15 July 2008


Here's a new word for you. To be honest, I haven't bothered googling it to check if it's new, but I've never seen it before. It's a play on the word carpetbagger, and I use it to identify politicians in local elections who submit donations from outside their constituency.

For example, I just received a letter from William T. Russell, an Iraq War veteran and Pentagon survivor from 11 September 2001 who has retired from the military in order to challenge longtime Democratic congressman John Murtha, i.e. "the face of the anti-war movement and the betrayal of our Soldiers in the fight" whose "actions have done more to lead us toward defeat than the enemy could ever hope to accomplish by their own devices."

Russell is under the impression that I am a "pro-military patriot." I have no idea how I got this letter, since I subscribe to no magazine that can be called pro-war. Maybe he got an old mailing list from the Weekly Standard from about five years ago, or maybe he's dumb enough to think a magazine called the American Conservative must certainly support the war.

Murtha's role in the investigation of the Haditha incident really irks Russell. He encloses a report on the matter from the pro-war Newsmax website which dismisses the Iraqi accusers as "known insurgent propagandists" while accepting the military's exoneration of the alleged massacre perpetrators as the last word of justice. Murtha's comments on the case apparently incited Russell to run against him.

"I wouldn't be writing you this letter unless I knew for a fact that my campaign can be successful," Russell writes, before explaining that "this is going to require a national grassroots effort and I'm asking you to be part of it." Unless Russell is running for president, a "national grassroots" effort is a contradiction in terms. His grassroots are properly confined to Pennsylvania's 12 Congressional district, but that doesn't stop him from asking me and other "pro-military" patriots from all over the country to influence a local election with money.

Russell asks for money seven times over in the course of a four-page letter, asking for as little as $35 and as much as $2,300. He tries to entice me by saying that "the impact of your financial support in a more rural district like this cannot be discounted" since my modest donation would "go much farther than a $200, $500 or $1,000 gift in a district with more expensive urban centers." In other words, he promises more bang for my buck, especially if he wins, since he's committed to "complete victory" in Iraq and against Islamic Radicalism, without actually defining what that entails.

My money is urgently needed to finance negative campaigning. "I could go on and on about all the damage [Murtha] has caused our military and our efforts," Russell writes, "And that's exactly what my campaign must do. I must effectively highlight his sad record over and over again to the voters in the critical weeks ahead." Doing this will "drive a stake through the heart of the defeat-at-any-cost, anti-war movement."

Let's review. A candidate from outside my district wants my money so he can air negative commercials against an anti-war congressman. What do you think I should do? . . .

Unfortunately, there seems to be no live link to his campaign website, so I was unable to tell him directly to drop dead, but maybe if he googles his own name he'll see this post and he'll know what I think.

Carpetbeggers come from all parties, of course. Al Franken has been an especially aggressive offender on the Democratic side whom I'll deal with the next time he sends me a letter. The real problem hasn't so much to do with individuals, however, as with the system that requires any aspiring politician to go begging. If giving money to politicians is a form of free speech, that's only because the media have succeeded in imposing a toll on political speech. To truly free speech, we must stop the media from imposing the toll. When that day comes, maybe people like Franken and Russell will leave me alone.

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