The Hightower Report

Some elections are clean, but the GOP campaigns dirty


SUPPRESSING THE VOTE

One of the most despicable aspects of this year's presidential campaign was the deliberate, determined effort by the Republican Party to keep people from voting.

I don't just mean the notorious efforts in Florida by first brother Jeb Bush to purge the voter rolls of thousands of eligible African-Americans, but of tactics all across the country to suppress the votes of people who tend to vote Democratic.

For example, before the election, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond tried to sneak a provision into national law that would ban voter registration drives in public housing projects. Another sneak attack came on Election Day itself, when GOP election officials in key states like Ohio simply shorted many Democratic precincts on the number of voting machines made available. The result was that voters faced interminable waits to get to cast their ballots – lines snaked around city blocks, forcing people to wait seven, nine, or more hours in line. Uncounted thousands of people – who, after all, have jobs and families to deal with – were driven away from the polls by this artificial logjam.

Especially ugly was the kind of racist intimidation experienced in Milwaukee. Just before the election, a flier was distributed throughout two African-American voting wards, handed out on street corners and in barbershops by a fake group calling itself the "Black Voters League." Here's some of what it said:

"Some warnings for election time:

"If you've already voted in any election this year, you can't vote in the presidential election.

"If you've ever been found guilty of anything, even a traffic violation, you can't vote in the presidential election.

"If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything, you can't vote in the presidential election.

"If you violate any of these laws, you can get ten years in prison and your children will get taken away from you."

In America, everyone should be encouraged to vote. This is still America, isn't it?


'CLEAN' CANDIDATES ELECTED

If you're looking for a little good news from the Nov. 2 election, check out the clean-money campaigns in Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina.

Instead of surrendering their state governments to the big money interests that control Washington and most other state capitols, people in these three states have authorized full public financing for candidates who agree to run "clean" – which means that these candidates accept none of the corrupting contributions that special interests (primarily corporations) routinely dole out to Democrats, Republicans, and anyone else willing to be bought. By providing a pool of public funds for public elections, we can get public officials that are no longer financially beholden to corporate, union, or other private funders who always have a private agenda attached to their checks.

In Maine, this clean-election option has been available for three election cycles, and the results are astonishing: 77% of Maine's state House members and 83% of its state senators have now been elected without taking a dime in corporate money! It changes the whole political dynamic, for legislators are free to cast their votes without first checking with their big campaign contributors.

Likewise in Arizona, 23% of state senators and 58% of House members are now free of any dependence on private campaign donors – as are 10 of Arizona's statewide elected officials, including the governor, attorney general, and all four of this year's winning candidates for the state Corporation Commission. Also, North Carolina provided the clean-election option this year to candidates for its top judicial seats – and the clean candidates won both races for the Supreme Court and two of the three seats on the Court of Appeals.

Full public financing is real reform. To bring it to your state, county, city, school district, or whatever – call Public Campaign: 202/293-0222.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

elections, clean money campaigns, clean elections, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, publicly funded elections, Public Campaign, Republican Party, Jeb Bush, voter suppression, Kit Bond, Milwaukee, Black Voters League

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