Veteran journalist calls out Chris Ward on campaign finance scam
It’s nice that someone with much more knowledge and experience confirms your theory, and that happened with a column in the Metro Times today by veteran journalist Jack Lessenberry. He called out Chris Ward on his campaign finance reform show and tell and his close ties to special interests.
A respected journalist for more than 30 years, Lessenberry has worked as a foreign correspondent and executive national editor of The Detroit News, reporting from more than forty countries. His writing has appeared in such national publications as Vanity Fair, Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe. He is also a professor of journalism at Wayne State University, and his freelance columns appear in The Metro Times, The Traverse-City Record Eagle and The Toledo (Ohio) Blade. He also has local ties to Livingston County, serving as the executive of Hometown Communications that includes all the Observer and Eccentric newspapers, as well as the Livingston County Daily Press and Argus before the chain was purchased by Gannett. Here are the good parts of the column, but you can red the entire piece at http://metrotimes.com/editorial/story.asp?id=9390.
"But this year, “Amway Dick” DeVos is spending the way God might, if Our Lord had been left a successful pyramid scheme business by his Father. However, help is on the way, as somebody actually told me a few days ago. State Rep. Chris Ward, a Brighton Republican, has introduced a package of bills designed to provide — ta da! — meaningful campaign finance reform!
Be still, my sloshing heart. Actually, my personal blood pump never even skipped a beat once I noticed that the sponsor of these bills was Chris Ward. That is the moral equivalent of Monica Lewinsky opening a charter school of chastity. If Chris were in another occupation, he might have a mattress strapped to his back. Here’s all you need to know about him. Michigan had a law for years saying that you couldn’t order a bottle of wine from a winery in, say, Napa Valley. The middlemen and their lobbyists were behind that.
Outraged, some wine connoisseurs took that all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that Michigan couldn’t discriminate that way. Good old Chris gallantly stepped into the breach — and introduced a bill that would have prevented you and me from buying a bottle of wine from a Michigan winery! That is, not without going through a wholesaler first.
One guess who the major funding source of his last campaign was: The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. Naturally, Ward didn’t mention that at the time; he actually said he was doing it to spare the health of Michigan’s children, who presumably were about to order a single bottle of Lake Leelanau Riesling and then kill their siblings with shards of glass from the bottle.
Fortunately, he didn’t get away with it; a compromise was forged. “The system worked!” Wardie chirped brightly when I asked about it. And would his “reform” bills do anything about stopping other lawmakers from being owned, say, by beer and wine interests? Naw, he admitted.
Last week, I read an excellent piece on what’s wrong with campaign finance rules in Michigan in the Northern Express, Traverse City’s alternative paper. In it, the brilliant Anne Stanton (all right, so she was my student many years ago) revealed that an Auburn Hills housewife named Linda Shea gave, out of the goodness of her heart, $40,000 to the political action committee of one Jason Allen, a politically ambitious Republican state senator from Traverse City.
Does, uh, like, her husband know? I wondered idly. Turns out he did indeed; he owns P.K. Contracting, which gets millions from the state for painting those lines on our highways.
Jason Allen is a likely bet to be the next majority leader, unless Yahweh allows the Democrats to take over the state Senate, and the lovely Linda undoubtedly wants to make sure that money for highway lines is in the budget, and that hubby gets the contracts again.
So, I asked our courageous Livingston County reformer, would your reforms forbid this kind of behavior? Well, no again, “but maybe if we get some bipartisan support that might be something we might want to look at.”
Turns out most of his “reforms” are actually aimed at limiting the activities of groups that favor Democrats, like labor unions. To be fair, old Chris does have a few ideas worth considering, like rules requiring more frequent reporting of where candidates get their money, and random audits of campaign committees.
But mainly his “reforms “are boilerplate you-know-what, for election year consumption and fragging the Democrats. He isn’t the problem, however; just another small symptom. The fact is that our political system is seriously broken. Nobody can run for most major offices — or even many minor ones — unless they are repulsively rich or can persuade special interests of one kind or another to spend lavishly on their campaigns.
And as Marlon Brando told me back when we were both still in the olive oil business, they seldom or never do that without expecting something for it.
Want campaign finance reform? Set spending limits, throw people in jail for violating them, and allot all candidates an equal share of airtime. The airwaves are public property; force the stations to provide this service.
That would go a long way toward creating an equal playing field. And you just know that’s what our elected leaders really want, right? That is, after all, the American way."