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Monday, September 23, 2013
I’ve been thinking lately about politicians and how they make money. I grew up in Arkansas, and when I was in high school, our governor was Orval Faubus. He served from 1955 until 1967, the longest tenure of any of our governors.
Orval grew up poor and was a postmaster in a small town in the Ozarks. Later, as governor, he and his wife lived frugally, and invested their money. After his 12 years in office he was a millionaire. The salary of our governor back then was between two and three thousand dollars per year, the lowest in the nation.
There are cynical people who believe that his wealth was not entirely due to frugality.
It is a fact that during his tenure in office, the town of Hot Springs, 55 miles west of Little Rock, was the largest center of illegal gambling in the United States. Gambling was officially illegal in the entire state, but everyone knew that Hot Springs was different. They had horse racing and betting, establishments with slot machines, roulette wheels, craps tables, etc. The flouting of state law was large-scale and blatant. Some think that Orval’s wealth was related to illegal gambling in Hot Springs.
For no particular reason, while musing about Orval Faubus, I thought about our attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli. Let me see if I have my facts straight. He received gifts from Jonnie Williams valued at around $18,000. Williams was, at the time, engaged in a battle with the state of Virginia over his tax bill. Cuccinelli says that he spoke with Williams about his tax dispute but did nothing to aid him.
I am a staunch supporter of capitalism. In a free market capitalist system, you find a need that is unmet, you meet that need and reap an appropriate profit. I think our government officials ought to be allowed to make money for the support of their families just like the rest of us. And I have an idea of how Cuccinelli can do just that when he becomes our next governor.
He has demonstrated that people — Jonnie Williams, for example — are willing to give him money for listening to their side of disagreements with the government, after which he does nothing. He could, as governor, continue this practice. He could, on weekends — times that he might otherwise fritter away playing golf — listen to complaints from citizens. He could advertise his services. For a one-hour audience he would charge $20,000. (Certainly his time ought to be worth more as governor than it was as attorney general.) He knows that after the $20,000 payment, he will do nothing to help solve the problem. That would be wrong.
After working 50 hours, he will have earned $1 million for his family and no harm will have been done. No law will have been broken. Taking money in return for political favors is against the law, but taking money for listening to complaints and then doing nothing is not.
This is how I envision his TV commercial. The opening picture is of the state Capitol in Richmond. Then we switch to a shot of Gov. Cuccinelli at the desk in his office. He faces the camera and says, “Friends, I am concerned that some of you have complaints about our government here in Richmond. I want to hear your concerns. I invite you to see me here in this office for one hour while you explain to me your grievances. You will have my full attention.”
Across the bottom of the screen the following message will appear: “A fee of $20,000 will be collected before the beginning of your meeting with the governor. We accept cash, check or money order.”
As the picture fades from the screen we will hear a voice say, “I am Gov. Cuccinelli, and I approved this message.”
Some thought that Orval Faubus made money by doing nothing regarding gambling. Ken Cuccinelli could achieve personal wealth by doing nothing after listening to complaints about the government.
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