Here’s a scenario for my gentlemen readers. Imagine your wife or girlfriend making an unexpected visit to your place of employment. As she walks to your office, she observes you and a female colleague swapping saliva through the window blinds.
Your wife then throws open the door and yells: “You bastard! Who the hell is she and what do you think you are doing?” (Keeping it PG-13. My wife’s lexicon of curse words would be far richer and substantial in this case!)
You respond: “Hey, sweetheart. Settle down. I know you’re upset but it’s not what it looks like. It was one simple kiss, nothing more than that. I barely know this woman. It was totally unexpected and I didn’t know what she was doing. Lots of women try to kiss me. It’s part of the job but it never means anything more. I can’t just say no, can I?”
I’m just speculating here, but I cannot imagine an outcome where your significant other accepts that lame defense and answers, “Whew, I was worried there for a minute. Yet, your explanation makes perfect sense. Sorry I got so upset. You’re right, it was only a kiss. What do I have to worry about?”
Just for fun, let’s imagine a similar situation involving your United States Senator.
While your senator pledged to always have open lines of communication and be responsive to your needs, you point out to him that he has received a “kiss” of over seventy thousand dollars in the form of campaign donations from billionaire Betsy DeVos and her various family-funded foundations.
You ask how he can serve objectively in his Senate role of confirming her cabinet selection knowing full well that reciprocation is expected when one receives a kiss from Ms. Betsy DeVos.
Your senator answers: “Hey, settle down. I know you’re upset but it’s not what it looks like. It was one large campaign donation, nothing more than that. I barely know this woman. It was totally unexpected and I didn’t know what she was doing. Lots of people try to give me money. It’s part of the job but it never means anything more. I can’t just say no, can I?”
For her part, DeVos, a prolific “kisser” of Republican candidates, has made clear that her extensive campaign kisses are meant to sway policymakers – “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” DeVos once remarked. “Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”
It’s an approach she shares with President Trump, who has also bragged about the political pull of his campaign donations. “I’ve given to everybody. Because that was my job,” Trump crowed at a rally last January. “I gotta give it to them. Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”
So, let’s at least be honest.When it comes to politics and money, there is more to a kiss than just a kiss.
Let’s take a quick look at the individual campaign kisses Betsy DeVos and her family have planted on the willing lips of 21 Republican Senators. While the donation tally goes back to 1980, the DeVoses gave 80 percent of it in the 2016 election cycle and 13 percent in the 2014 cycle.
Notice over $250,000 (all since 2014) went directly to five senators who are on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, or HELP, the committee that conducted the recent hearings where Ms. DeVos revealed just how incredibly inexperienced, uninformed, and unqualified she really is for the position of US Secretary of Education.
On top of those direct contributions to individual senators, DeVos and her family also gave $2.25 million last fall to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). And the family has donated over $900,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a fundraising group for the Senate.
Altogether, that’s a $4 million bid to buy DeVos a cabinet position. In short, there’s been a lot of kissing going on at the United States Capital.
Since all of this information is easily accessible to voters, you would think that these senators might at least consider recusing themselves from the confirmation process.
While accepting campaign donations is perfectly legal, doesn’t this seem like an obvious conflict of interest for these senators? Isn’t there a concern about the ethical appearance of voting for a woman who gave generously to your campaign so you could earn your office in the first place? Would we think it was ethical for a district judge to hear a case involving a citizen who gave to her election campaign?
Can one really be objective in this type of scenario?
Unfortunately, up to this point none of these senators have indicated that recusing themselves is even an option, ostensibly justifying their position with the argument – “Hey, it was just a kiss. Nothing more.”
Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) has said that no democrats will cast a yes vote for DeVos during her confirmation vote on January 31. This means she will likely be named our new Secretary of Education on a straight party vote of 52-48. However, if only three senators chose to recuse themselves, she would go down to defeat.
I’m not holding my breath.
That said, please keep up the letters, emails, and phonecalls to our Oklahoma Senators. Even if they eventually vote for her confirmation, they will do so knowing a large number of their constituents are vehemently opposed.
Finally, I think we have all come to understand that some people’s insatiable quest for power and wealth means that money will always have a place in American politics, on both sides of the aisle.
Money walks, money talks, and money kisses with a sweetness that is difficult to deny. And a kiss is quite often much more than just a kiss, no matter what a person says.
It’s rather obvious what’s going on in America, right?
I suppose what is making me uncomfortable is the reality that nobody even tries to hide it anymore.