the Hindenburg. In the twenty-some schools I visited one problem became apparent: no one could understand the name Center for National Independence in Politics, nor could they fully remember that name when it became useful to do so in a spoken sentence.

  I only recalled the story of my creating that acronym during a racquet ball game for one unfortunate soul competing to house CNIP. The University of Denver.  His jaw dropped out so loosely that I thought it might not have a bone attached, while his eyes clearly betrayed his instant regret that U. Denver had made an offer at all.

 Exposed as the idiot I still worried I was, I never repeated the tale again. On more than one occasion, even I would hesitate a bit before our full name rolled off my tongue.  Even you, right now, reading these words will need to review its mention in the prior paragraph before coming up with it.  The name would have to go!

 A name?  Something easy to remember with a new logo would be nice. Perhaps something suggesting smarter voters?  Vote Smart was born. So, it would be and although I immediately filed it with the IRS as an “also known as or AKA,” only the earliest involved would remember our primary: Center for National Independence in Politics.



 We would end up choosing Oregon State University, not because it was the most prominent, it wasn’t, but because they committed up to 100 students per semester to work on the effort. Located in Corvallis, Oregon, it had advantages: a cheap place to operate and a retired former Oregon Senator named Mark Hatfield, serving on our board, committed to making sure things went smoothly there.

 So, we cut a deal, loaded up our files, office equipment and a well needled cactus given me by a friend as the means to discipline myself in preparation for all the self-serving political pricks who would attempt to puncture the effort.

 Oregon State gave us a prime location smack in the center of campus, convenient for students and big enough to handle all the interns who signed up to help with research.

 We set up our administrative office a half mile away in the center of the most idyllic town I had ever seen.  Corvallis is the kind of town that Norman Rockwell memorialized in countless paintings. Its only failing would be its lack of appreciation for diversity and the quiet racism that over the coming years would expose itself in such a crude manner that it would become a big problem for Project Vote Smart and any black hoping to be an accepted member of their community.

 So excited, we couldn’t move fast enough: new, real offices, all the interns we could need, enough money for a dozen staff –maybe not experienced professionals but at least idealistic, high energy, trainable, recent grads. Before my imaginative eyes, so on my way that I felt I could almost reach out and touch it, there it was: the Grail.

 Lorena O’Leary, my original and greatly underappreciated staff member, grabbed her two-foot ruler, joined me and off we went. Shopping at Goodwill and the University’s surplus equipment barn we put together the needed desks, tables, chairs, used computers and other necessities within a few days.  While doing it, we also managed to hire staff. If you could breathe, speak, dress yourself, make it to the bathroom in time, and the one absolute requirement, idealistic, you were given a shot.    

 We divided up the effort into various departments:

Research – covering biographies, contact information, and campaign finances.

Voting Records – collaborating with an organization called Congressional Quarterly to select key votes. An association they would later nastily regret in that “me, me, only” consuming view of the world.

National Political Awareness Test – Testing each candidate’s willingness to answer issue questions citizens wanted answers to and they would face if elected.

Performance Evaluations – collecting the evaluations of candidates done by hundreds of liberal-to-conservative selfish interests that graded candidates on their willingness to support their me-me causes—a kind of report card.

Toll-Free Voter’s Research Hotline – enabling any citizen to access the data through their own personal intern researcher over a free phone call.

Fundraising – seeking supportive members and cultivating foundation support.

Administration/Training – Lorena and I

 I was off on a child’s white horse, like Captain America, galloping off with my fact shield to save America.

 My wasteful youth was past. The life’s work that would happen “another day” had arrived and it would greet me every morning for the rest of my days – well almost. I was making my life worth the living of it.

 Besides, the way I saw it, there were only two reasons to go to bed. One was to sleep, which I had little use for, and the other, consumed my every thought, because I had left her behind in Tucson.

(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Finding Money – Chapter 44

 The vast majority of Hotline callers’ questions were much the same as any employer might ask. They focused first on backgrounds, then actual job performance (voting records), followed by issue positions, then more distant ratings, with campaign contributors bringing up the rear.  Occasional calls came in from the cynical, wanting to know what sinister outfit we worked for. Rare were the obnoxious, but often enough so that we had to train researchers how to handle them. “We must act like automatons,” I warned. “Do not respond with any emotion, no matter what the question. Simply give the facts. If you are asked for a fact we do not have, just say, ‘We do not have that information at this time.’” Lorena O’Leary, who trained the volunteers, handled calls best:

North Carolina caller with a deep southern drawl: “I jus have one queston fer ya honey.”

Lorena: “Well we are here to help. What information can I help you with?”

Caller: “Can ya tell me how long Harvey Gantt’s dick is?”

Lorena: “I am sorry sir, but we do not have that information available at this time.”

 A couple of weeks later, the election was over and we held a little party with a few awards. We had managed to successfully handle over 7,000 calls, more than we thought we could, and more than any foundation thought we would.  Lorena was a wonder and got the most prized award, an odd two-foot-long golden ruler, along with some rubber gloves.

 The timely success of the test was enough to generate a $25,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation and the number of excited callers gave us the notion that voters themselves just might be willing to chip in too.  I had big dreams:  Build this until we could cover every race from the Presidency down to city council.  A central source of every fact on every candidate, so trustworthy that any citizen, conservative or liberal, could turn to it, use it and trust it;  at their whim, instantly get that accurate, abundant, relevant, factual information on any elected official or anyone campaigning to replace them. It would take years, but we could start building with the 1992 presidential and congressional contests.

 Surprisingly, if not shockingly, we discovered that virtually every other governance non-profit, like the League of Women Voters, Taxpayers Union, Common Cause, PBS, NRA, AARP, publications, church groups, and on and on, sold their members like chattel on an auction block.  It was why, if you donate to one organization, your mailbox, phone number and email address is soon filled with so many others groveling for help.  

 So, I purchased names and contact information from two of those organizations.  Then Jack Greenway, a friend and owner of the most delightfully unpretentious old elegant hotel you could ever know, the Arizona Inn, did the unthinkable.  He allowed me to take over one of his hotel dining rooms and have what I jokingly called a champagne and caviar mailing. I wrote a letter about what our new organization was up to, purchased 5000 envelopes and stamps.  Then I hit Safeway and got two 2 oz. jars of the cheapest caviar and spread it thinly over 10 pounds of cream cheese.  That, along with some Ritz Crackers and two dozen bottles of Andre champagne, selling at $2.90 a bottle, would do the job.

 I got a hundred or so former campaign workers and friends to do the kind of mind-numbing, monotony that must have come to Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill. They sat for hours folding, stuffing, sealing, and stamping those thousands of letters. People willing to do such tedious tasks they are not required to do, when so many more pleasant entertainments are available, were always a marvel to me. Anyway, they did it, and I and you should love them for it.

 I was sitting there stamping and sealing as fast as the best of them when Richard Kleindienst walked in. This “disgraced” U.S. Attorney General from the Nixon Administration I am proud to say was my friend and for my money the least corruptible of the stupefyingly corruptible lot that led to Nixon’s resignation. This is, of course, a half century before Trump, when stupefying, corruptible, nor any other word in any language is adequate to describe how dangerously gruesome it has all become.

 Anyway, Kleindienst loved the idea of CNIP and had suddenly appeared to cheer my fellow envelope stuffers on.  He walked from table to table giving everyone encouragement, talking of the corruption in politics and the rampant hypocrisy in campaigns.  An ironic commentary for sure.  Sixteen years earlier, most in the room who were my Democratic campaign workers would have trampled each other for a chance at clubbing him to death.  But time can calm almost any tempest, so he was appreciated, even enjoyed. Who better to talk about CNIP’s need to expose truth than someone out of an administration that so dramatically concealed it?

 Six days later there they were, two envelopes addressed to CNIP in my box. One had a check for $25, the other had one for $10 but included a long two-page letter.  The letter writer said that he was old, had been working in politics his entire life, but this was the best idea he had ever heard.  I was instantly galvanized with fresh purpose. Over the next two weeks letters stuffed my box. We raised more than it had cost us to do the mailing and I wiped my brow, thankful that I had gotten the money back and a bit more.

 A few years later, I would hear from people in mail order businesses that such returns were spectacular. Turns out that once you find your supporters, the real money comes in the renewals that come again and again, year after year. Had I been smart enough to see that at the time I would have hawked my kidneys to obtain every penny I could for more mailings, but I was just thankful that I got the money back.

 I did start purchasing more lists from organizations that pimped out their unknowing fans, but I did so very cautiously.  After all, the money I was now spending was not just my own.  I could hardly bear parting with a single cent these strangers were sending in to help.

 I was still substitute teaching for basics like food and rent but with the class time to fold, stuff and stamp. My efficiency increased to a thousand pieces a day, which now included a crude brochure. This was, of course, back when you had to lick the stamps and envelopes, something I preferred over a wet sponge for speed purposes.  When using a sponge, you are never sure you’re getting the right touch of dampness.  Too much and it drips down the envelope, too little and the envelope may not stay secure. Licking ensured just the right amount of moisture each, and every time.  Now, you wouldn’t know this, but halfway through a thousand stamps licked your retch reflex kicks in. On the day that I rudely interrupted the student film by chucking in the waste basket, I decided to save the licking for an at home ordeal. There, I discovered that a sip of scotch now and then was just what the Post Office ordered.

 With growing support and blooming visions of the possible, other board members came through with cash. My favorite congressman sent me $5000. Republican Congressman Bill Frenzel, few will now recall, was arguably the most respected member in Congress. This was back in a day when some members still earned respect and deserved it because it was they who somehow kept congressmen from devouring one another and coughing up each other’s blood.

 Foundations suddenly seemed less reluctant to meet with me. I hopped a plane and headed back East for meetings with Carnegie, Markle, MacArthur, Revson, Pew, Markle and a few smaller foundations. Even a few corporate funders were willing to meet: Prudential, AT@T, MCI.  I was happy to get cash anywhere I could, but the corporate ones bothered me. A great deal of support for the nation’s largest institutional non-profits comes from corporations and were rightfully under attack for being influenced by the corporate source of their support.

  I thought a great deal about this when I returned home and decided that if CNIP was to be a success, it had to be trusted and completely above suspicion. So, I adopted a number of rules to insure public confidence, the three most important being:

  1. No one with a political reputation could serve on CNIP’s board without a political opposite or as I became fond of saying, “a political enemy.”  Thus, President Ford joined with President Carter, Senators McGovern with Goldwater, Representatives Ferraro with Gingrich, me and Senator McCain, and so on.
  2. No money would be accepted from corporations, unions, political action committees or special interests of any kind. It would be funded by foundations (old robber baron foundations no longer attached to the corporate source of their funds), and individual citizens, or it wouldn’t be funded at all.
  3. The staff would be primarily student interns whose only pay would be academic credit, a recognized plus at universities that saw CNIP as a great classroom they didn’t have to pay for. The staff that were paid would operate much like the Peace Corps: They would sign on for a two-year election cycle tour and receive just enough to live on.

 It was through protections like these that an increasingly cynical public would find confidence in the Center for National Independence in Politics (CNIP), a name I chose no one could remember or understand, which now included me.

(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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   Mike Johnson

       Middle of the End

 Johnson cut his teeth leading Trump’s charge to steal an election without any evidence and thankfully lost his argument in every court in the land.  A Trump suckphant who defends the vilest American President, even as Trump’s closest friends, advisors, and attorneys plead for forgiveness, cower in shame and head to prison.

  Johnson, now in charge of the House which controls your purse, supports this authoritarian who would hang heroes like Milley, America’s top general, and trash my old opponent and friend John McCain.

 I am ill over how low those Americans supporting this have fallen.   Make no mistake: Trump just won the United States House of Representatives. If he wins the Presidency and the Senate falls, “The Great Experiment” is over.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Let’s Party!

 I have been writing some pretty depressing stuff lately and some readers have rightfully taken exception to it. So here goes, on the upside:

 Facts are facts and of all the facts I know, being crazy lucky to be of my generation is the grandest of all. What a kick it has been to progress:

 From listening to events from some distant state, to seeing them live from anywhere in the world.

 From taking four days to cross the country by train, to hopping on a plane at breakfast and being there for lunch.

 From sweating under a fan, to kicking back at home in an environment completely under my control.

 From needing an operator’s assistance, time, and money to place a call across the country to reaching anyone in the world on a whim.

 From finding the answer to my question somewhere in a 32-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica to just asking Siri.

 Just a few, and if you go back a bit further, say to my great-grandfather’s birth, well, he didn’t have phones, fans, planes, trains or encyclopedias, flush toilets, washing machines, cars, or any paved roads for his Kimball Carriages. And he was a pretty rich fellow as President of the American Carriage industry, and inventor of the assembly line, almost a half century before Henry Ford.

 Yeah, I have been handed down a little family braggadociousness, even if the family couldn’t convert his carriages into automobiles.

           Kimball Auto Carriage


 Sorry, I digressed a bit there.  My point is me, my generation, we are just unimaginably lucky to be us.  We took advantage of democracy and the inventiveness that exploded after its introduction of freedom and the ability to enjoy the rewards of our own labors.

 We are pretty darn comfortable.  Most Americans’ lives today would be the envy of any pre-America King, Queen, Czar, or dictator in history.  In their time, hunger, plagues, rats, stench, and filth of every imaginable kind lay in wait out every door and quite often on both sides of the door.

 Hell, Walmart was just unimaginable to any human living during 99.95% of the time we have existed on earth. As I use to tell my students: “If you were sitting in the lap of God and he asked what generation of Americans would you like to be born into? You would be a fool not to choose mine.”

 So, it is fair to say things have gotten better in spite of us, and us can be pretty despicable. After all we have now learned the downside of democracy as we vote for and suck up the rewards earned by our forefathers and how to spend the future resources of our children.   You would think as long as we have decided to use it all, we would at least have the decency to stop complaining and party.

 Oh well, turns out I couldn’t write something uplifting after all.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Our fading ability to tell the difference between what we know and what we think we know will end democracy.

Recent movements and separations between people don’t make much sense to many of us.  Even as it worsens, sources for it and cures to it, dissipate in a mist of false facts from disreputable origins.   Citizens are losing any ability to know what is so and what is not.

 As bad players adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) foaming with misinformation that captures and molds minds to their own end, we all become chumps, certain we are in the know and others are not.

As AI becomes more powerful and Artificial General Intelligence enables systems to integrate our ability to know what is true will vanish.

Without a source to which all people can turn in confidence for the facts, for reality, there can be no democracy.

My ponderous efforts to begin such a source at Vote Smart, sparked but now faded are nowhere near where I had hoped they would go and now need to be.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder — Sign up on my Blog at: or at:


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Terry never did announce his candidacy, and I never knew if I had gotten bad information or if Terry just decided to turn tail.  Either way I ended up the nominee of my party for the open seat on the Corporation Commission. And although I did not know much about regulation, I would soon discover neither did the other two Commissioners.

 The Republicans nominated Arizona’s State Treasurer, a fellow who knew little more about regulating companies than he did about hard ball politics.  It would be a tough campaign for him, not because I was tough on him, I rarely mentioned him.  For me he did not exist, I ran against the other two Commissioners who had a low key, quiet, invisible way of sticking it to citizens on behalf of the major utilities.

 The other two Commissioners would not be up for re-election for a few years, but my effectiveness generated a serious effort by citizens who didn’t want to wait for their terms to end. Recall petitions were attracting thousands of signatures.

 When I won the election and the recall effort fell just short of the necessary signatures, I had made two bitter enemies.  This would be confirmed on the morning of my second day on the job. The first day was spent moving into Jim’s (the retiring commissioner I was replacing), empty office and dropping into the offices of the two other Commissioners to calm ill feelings in hopes of getting along as best we could. The meetings were congenial enough.  However, the next morning when I arrived, I received a more official welcome from my two fellow Commission members. They had ordered the staff to remove all my things from Jim’s office and dump them into the hallway.

 It was their way of saying, “Our two votes will tell your one vote where to go and where to live around here.

 The childishness degenerated into a kind of infantile paralysis at the Commission, in which I participated. I would give as good as I got. Like on the day Taurus, my love—a 14-year-old border collie who suddenly took ill. The vet pumped Taurus full of drugs—just before I had to be at a Commission hearing—advising that I keep a close eye on her for the next 24 hours. I had put my suit jacket in the bottom of a large cardboard box, laid Taurus on top and then carried my crippled sweetie up the Commission stairs to my office.

 Thirty minutes later my secretary nervously opened my door saying that the Department of Public Safety was on the line and needed to talk with me right away.

 “Commissioner Kimball?” the officer asked uncomfortably.

“Yes, I am Richard Kimball, what can I do for you?”

“Well Commissioner, I know this is odd, but pets are not allowed in your building, and we have gotten a complaint that you have a dog in your office. If you do, I need to ask you to remove it, or they insist that we come over and take it.”

 “You’re going to arrest my dog?” I joked.

“Sir,” he said with obvious embarrassment, “We have had a strong complaint from the Commission and so we are required to enforce the law.”

 I explained my dog’s situation and mine, then asked, “Can you give me just 20 minutes?”  Curious, he asked, “Of course, but why?”

 “Because that is how long it will take the media to get here, film your arrest of my half-dead best friend and capture a couple of interviews with my two colleagues for the 6 o’clock news.

 As it turned out the complaint was quickly dropped, but the next morning as I arrived without my recovered buddy, a maintenance worker was drilling in a brass plate next to the Commission’s entry door. The plate said: NO DOGS ALLOWED.

 Oddly, the three of us voted together more often than not. The nots were the cases dealing with the biggest utility companies in the state. It wasn’t that I had evidence to prove their rate hike requests were unnecessary, it was just that we had no way of independently verifying they were necessary.  It was instantly clear to me that it was all one big company-controlled shell game with quick-handed utility companies controlling the shells and maximizing their take by tricking both consumers and their assumed protectors, us.

 The basic rules and primary problem in Arizona utility regulation are easily explained: 

1. Because costs would be outrageous if numerous competing utilities had to support their own independent production and delivery systems, monopolies are allowed to exist.

2. Because the state must give utilities a monopoly to reduce both their costs and those of consumers, the utility must get approval of the rates it charges citizens.

3. Because the Arizona legislature refused to provide funds sufficient to regulate utilities, the regulators must trust the data and testimony provided by the utilities.

  This doesn’t mean utilities always get what they ask for but that is largely because of a “blink and whisper” understanding between the utilities and the Commission.  The “blink and whisper” requires the major utilities to request more money than they need or is reasonable.  Then the Commission can cut the rate requested down to something that is less unreasonable to maintain the appearance of protecting consumers (their voters).

 It works pretty much that way in every state I know of.

 Commissioners never really know what is going on beyond what a utility tells them.  Utility executives’ only reason for being is to maximize profit for stockholders and thus provide good reason to pay themselves a salary that could be 5,000% higher than that of any regulator whose responsibility is to be in charge.

 I kept saying “No” to the large utilities, not because I thought their requests unreasonable but because I could not independently verify that they were reasonable.  My two colleagues kept arguing an opposing rationale: we have no evidence suggesting what they say is not so.

 You say no to the Big Dogs of the business world, and they will label you as anti-business, even as thousands of small businesses suffer and even go under from spiraling utility charges.

 My relationship with the other two Commissioners settled into a comfortable agreement to disagree. Then one died from a heart attack and the other resigned.

 The governor had to appoint two new Commissioners until new elections could be held. It was then that things got as good as I would ever experience in politics. He chose two academics, a Republican business professor at Arizona State University and a Democrat, a law professor at the University of Arizona.  They were bright, conscientious and, unlike previous Commissioners, unmotivated by politics.

 These two new Commissioners allowed me to become the Commission’s Chairman and I then proceeded to preside over one hell of a Commission mistake and another that paved a road to utility control.

 In our blindness we allowed a Tucson utility to split up. With the combination of insufficient staff, no independent research, an unscrupulous utility chief and our own naivety we approved the sale of assets. The power producing parts of the utility formed a new company that didn’t sell power directly to citizens thus the Commission could not regulate while the distribution and sales stayed under Commission supervision. We effectively lost control of costs and citizens got screwed.

 To our credit, the two appointed Commissioners and I managed to adopt new regulatory principles that forced utilities into pretend competition. We started approving not rate increases but the possibility of rate increases.  We would set rates on what amounted to an average or fair rate of return on the costs the utility bore.  However, if they failed to reach the efficiencies we judged to be normal and achievable, they would get penalized by our reducing their profits. Conversely, we would provide them with a financial incentive: Should they exceed our expectations a bonus larger than what they had requested could be obtained, thus rewarding them for good decisions and efficient operations.  In effect it was pretend competition in a world where no competition exists.

 As it turned out I would not be at the Commission long enough to see if our plan would work or even be sustained.  I was about halfway through my six-year term, new elections had been held to replace the governor’s temporary appointees and two fellow “consumer advocates” were elected as result of all the concern created. They were politicians to the bone and egos and jealousy, including my own, would reign again. Only this time we were all of the same party, all so-called “consumer advocates.” A perfect representation of why people get so disgusted with government. There we were, the Commission totally reversed, presumably intent on representing and protecting citizens.

 What achieves primacy in the minds of the elected?  Me! Me! ME!

 I was elated with their elections. OK, a bit weary that Marsha, the vacationing member of the Breakfast Bunch, and wife of the former Commissioner Jim Weeks was one. The other was Renz Jennings, an ultra-liberal former State Representative who slept in an open shed on what he said was his farm, though it had little produce to put in anyone’s pot other than his own.

 Bottom line: The Commissioners who had been in the utilities’ silk pockets were now replaced by three scrapers, all posturing for an Oscar as Best Consumer Advocate. For my part, I wanted war, with either the Republican State Legislature that would not fund us, or the large utilities themselves who thought themselves protected by our in ability to examine them.

 I wanted to force the legislature to give us adequate funding or the utilities to provide funds for us to independently verify the need or requested rate increases.

 For an initial blast across the utility’s bows all we needed to do, I thought, was let it be known that we would not blindly approve any rate increase without the ability to independently investigate the utilities’ operations and need for a rate increase.

  My hopes of accomplishing this took a hit on the first morning we all met. My new colleagues had only stomach enough to go to war with each other.

 Renz asked me to join him and Marsha “socially” for breakfast one morning.  The social gathering quickly turned into a Commission business meeting.  I pointed out that it was inappropriate to discuss Commission business secretly outside of an open public hearing. I had fought hard against the first two Commissioners I served with when they wanted to continue with Commission tradition and privately discuss the public’s business, only without me.  I made it so difficult for them to do so that I managed to enforce a rule prohibiting expartee (secret) meetings.

 My two new commissioners instantly poo-pooed any such prohibition and continued their Me-Me negotiations.

 What was foremost on their minds was to get themselves elected chairman of the Commission.  They thought it was best that the chairmanship be rotated between the three of us and since I had been elected chairman by the two appointees, one of them should now get it.  I can’t deny that this hurt a little. I had initiated what was clearly a successful fight against the pro-utility Commission long before they got involved. Now that the fruits of the fight were supposedly ready for harvest, I thought their Me-Me position a bit unjust, but I listened.

 The question continued over the next week: Which one of them should get to be the next chairman. Marsha thought she was the clear choice, having spent years in bed with a former Commissioner.  Renz, for his part kept cornering me with the grace of a turtle climbing stairs, to say three things:

     “I have no ego!”

     “I am more likely to side with your positions than she is.”

     “You will vote for me to be Chairman, won’t you?” 

 This was going to be three more years of “Please won’t someone shoot me?”

 It might be worth it I thought if only I could push through my one primary objective, get the commission the resources it needed to actually regulate utilities.

   I was certain that the citizens would support us on this. Consumer savings would make up for any budget increase a thousand-fold.

 Both options would require the three of us to stick our collective necks out, but even if we failed the loud public fight would make the shell game apparent to any citizen concerned with their utility bill (just about everybody) and put enormous pressure on the Republican Legislature.  Anyway, after all that I could say was said in support of doing our job and actually regulating utilities, my two Me-Me colleagues let it be known that they had no stomach for it.

 I was trapped and completely disinterested in finishing my six-year term of office. Unlike in the State Senate, I had a sense of some success since the Commission would no longer just rubber stamp rate increases, but I wanted out. What excuse could I give? How could walking out with less than half my term served be explained?

 A freshly-minted Arizonian, former prisoner of war, freshly elected to congress and about to burst onto the national stage would provide the answer.

(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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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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 There were no roads through the mountains to it, no phones, or any access to anywhere but by a 40-minute pounding ride in a boat the locals called a panga. The dirt path through the little fishing village was swept clean each morning by a few in huts selling local produce, brooms made from long thin sticks, candles, and a few other necessities. All led down to the half dozen fishing boats pulled up on shore next to the “The Yacht Club” a little place cooking whatever food the fishermen caught that day and with a shared shelf they called the library.

 For me, living there in a thatched palapa with swinging rope bed covered in mosquito netting was heaven. It was there that I came to terms with my brief political career. It was there that I found my life’s calling.  It was there, after weeks of pondering, that it hit me: it was simple.

 With the loss of common ground Americans were being fractured.  With trust lost in all media, there was no anchor to which both conservatives and liberals could depend upon for the truth and the facts essential to successful self-government.

 Without that, I thought, there would be no democracy.

 There was only one solution I thought, to create a source where facts were sacrosanct but never interpreted, to which any citizen could turn for the truth.

 Within the day I left my little chunk of paradise and hopped a ride to go create   Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George McGovern, Barry Goldwater, Michael Dukakis, John McCain, and a few dozen others of both parties, understanding how essential it was, hopped on that ride with me to go build it.

 For your good and that of the country, use and support

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Cupid is a Little Devil?

To preserve a modicum of sanity and friendly relations if I take a walk when someone talks politics. I have found there is comfort in not knowing another person’s views.

However, this week as so many liberal friends celebrate Trump’s indictment drawn from a sexual affair, I just want on the highest hill to scream how dangerously desperate that inditement will be made to appear.

Is paying off a prostitute really the important issue?

When the conservatives wanted to impeach Clinton for Whitewater, found nothing but Monica Lewinski and so impeached him for that, was the world made right. Does anyone really think men in power won’t follow the urge to pollinate the flowers that gather about them. Hell, even Jimmy Carter “lusted in his heart.”

Be careful what you wish for? You better.

This celebration will play the key role in turning what is an imbecile into a martyr with his millions of nymphlepts. He had sex. He tried to hide it. Ya, that’s unusual, let’s get him for that and engorge his line, “The liberals are on a witch hunt and will do anything,” with real value.

This indictment helps build him a silken cushion to fall upon when it comes to the serious issues that truly matter, like insurrection, election interference and tax fraud.

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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good cop bad cop free clip art

Brandon and Saudia would have been in jail instead of on a plane headed for home if my wife and I hadn’t been there. Two brilliant students just finishing internships working for us. One was headed back to work for the governor of Indiana and the other into health care in her native Georgia.

With an early pre-dawn flight, we decided to give them a lift on the two hour drive up to the Portland airport.

Now this gets a little tricky to explain, it is a “you had to be there” kind of thing. But here is my best effort: I was driving and Adelaide, my wife, was sitting in the back seat directly behind me, while Brandon was sitting shotgun and Saudia directly behind him. In the dark of the night, we came up to a stop sign before turning left on to a main but poorly lit street leading out of town and to the Interstate. Off in the distance, parked under a tree, I noticed what I thought was a parked police car. I turned left, drove five or six blocks as the police car slowly approached from the rear and then suddenly hit its lights and siren at the same instant that another police car came screeching around the corner in front of us, hitting its siren. I pulled over.

I was completely fuddled and asked Brandon what I had done. I knew I hadn’t been speeding. He shrugged his shoulders and Adelaide said, “Maybe one of our brake lights is out.” Two police cars for that?

I didn’t think so. I watched as the policemen that pulled up behind us quickly jumped out of his car and put his hand on his holster, while the other car put on its brights and blocked the road in front. “Wow! What the Hell is this?”

The officer with his hand on the gun quickly approached me from behind, then seeing me, slowed as his hand dropped to his side. Now it was he who looked fuddled.

Nervously I asked him what I had done. In an odd, suddenly cautious and disappointed voice he said, “Never mind, you can go,” and blurted out an inaudible something to the other police car and briskly walked back to his. Both cars pulled out and disappeared into the night.

Brandon, Saudia, my wife and I just sat silent for a minute or so. I glanced over at Bradon and then back at Saudia. Neither would look at me and then I got it.

I just exploded. When we had turned left onto the main street the police car down the block only saw Brandon and Saudia in the windows. with two others in the dark shadows next to them. They saw a car full of black people.

Apoplectic would be the word to describe my reaction. I had never seen it up close and personal, but now that I had there was blood in my eyes. I wanted floggings or at least a couple of badges.

I ranted about how I was going to some friends in the local press and city council. When I finally came up for breath Brandon and Saudia just looked up and stared at me, and then as if in tag-team manner asked that I not do that.

I was now the student and to be taught by two who had clearly earned their PhDs.

They told me that if I did those things, it would only make it worse for other blacks. Their suggestion was simply this: “If you really want to do some good, if you want to be helpful, Richard, sponsor some community discussions on racism and tolerance. It will bring it out into the open and maybe strike a note with a few who will make such things less likely.”

The effect those two had on me came in level parts of shame and awe. Of course they would know, this was no first time for them.

Yes, some community discussion, it was the thing to do, the smart, effective, helpful, proper thing to do. But I was none of those things, and by noon I could be found in the mayor’s office unrolling an obscenity-laced review of the night’s events.

She, of course, promised to have a stern discussion with the Chief of Police who would make sure everyone was properly chewed out and made all the more hateful.

There were more important pressing things to do with my time than sponsor forums on race. Besides I had stirred up a nice angry pot and could now, like most of the self-righteous, point my countenance skyward and arrogantly walk on, confident that I had busted some ass and created peace on earth.

Score one for me on the Mutant’s team.

The other side of the coin is this — a defense that will upset some who read this. Not a defense of those policemen in my story, but one that knows they are not the norm. I could give you equally vivid emotional descriptions of the hundreds of ethical, honorable police officers slaughtered on America’s streets each year, putting their bodies between you and real evil.

It isn’t a desire to hurt others that generates generations of police cadets. It is a desire to do good, to serve, to be of value to their community, friends, and family and to feel value in themselves.

It isn’t unusual, it is normal for some in any profession to turn to the dark side, particularly in a profession that finds a few hundred of its number murdered on the streets every year.

Could it be that showing more value and far better screening might be a more fruitful response?

You do not want to give up the protection of those willing to protect you, but we might fork over bigger salaries and a lot more training to avoid those on the dark side.

— –

(Excerpt from Kimball’s Autobiography of a Nobody — The Miracle of Me)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Are you a New Wave Republican?

free clip art power and control

Deny elections, deny vaccines, deny climate change, deny wages, deny all abortions and health care for the poor. Defund social programs and public education. Support assault weapons, a paralyzing defense budget, and a Christian nation.

Eisenhower, Nixon, Goldwater, Ford, Reagan, the Bush’s, and every other Republican leader in history weren’t!

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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Entertainer for Mass Murderer

Arms Dealer

Griner for Bout — Huh!

What are we thinking?! We get an entertainer if we free a mass-murdering thug selling arms to our enemies, anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down our pilots, someone convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans.

What a deal!

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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