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Money talks



Until this year, I'd never contributed any money to a political campaign. The main reason was that I simply didn't have the money to give, but I don't have the money to give this year, either. What's changed is my awareness of how easy it is to buy an election, and how a huge campaign war chest can contribute an air of inevitability to a candidate. George W. Bush's Republican coronation was all but assured when he wrapped up more than $40 million in contributions before the first primary. Until there is real campaign finance reform, fire will simply have to be fought with fire.

So I've identified a few vulnerable candidates and a few promising up-and-comers, and I've sprinkled some coinage into their coffers. The progressive and outspoken Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota was the first recipient of my "largesse." His campaign then made my name known to the Jean Carnahan people in Missouri (thanks, Paul). After I gave a measly $25 to Carnahan's campaign, they called me to ask, politely, for more. As I lay sprawled on the couch with the phone to my ear trying to decide how far I was willing to take this new disposition of mine, the operator jokingly said she would take whatever I had on me. There was a breathless pause on the other end as I ransacked my pockets. "Ten dollars will have to do," I told her. Her thanks were profuse.

Even though I feel Texas deserves whatever it gets after being bamboozled by Governor Bush, a candidate there has caught my attention: Ron Kirk, the popular African-American mayor of Dallas, is running for the U.S. Senate. Pro-choice, environmentally friendly, an advocate of affordable housing and economic investment in minority communities, he won a majority of white, Hispanic and African-American votes the last time he ran for mayor. His opponent is Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, who took $193,000 in contributions from Enron, issued a legal opinion favoring the company and had to recuse himself from the state's investigation after Enron collapsed.

Pollsters are calling the election a toss-up. Deja vu? African-American mayor of a state's major city takes on white Republican candidate, and pollsters say: He could win. While election results suggest that not everyone tells pollsters the truth, the idea of having an African-American Democrat in the U.S. Senate is so juicy, that I'm sending as much as I can.

I recently received a letter from the Wellstone campaign. It included a sign-up sheet for names and addresses of friends I thought might be well-disposed to contribute. The form has room for four names and addresses, but at the bottom, it politely advises: "Feel free to make as many copies of this form as you need."

Expect a letter from the Wellstone campaign soon, my friends.

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