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On the bright side…

When the news came about the Supreme Court’s ugly decision (see post below), I have not seen Doris stand up quite so straight in quite a while. “Those bast***s!” was her first response.  By the way, I haven’t mentioned lately  that you can reserve either or both of her new books that will come out shortly by visiting the “info” and “contact” links at http://www.site.insurgentbooks.com/Info.html Those little books will help her get back on the road to do what needs to be done next.

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January 21, 2010 statement from Doris “Granny D” Haddock in response to the Supreme Court’s decision today to kill campaign finance reform.

Ten years ago, I walked from California to Washington, D.C. to help gather support for campaign finance reform. I used the novelty of my age (I was 90), to garner attention to the fact that our democracy, for which so many people have given their lives, is being subverted to the needs of wealthy interests, and that we must do something about it. I talked to thousands of people and gave hundreds of speeches and interviews, and, in every section of the nation, I was deeply moved by how heartsick Americans are by the current state of our politics.

Well, we got some reform bills passed, but things seem worse now than ever. Our good government reform groups are trying to staunch the flow of special-interest money into our political campaigns, but they are mostly whistling in a wind that has become a gale force of corrupting cash. Conditions are so bad that people now assume that nothing useful can pass Congress due to the vote-buying power of powerful financial interests. The health care reform debacle is but the most recent example.

The Supreme Court, representing a radical fringe that does not share the despair of the grand majority of Americans, has today made things considerably worse by undoing the modest reforms I walked for and went to jail for, and that tens of thousands of other Americans fought very hard to see enacted. So now, thanks to this Court, corporations can fund their candidates without limits and they can run mudslinging campaigns against everyone else, right up to and including election day.

The Supreme Court now opens the floodgates to usher in a new tsunami of corporate money into politics. If we are to retain our democracy, we must go a new direction until a more reasonable Supreme Court is in place. I would propose a one-two punch of the following nature:

A few states have adopted programs where candidates who agree to not accept special-interest donations receive, instead, advertising funds from their state. The programs work, and I would guess that they save their states more money than they cost by reducing corruption. Moving these reforms in the states has been very slow and difficult, but we must keep at it.

But we also need a new approach––something of a roundhouse punch. I would like to propose a flanking move that will help such reforms move faster: We need to dramatically expand the definition of what constitutes an illegal conflict of interest in politics.

If your brother-in-law has a road paving company, it is clear that you, as an elected official, must not vote to give him a contract, as you have a conflict of interest. Do you have any less of an ethical conflict if you are voting for that contract not because he is a brother-in-law, but because he is a major donor to your campaign? Should you ethically vote on health issues if health companies fund a large chunk of your campaign? The success of your campaign, after all, determines your future career and financial condition. You have a conflict.

Let us say, through the enactment of new laws, that a politician can no longer take any action, or arrange any action by another official, if the action, in the opinion of that legislative body’s civil service ethics officer, would cause special gain to a major donor of that official’s campaign. The details of such a program will be daunting, but we need to figure them out and get them into law.

Remarkably, many better corporations have an ethical review process to prevent their executives from making political contributions to officials who decide issues critical to that corporation. Should corporations have a higher standard than the United States Congress?  And many state governments have tighter standards, too.  Should not Congress be the flagship of our ethical standards? Where is the leadership to make this happen this year?

This kind of reform should also be pushed in the 14 states where citizens have full power to place proposed statutes on the ballot and enact them into law. About 70% of voters would go for a ballot measure to “toughen our conflict of interest law,” I estimate. In the scramble that would follow, either free campaign advertising would be required as a condition of every community’s contract with cable providers (long overdue), or else there would be a mad dash for public campaign financing programs on the model of Maine, Arizona, and Connecticut. Maybe both things would happen, which would be good.

I urge the large reform organizations to consider this strategy. They have never listened to me in the past, but they also have not gotten the job done and need to come alive or now get out of the way.

And to the Supreme Court, you force us to defend our democracy––a democracy of people and not corporations––by going in breathtaking new directions. And so we shall.

Doris “Granny D” Haddock

Dublin, New Hampshire

Hotel New Hampshire

(If you are here to send a birthday greeting to Granny D Haddock, just click on the Comment link below this entry. I will print out your note for Doris to see.)

Tonight was the family celebration for Doris. I’m not family, but they let me in.  On the political road, Doris often talked about her sixteen great grandchildren, and the healthy democracy she wanted them to someday know.  Well, they were all there, all sixteen, all piled on five sleds careening down the hill, when I walked through the woods to Jim and Libby’s house.  Great grand kids, grandkids, kids –there were forty some around the long line of joined tables. Hiroshi Hayashi, a famous New England chef and good friend of Doris’ son Jim, served a banquet. Doris wore a glittery cardboard crown. It was snowing outside. Earlier in the afternoon, Doris worked on an op-ed that I will send around tomorrow. It calls for a new direction in reform politics.    –db

Doris looks and sounds terrific. I got in last night and will camp out in her otherwise vacant house, just up the creek from her son and daughter-in-law’s house where she now lives. It’s an upstairs-downstairs house, and she’s having no trouble with the trips up and down. She was reading your comments and birthday wishes left on this site when I arrived.

There is a big gathering of the Haddock clan tomorrow to celebrate Doris’s 100th, and then, in the coming days, a town celebration for her and then one in the State House. I’m here from Arizona to partake and to get some writing done in the snow. This mountain has a good, creative vibe, and for that reason is the home to the McDowell Colony in nearby Peterborough. That’s where Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town, where Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland and many other wrote some of their more notable works.

Doris’s old house is bare of furniture. It will be populated by sleeping bags and old friends in the next few days. I’m looking out at the ice-covered deck off Doris’s kitchen. I remember being out there in the summer of 2003 with Doris, Molly Ivins, Betsy Moon and Ronnie Dugger and others, worrying about the 2004 election and what would happen to our country if it were “stolen again.” Ronnie said there would be millions in the streets–or there would need to be. Molly smiled but seemed to agree. Shortly after that, Doris started on a long trek (some walking but mostly driving in a zany bus) through the swing states to encourage working women to vote. To publicize the need for working women to vote, she would take over the job of a working woman in a city, long enough for that woman to go register to vote. So she took over for an alligator feeder in Orlando and a mermaid at a water park north of Tampa. TV cameras and local voting officials showed up, and energy went toward getting registration up among working women–who tend to vote Democratic.

On that journey, Doris had this to say at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia:

“I am an old Democrat. I don’t care if you are a young Democrat or a young Republican, or a Green or an independent or if your are just beginning to think and are still an anarchist because you like to be so bad and you look so good in black. I don’t care what you believe, so long as it is a belief in the future and in a better world. For this life is about service to each other. It matters little what you do or how successful you are, or what your old sins or crimes or shortcomings might be. If you give your life to the service of others, that is love and it is redemptive and joyful and will make your life and your soul complete.”

That journey was cut short when the Democrat running against New Hampshire’s U.S. Senator Judd Gregg–no friend to campaign finance reform or peace issues–suddenly bailed. Doris ran as the Democratic candidate to keep Gregg pinned down. That was a great campaign, and I’m looking now across the creek to the woods where the tents of that campaign were pitched. We lost, as we expected, but we helped nudge NH into the win column for Kerry, which was our goal. One of the great volunteers in that campaign, by the way, was Maury Geiger, a former Justice Department official who spends a lot of time as a volunteer now in Haiti. He was there during the earthquake but is ok. He is trying to find a way home for Doris’s birthday, then will go back. Others connected with that campaign and with Doris’s walks are also in interesting places: Matt Keller became deputy director of the UN Food Program. John Anthony is the communications guy for the UN Foundation. Blue  Broxton is a Los Angeles artist and student at the Otis Art Institute.  Marlo Poras is working on a movie in and about China. The people of the Peterborough area were the heart of that campaign, and I can’t wait to see them all again, starting today. Other updates of where people are? Let me know.   –Dennis Michael Burke

Happy Birthday, Doris!

January 24th, 2010 marks Doris “Granny D’ Haddock’s 100th birthday. She will celebrate at home in Dublin, New Hampshire with her family, and also with her townspeople in Dublin and Peterborough. There will also be an event at the governor’s office in Concord.  She will be viewing this blog regularly, so feel free to leave her a message.   (Banner photo by Paul Chan)

You are invited for cake and refreshments at the Governor’s Executive Council Chambers in the New Hampshire State Capitol, Concord, on Thursday, January 28th, from Noon until 1:30pm. For questions: 603-352-8580 or 603-525-9492.

PS. Doris has been busy.

Information on her upcoming book(s!) here: http://www.site.insurgentbooks.com/Info.html

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