If It Looks Like Corruption It Probably Is

“Street Money”. Maybe it’s because I’m just a small-town Midwesterner but the only place I’ve seen this term is in relation to concert promotion. For those readers not familiar with the term, street money refers to payments made to event “volunteers” for their services.

This is all well and good for social events like concerts, underground performances, and parties. It is in fact probably one of their most effective forms of advertising. Here’s where we hit a snag. We need to ask ourselves if this is something that political campaigns should employ?

The political machine in Philadelphia, like many urban cities, has decided that the answer is an unequivocal “yes”. One problem, as the LA Times is reporting, the Barack Obama campaign won’t pay up.

Fourteen months into a campaign that has the feel of a movement, Sen. Barack Obama has collided with the gritty political traditions of Philadelphia, where ward bosses love their candidates, but also expect them to pay up.

The dispute centers on the dispensing of “street money,” a long-standing Philadelphia ritual in which candidates deliver cash to the city’s Democratic operatives in return for getting out the vote.


“We’ve heard directly from the Obama organizer who organizes our ward, and he told us it’s an entirely volunteer organization and that I should not expect to see anything from the Obama campaign other than ads on TV and the support that volunteers are giving us,” said Greg Paulmier, a ward leader in the northwest part of the city.

*Emphasis Mine

My response to this story is directed to the Democratic campaign workers of Philadelphia:

While your political machine might look at this as simple paying their “get our the vote” campaign workers, those of us outside of your city see it as something else entirely. This is classic “money greases the wheels” political corruption. There was never any talk about paying volunteers in my home town or any of the surrounding cities; we worked for free. We volunteered.

I have no respect for someone whose vote and volunteer efforts can be bought for a day’s wage. If you believe that Obama should be the next president then vote for him. If you believe in him enough to consider volunteering then work for him as every other volunteer has and will throughout this election cycle, without compensation. If you don’t believe in him then vote for someone else. And, if you won’t vote/volunteer without being paid, do the right thing: remove yourself from the equation and stay home on election days.

I would normally never consider telling someone to not vote, but your motivations are flawed. You are a manifestation of a broken system.

The only way to fix our problems as a nation is to work from the grassroots up to effect change. The president, and anyone worthy of the title, should inspire people to effect that change. Paying out money so that the party machine will have something in their pocket for a day of work on election day erodes the very core of that grassroots effort.

This isn’t about being cheap or about racism (as some in Philadelphia have insisted), this is about running a clean campaign.

This is similar to the argument over whether Obama should abandon his record-shattering publicly supported campaign financing effort in favor of the “official” McCain/Feingold version. In both instances the Obama campaign has managed, through their candidate’s superior personal charisma and the campaigns’s organization, to manifest itself as a movement. Obama’s supporters volunteer not only their money but also their time. In this environment the idea that he should pay is shown for what it is:

Institutionalized corruption.


Even the commenters at TalkLeft have got problems with this one.

Is it just me or does this sound like a shake-down? Custom or not, it sounds real shady. Pay up or we support the other candidate? Is this an election of a mafia racket?

For more updates on this story check out memeorandum, The Swamp, FayObserver.com, and Runcu’s Rincón (don’t let the generic theme fool you, Runcu’s got a good post) among others.

(edited by DrGail)

2 Responses to “If It Looks Like Corruption It Probably Is”

  1. Cee says:

    Short-sighted asses!

    People who would throw away their future and ours for a few dollars deserve NOTHING.

    I put the word out for people who have the time to travel to Philly to take their places.

    No wonder they remain poor and wanting. They sell themselves cheap.

  2. Todd says:

    As a former resident of Philly and someone who loves the area and all that goes with it (GO EAGLES, FLYERS, PHILLIES, and SIXERS) I have always been embarrased by the political corruption in Philly. I could never understand how people could see the shady deals that go on and ignore it or even worse make excuses for it. Unfortunatly, the city is paying for poor leadership and the people never learn. Shrinking population, rising crime rates (most notably an out of control murder rate) and people don’t seem to understand why. I don’t remember who said it but I once heard that Insanity is doing the same things repeatedly and expecting different results. This is Philly politics to a tee…and I’m afraid they’ll never learn.

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