Jewish World Review March 26, 2002 / 13 Nisan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | I was walking by the Capitol the other day when I saw a bedraggled man holding a paper cup. I thought at first that he was a homeless person. But as I looked more closely I realized that he was a congressman.
He held up his cup and said, "I need money for my election. It's the last chance I have."
"Hard money or soft?" I asked.
"I prefer soft money since Congress has ruled I have to stop asking for it after this election. Like everyone in Washington, I'm running against the clock."
"By mentioning soft money, you are of course, referring to money donated by corporations, associations and unions who have no alternative but to pay their dues to the party of their choice."
As we were talking, a man came by and threw coins into the cup.
"Bless you," the congressman said.
"Who was that?" I asked.
"He's a well known lobbyist. He always gave me soft money, but the good days are almost over. That's why I'm begging in the street."
"Why is soft money so important to the political system?" I asked.
He replied, "Soft money is the mother's milk of politics. If someone gave you soft money you knew he was a good guy, and if he didn't, you assumed he was a cheapskate who didn't care about honest government."
"Was the money you collected from Enron good money or bad?"
"It was good money until someone looked at their books. I took as much soft money from them as I could without any strings attached.
"Then I found out they were bad guys and, like every congressman, I was fit to be tied. Their soft money was so soft you could play handball with it against Vice President Cheney's garage."
"When did you get suspicious that the good guys at Enron were bad guys?"
"When the good guys took the Fifth so they would not blow the whistle on themselves."
A lady walked by and asked the congressman if he had change for a five-dollar bill.
"Yes, ma'am." he said. "Just call me if you want me to go into the tank."
"Who is she?"
"She's the spokeswoman for the National Paper Shredding Association. She always gives to the people who are in need. She is going to have to figure out a plan to get around the new restrictions."
As she walked away, the congressman said, "Bless you, kind lady."
I asked how the people raised soft money.
"We had all sorts of committees that were willing to share the spoils with us. We formed the Clean Government and Freedom for All Club, the Yankee Doodle Dandy Get Out the Vote League, and the If It Doesn't Hurt, You Haven't Given Enough Friends of the Round Table."
There was a quorum vote in the House, so the congressman had to go inside. He handed me his paper cup and asked me to hold his space for him so none of the other impoverished congressmen would take it. He said, "When it comes to soft money, it's every man for himself."
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