Atlantis Online
July 07, 2020, 04:23:21 am
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Ice Age blast 'ravaged America'
  Home Help Arcade Gallery Links Staff List Calendar Login Register  

A Usually Legal Practice That Wears Black Eyes

Pages: [1]   Go Down
Author Topic: A Usually Legal Practice That Wears Black Eyes  (Read 16 times)
Superhero Member
Posts: 2428

« on: May 13, 2008, 03:36:10 pm »

A Usually Legal Practice That Wears Black Eyes        
Published: May 13, 2008
In the threadbare border towns of South Texas, one of the country’s poorest regions, enterprising locals like Candelaria Espinoza have long been paid to round up votes for candidates on Election Day. There is even a name for these electoral soldiers of fortune: politiqueras.

So when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign arrived in South Texas in February seeking an edge in its uphill battle against Senator Barack Obama, Ms. Espinoza was happy to oblige, for a price. The campaign paid her and seven other members of her family $100 to $200 each to knock on doors, deliver fliers and get voters to the polls for the Democratic primary on March 4, which Mrs. Clinton narrowly won.
“I’ve been a politiquera for 20 years,” Ms. Espinoza said in an interview last week outside her trailer in the town of Pharr. “The money the Clinton people gave me was about the going rate, more or less.”
The Espinozas were among at least 460 Texans, most of them rural Hispanics in South Texas or African-Americans in Houston, who received payments from the Clinton campaign for this kind of work, according to a review of Federal Election Commission records. The records show that Mrs. Clinton did something similar in Ohio, giving $38,300 to a state legislator, Eugene R. Miller, who says he used it to pay more than 200 people to get out the vote in predominantly black neighborhoods in Cleveland.
The payments, known in the political vernacular as “street money,” are a legal but controversial tool that Mrs. Clinton employed at a time when she was desperately seeking a victory after losing 10 consecutive contests to Mr. Obama.
As a practical matter, the payments are now little more than a footnote to a hotly contested race that seems closer to a conclusion after Mrs. Clinton’s poor showing in North Carolina and narrow victory in Indiana last Tuesday. But they underscore how her strategists, caught unprepared for a drawn-out battle, turned to an old-style method of retail politicking to ensure much-needed victories in the suddenly critical Texas and Ohio primaries.
Not equipped with the volunteer-driven grass-roots movement that has propelled Mr. Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts, the Clinton campaign hired more than three times as many local operatives as he to fill that role in those two states. While mostly forgoing the use of street money in Ohio and other places, the Obama campaign paid about 150 people in Texas, most of them college students, for campaign work. The payments were widely dispersed, with only a handful in South Texas and fewer than 20 in Houston.
The Clinton campaign made payments of $80 to $125 to more than 200 people in Houston, and $100 to $200 to 170 people in the McAllen and Brownsville areas near the Mexican border.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to several requests for comment. Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, drew a distinction between the money it paid to college students, who he said were enthusiastic supporters to begin with, and the payments by the Clinton campaign, which he described as an effort to buy influence among important constituencies.
It is unclear whether the payments made much of a difference. Mrs. Clinton did sweep the border areas of Texas by wide margins, helping her win the primary by about 100,000 votes, of nearly 2.9 million cast, but she had already had a strong base of support among the region’s Hispanics. And Mr. Obama carried Houston and other urban areas where black voters formed a crucial bloc of support.
The payments’ impact was even less clear in Ohio, where Mrs. Clinton won one of the two Congressional districts where street money was used, but lost the other.
Whatever its effectiveness, street money is burdened with negative overtones stemming from accusations over the years that paid operatives have manipulated elderly voters in some elections or given people cash in exchange for their votes.
But even when entirely legal, the trading of campaign money for active political participation can raise awkward questions.
Mr. Miller, for instance, was a rare black politician who backed Mrs. Clinton in Ohio and had been under tremendous pressure from constituents in his heavily African-American district to support Mr. Obama. In an interview, he acknowledged that the $38,300 he received from the Clinton campaign “looks like I’ve been paid off,” but he said he had kept none of the money for himself.
After signing a contract with the campaign just before the primary, Mr. Miller said, he hired people to carry signs at polling places, drive voters to the polls and canvass neighborhoods. Paying them was necessary, he said, because in the heavily black precincts of Cleveland, “it’s not popular to be with Hillary Clinton.”
While the use of street money is not uncommon in Cleveland, in other places the expectation that it will be disbursed is more deeply engrained in the electoral infrastructure. In Philadelphia, some local Democratic operatives openly groused about Mr. Obama’s reluctance to engage in the practice and his reliance on out-of-state campaigners for the Pennsylvania primary, which Mrs. Clinton won.
In South Texas, politiqueras are known to negotiate with rival campaigns to get the best price before deciding whom to support, said Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, who added that recent vote-buying scandals had given the practice a black eye.
“With the attendant publicity that’s emerged over the last few years,” Dr. Polinard said, “there is an ethical question raised that some candidates don’t want to be associated with.”
For all the controversy, the Clinton campaign appears to have had few qualms about spreading street money around in Texas. In interviews, about two dozen people who had received such payments described similar services that they provided, including handing out leaflets, carrying signs and encouraging people to vote. None said the money had influenced their decision to support Mrs. Clinton, although several in Houston expressed ambivalence about her.
Larry Blevins, a retiree and longtime Democratic Party worker in Houston, said he would have preferred former Senator John Edwards, described Mrs. Clinton as “the lesser of three evils” and remarked that he would even consider voting Republican if Mike Huckabee joined Senator John McCain’s ticket.
But Mr. Blevins, who was paid $80 by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, put aside his doubts and agreed to round up friends and neighbors to vote for her. He described such payments as “a way of getting people more involved” in rustling up support.
“That’s basically what get-out-the-vote money is,” he said. “Paying to get votes.”
Steve Taylor contributed reporting from Texas.
Report Spam   Logged

"In a monarchy, the king is law, in a democracy, the law is king."
-Thomas Paine

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Superhero Member
Posts: 11110

« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2008, 01:10:36 am »

...and to think people donate to Ron Paul just to campaign.

No wonder the Repuglican party is so screwed up.   Tongue Tongue Tongue
Report Spam   Logged
Pages: [1]   Go Up
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy