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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 31, 2012

 
The rich can't handle the glare of the spotlight

by David Atkins

This is rich:

All they wanted was to get involved.

But to hear some of the biggest donors of 2012 tell it, their six- and seven-figure contributions have instead bought them nothing but grief.

Their personal lives are fodder for news stories. President Barack Obama and his allies have singled out conservative mega-donors as greedy tax cheats, or worse. And a conservative website has launched a counteroffensive targeting big-money liberals.

This is definitely not what they had in mind. In their view, cutting a million-dollar check to try to sway the presidential race should be just another way to do their part for democracy, not a fast-track to the front page.

And now some are pushing back hard against the attention, asking: Why us?

“This idea of giving public beatings has been around for a long time,” said Frank VanderSloot, a wealthy Idaho businessman who donated $1 million in corporate cash to the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney and says he’s raised between $2 million and $5 million for the Romney campaign.

VanderSloot, who is also a national finance co-chairman for Romney, was among eight major Romney donors singled out on an Obama campaign website last month as having “less-than-reputable records,” and he thinks the purpose is clear – intimidation.

“You go back to the Dark Ages when they put these people in the stocks or whatever they did, or publicly humiliated them as a deterrent to everybody else – watch this – watch what we do to the guy who did this.”
Yes, heaven forbid that anyone shine a spotlight these people who want to buy the country's democratic system outright. If we don't give them the ability to buy a President in secret, it's the same as torture in the Middle Ages.

In the absence of real campaign finance reform, disclosure of who is spending the money to buy our elections is the next-best thing. I've always been a little skeptical of that approach because the message gets through regardless of whether the messenger is exposed.

But it's been eye-opening and amusing to see how very sensitive the Masters of the Universe are to exposure and criticism. One would think that people with the ability to buy anything in life wouldn't care so much about their precious feelings and reputations, but they do. Immensely. It's said that politicians are vain and egocentric, but that's not entirely true: it takes a thick skin and high tolerance for abuse to go into public office. It's not a pleasant place to be for those who constantly crave praise.

No, it seems that the people with the thinnest skins and most bloviated egos lie not at the top of the political chain, but at the top of the financial pecking order. It's about time they took a little more heat and were exposed to a little more sunlight.


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