I recently had a discussion with a friend about the Senate 23 election and how nice it was that my father isn’t the only one in the race running a shoestring campaign focusing on the issues and principles rather than wining/dining and expensive, colorfully vague pamphlets. They replied that there’s an ethical double standard in politics and were right on the money (pun intended):
Everyone from the delegates to general election voters get all worked up over elected officials’ ethics in taking lobbyist money, dinners, and gifts. Public opinion poll after poll always notes how annoyed everyone is with gifts. That’s great – we absolutely should care about who’s buying influence, how much they are getting, any impropriety therein, and how that may affect votes on critical/controversial issues. However, has anyone ever polled the same respondents and asked: “Have you ever been swayed by a gift or expensive item from a campaign?” or “Do you feel you have ever pressured a campaign to provide gifts for you?”
Most won’t admit or realise it, but they likely have.
At the delegate and occasional primary level, free “meet the candidate” breakfasts or lunches etc. tend to attract more people. Typically, expensive glitzy ads (TV, radio, or mail), chapsticks, pencils, cheesy t-shirts with negligible information tend to grab attention more than a set of black and white pages with fairly detailed positions on issues. Yes, part of it has to do with our busy lives (I reject that as a reason to be an uninformed voter) but a chunk of it has to do with the fact that we like getting free junk.
Yet many of us finding time for a lunch or line for the goodies jump up and down about legislators doing the same. Is it good for me and not for thee? I know criticism stings and this isn’t the first time I’ve brought this up, but it is worth asking:
If you detest money in politics, do you engage in the same behavior you dislike in a legislator?
It would be nice if we got to the point of asking: “Why do they feel the need to give me this stuff for my consideration and why don’t their positions/principles suffice?”