GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - The little dust up between Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Texas governor Rick Perry underlined something for all of us. I don't mean whether Stillwater's gift to the Tea Party or the latest incarnation of a would-be President from Texas was right about HPV vaccinations.
I mean that accepting money from corporations can put politicos on the defensive. Bachmann took off after Perry about cash his campaign got from a big drug company that makes the vaccine. It seems that he was a bit off in his retort about HOW much money he got, but that's just my point.
Governor Perry said he takes in $30 million and a $5,000 contribution was not buying him. Some wags began speculating exactly what the price would be, but enough of that stuff! It seems the drug company actually gave him about $30,000 with millions going to a Governor's organization that he had close ties to.
Here's the thing: Is it reasonable to expect that every person running for office in this country has every contribution on the tip of his or her tongue? The fact is in the modern era, money equals political clout. Just try running any state or national campaign without money.
You need money to buy campaign supplies and pay staff and buy gas for the campaign bus (if you're channeling Paul Wellstone) or the campaign plane if you have to cover great distances fast to squeeze the hands of would-be voters.
As "Deep Throat" told those Washington, D.C. reporters covering Watergate, "FOLLOW THE MONEY!"
In politics, money doesn't talk. These days, it screams. We have become a voters that can only digest 30-second commercials and 10-second sound bites. Few of us, who aren't paid to do so, watch every speech and debate of every candidate with bated breath. We wait for the 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. summary on the TV news outlet of our choice.
So, the cash that buys those 30-second bits of Madison Avenue wisdom and fund the trips that produce the 10-second nuggets of newsworthy sound gets more clout than Millie Fidd and her one, little vote. That's why every politico, of EVERY party, kisses up to those holding the moneybags. Unless, of course, they want to lose fast.
Why do folks like Tim Pawlenty drop out of the race? Because they think they're not worthy? Hardly. It's because, when the pollsters assign you to a back row, it's harder and harder to get the guys with the moneybags to pay for your ticket to the dance.
But that money could come with strings, or so it may appear. That's the dilemma Governor Perry encountered the other night. That's the nightmare that makes more than one candidate wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Who's giving me the money and what could they want in return?
It's a tough world for politicians who need the appearance of having clean hands without running a background check on every donation that comes in. Still, it's fair for us - the media - to run that check for them. Just in case they forgot to check their fingernails, I mean.
Political power is a pretty temptation. Makes it easier to ignore those strings, no matter whom or what is on the other end.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)