Will someone please tell me
the answers to these questions?

By Mike Fak

[FEB. 17, 2001]  When I am reading my daily newspapers or listening to my favorite news shows, I write down little questions that I have regarding something in the news that just doesn't make any sense to me. Later I spend some time trying to find the answers to these little mysteries or at least try to figure out what the heck happened regarding the story. Invariably, it seems some things just end up being beyond my feeble brain capacity to figure out, and I put them in a "What the heck is this about" file. Well, my file is overflowing, so I am writing some of these questions in this article in the hopes that someone like yourself, more enlightened than I, can e-mail me with an answer.

Question: Bill and Hillary Clinton by almost every standard are wealthy people. Hillary also just got $8 million to write a book she hasn't started yet, so... Why did these two steal the silverware? Why did they take out of the White House a TV set and a couch that were gifts to the nation and not personally to them? Are they kleptomaniacs? I need to know who gave the White House a couch as a gift? What was that all about?

Question: Why did federal prosecutor Scott Lassar allow Dean Bauer, then Secretary of State George Ryan's top aide, to plead out on the license-for-money scandal? Why have we spent millions of dollars trying to find out what really happened in that office and then make a deal without demanding testimony from the one person who really knows what happened?

 

Question: I have read 12 newspaper accounts of the American sub destroying and sinking a Japanese fishing vessel in the South Pacific. Every account mentioned "civilians" were working some of the controls. Why didn't one newspaper tell us who these civilians are? Are they politicians? Are they heavy financial backers to the Navy program? Surely they aren't regular people like you and me. When was the last time any of us received a phone call from the Navy saying, "Hey, do you want to drive one of our submarines this weekend?" Why hasn't a single reporter thought it was important to tell us who these "civilians" are?

Question: Why are Republicans spending so much time and money investigating the Clinton pardon of Marc Rich? Granted, Rich deserves nothing but a long visit to a jail cell and Clinton should be ashamed of himself, but why are Republicans fixated on the pardon. Rich will never come back to the U.S., because he would be thrown into civil court (ŗ la O.J. Simpson) regarding his bilking of thousands of Americans and would have to give up his fortune in legal settlements. Why isn't something like the fact all of us are facing backbreaking heating bills while oil and gas companies set record profits something that Repubs spend their time on?

 

[to top of second column in this commentary]

Question: Does anyone else beside myself find it bizarre that Gov. George Ryan just presented the new "friend of tourism" award to his wife, Lura Lynn? Whatever happened to the old disclaimer "Employees and their families are not eligible for this contest"?

Question: Jesse Jackson has a nonprofit agency dedicated to funding educational tutoring for poor minority children in urban areas. Last year this agency collected $12 million dollars in contributions but doled out only $47,000 to the schools working this program. The IRS, by the way, says they only audit agencies that report financial statements that cause a "red flag" to come up. How the heck is the fact an agency had $11,953,000? in expenses and only $47,000 in disbursements not a "red flag"? I believe I would have been audited. How about you?

I have a lot more questions that need answers, but this is a good start. If you have the answer to one of my conundrums, please e-mail me care of LDN or at mikefak@msn.com. Please, please, please don't send me a question about something in the news that doesn't make any sense to you. I have only so much room in my office.

[Mike Fak]

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Final tally: Presidential race
costs Americans $350 million

By Mike Fak

[FEB. 14, 2001]  Well, Logan County, we have a new president of the United States working away in Washington. After a war of words, miscounted ballots and political posturing all the way to the Supreme Court, the nation has shown it somehow gets out of all the self-made crises we seem to place ourselves in. I can live with Mr. Bush as our president; I could have lived with Mr. Gore taking the oath of office. Rarely have I found my life being affected very much by which president is in office, save the one instance when President Nixon sent me a greetings letter that told me I was drafted into the U.S. Army. What I do find affecting me and all of us is the continuous escalation of costs incurred in the electing of a president that we are paying. Let me explain.

According to the Federal Election Commission, the past presidential election carried a price tag of $350 million dollars. Republican candidate George Bush raised $192 million, Democrat Al Gore $132 million. Even no-chance-of-winning Pat Buchanan collected $30 million dollars to spend on political ads. The amounts, of course, are mind-numbing and should tell all Americans that the system needs to be rethought, reworked and redone.

 

Where did this fortune in funds derive from? The funds came from us. Al Gore received $83 million of his political plate from federal funds. Bush received $67 million. Federal funds, of course, means tax dollars, and so it is apparent that all of us paid a little to fund this presidential slugfest through our taxes

Unfortunately that is only the tip of the presidential iceberg. The list provided by the Federal Election Commission shows organization after organization giving millions of dollars to attempt to place their choice for president in the White House. Corporate America poured $100 million into the various races across America, including the race for chief executive. This figure is on top of the standard lobbying fees to government leaders, which also has gone over the $100 million mark for the past year. Corporate giants such as AT&T at $4.6 million and Microsoft at $4.3 million covered their bases well by giving heavily to both Republican and Democratic presidential funds.

Where does this money come from? It comes from us, of course. Donít for a minute pretend that corporate America decides to lower their profits by giving to political machines. Corporate America simply decides how much they plan to spend on candidates and adds those costs to the price of their products or services. So you see, every item we buy has a little bit set aside for the next Bush or Gore or whoever that business decides to throw money at. Isn't it bad enough that every product we buy has added costs to cover half-million-dollar-a-minute Super Bowl ads? Now, every time we make a purchase, we are paying to support candidates whom we personally may not truly believe are the best candidates.

 

[to top of second column in this commentary]

Many of the donorsí contributions were weighted heavily to the party they felt would best protect their interests. Phillip Morris gave $3 million to Bush, since Republicans seem to have a kinder, gentler look at the tobacco industry. Oil and gas also turned over 6 million to Bush, who favors oil exploration in areas the Clinton administration had made off- limits for ecologyís sake. The NRA placed $2.8 million with Bush, since the Republicans are softer on gun control than the Democrats.

The Democrats, of course, had their own champions of excessive largess. In fact the largest single contributor to the presidential race ended up being the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, at $7 million dollars, 98 percent of which was directed Al Goreís way. Unions were conspicuous by their donations to the Democrats, to the point that eight of the top 20 presidential race donors were made up of national workers unions, and almost all their monies were directed to Gore and his compatriots.

Although not a member of a union at this time, I find it hard to believe such huge sums coming out of union dues is in the best interests of the common worker. I also have to ask, since unions gave telling sums to Gore, can they possibly believe that Bush will now bend an ear to them and their travails? Judging human nature, I believe unions just threw a great deal of potential employee pension money down the presidential drain. Have they not by their expenditures actually alienated our new commander in chief?

 

There is nothing wrong with financially supporting politicians whom you believe will defend or support your ideals. The sums involved and the fact that all these costs are being borne on the backs of American wage earners is the problem that we now face.

A retooling of the whole system is required before we can honestly say that campaign finance reform is more than just rhetoric. I, for one, have listened to enough rhetoric. I, for one, have said, enough is enough. Itís starting to cost me too much money.

[Mike Fak]

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