Sunday, August 28, 2005

Political Money is Water

If Politics were your front lawn, Money would be water.

The funny thing about watering your lawn is that the more you water it, the more it needs watered. And if you don’t water it, some undesirable things start to happen.

The water metaphor works well in the politics of money and the power that flows. I will spend several posts exploring all of these issues. I am less interested in expounding on how money is used in campaigns, than I am illuminating the process of how money becomes a source of power in the political arena.

But the first step in the process of political power starts at the local level. If you are a US Congressman, you have a district. That district is your lawn. If you are lucky, your district has adequate resources (money/water) to make for a nice green lawn. A few rough spots here and there, but still a nice lawn. If you take care of business, the lawn will continue to stay green and you will be happy. There might just be enough rain in your district to keep the lawn happy and healthy. Think of contributions from constituents within your district as rain.

Now if there are parts of your lawn that aren’t doing as well, you might be motivated to do a little watering. You can’t rely on the rain, which comes in the form of small contributions in blocks of $250 to $1,000 dollars. You need a reliable source of water that can meet your demand when and where you need it. You might try drilling a well or two in your lawn. A well would be someone or some organization in your district, that has the ability to tap water and deliver it to you in amounts you need – on demand.

The wells really only aggregate the same rain you were receiving on your lawn. But they are efficient and can take advantage of rain that might have been wasted in the last shower meaning you can get more water when you need it. There’s little value in standing around waiting for rain and watching for clouds. But when it comes to wells, a little attention and work can keep the water flowing. Your lawn can continue to thrive, unless you have trouble with one of your wells. If for some reason a well decides to stop flowing, you are no longer able to maintain the lawn like you had been. Meaning suddenly that well has some power over you. When you are receiving water on demand, there is a downside. You have to maintain and manage the well, lest it will stop producing.

If for some reason, your wells can’t meet your needs. Or your lawn has suddenly been changed to include a field of cockleburs, or there is a sudden drought, or you decide that you want a much larger lawn (Say a Senate seat), you may need to use a wholesale water supplier who can bring water in from many wells and transport it thousands of miles to your lawn.

Wholesale water suppliers can bring big pipes to your lawn and help you meet all of your water needs. These can be lobbyists, associations, political parties, professional fundraisers, leadership, or Political Action Committees. Life can suddenly get very good for your lawn.

These wholesale water suppliers are supplying many people who are working to maintain their lawn. They can be particular, and they may need some very special attention. That field of cockleburs can’t be defeated without their help. Of course, with their help comes reliance on their water, and the worry that it might be shut off for one or more reasons. The real problem with wholesale water suppliers is you never know which rain or well supplied the water and what the actual cost might be.

Political power flows to those who control the water. (Money)

Next a closer look at rain, wells, and wholesale water suppliers.