The other day I posted AFT Proud and argued that the American Federation of Teachers secret half-million dollar expenditure on behalf of Marty Walsh’s campaign for mayor of Boston should be considered an emblem of a corrupt campaign finance system. Some fellow Twitterers were dismayed that I would use the word corruption but I stand by the word and its meaning.
In writing AFT Proud I had in mind Michael Sandel’s book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Sandel writes that the idea of markets has come to dominate our approach to many issues that should not be relegated to market calculations. “Putting a price on the good things in life can corrupt them.”
Foremost among our good things in this country is a democracy in which each citizen has an equal voice. But our campaign finance system has created a market in offices. How much for a mayor of Boston? To the AFT a mayor of Boston is worth $480,000. As we read in today’s Boston Globe story No part in Walsh ad, teachers say by reporter Wesley Lowery, a Boston mayor is worth $1.3 million to the group Democrats for Education Reform, which backed Connolly. And on and on. A market in democracy is not democracy.
Twitter doesn’t lend itself to much discourse so I’m not sure what my friends argue is not corrupt about these campaign finance practices. Some political scientists have gone beyond what is purely legal to consider other practices that might be considered politically corrupt – actions hidden from the public for instance. So in addition to AFT Proud let’s see what Mr. Lowery’s No part in Walsh ad, teachers say has to inform us about actions the interests have decided voters should not know.
First, it turns out that the Boston Teachers Union knew nothing, nothing (cue the Sergeant Schultz imitation) about its national parent involving itself in a local race. However, BTU president Richard Stutman personally endorsed Walsh at the last minute. But here’s the real quote from the story, the one I love so much:
“It’s remarkable that both the AFT and BTU calculated that a public endorsement would hurt Walsh,” said Liam Kerr, the state director Democrats for Education Reform, which spent more than $1.3 million on behalf of Connolly. . . . In addition to Democrats for Education Reform, which is funded in large part by a New York nonprofit that does not disclose its donors . . .
That’s right, Mr. Kerr who sat atop $1.3 million in clandestine Connolly cash, attacks the teacher’s unions for mystery Marty money.
When AFT president Randi Weingarten was pressed on Twitter about why the union did not disclose its investment at a time when voters could at least assess the interests involved, again according to Lowery, Weingarten responded “No req’t to disclose. … This was abt Marty Walsh’s record helping working people.”
The money is secret but the chutzpah, balls, cujones, (your adjective here) are right there. Amazing. You can’t make this stuff up.
Yes, I stand behind the word corrupt. We don’t have a democracy, we have a campaign finance farce-cracy.