Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Is It Because When You're Rich Enough, Government Doesn't Really Matter?

I know, I know: I usually rail against people who are anti-rich for the sake of being anti-rich. But this Chron piece highlights the failure of many high-profile, big money types to engage fully in basic democratic processes, uh, like voting:

But a Business Week investigation of 100 top executives in 2000 found that "precious few" of the business elite cast ballots in often-critical state and local elections dating back as far as the 1980s. As CEO of Halliburton Co. in the late 1990s, Dick Cheney - who was elected vice president in 2000 - skipped 14 of 16 state and local elections. Oracle's Larry Ellison was registered but didn't vote during the period reviewed, the magazine said.

Meg Whitman, the 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate who was CEO of eBay at the time of the magazine's study, was cited in the report as representative of an exclusive executive group with "worse than spotty" voting records. The magazine could not find a voter registration for Whitman, who didn't register even after being notified by the magazine, the report said.

The Chronicle reported last year that Whitman, an Atherton resident, registered in San Mateo County in 2002 as a decline-to-state voter and registered as a Republican in 2007. The billionaire businesswoman did not vote in more than half the federal, state and local elections after she registered to vote in the county, records show.

Al Checchi, the unsuccessful California Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 1998 and former Northwest Airlines executive, was also hurt by admitting to failing to cast ballots in four of the six California elections before his run, missing critical primary and general election ballots.

Whitman and Checchi said they regretted not voting, adding that they were busy or traveling on business. Such excuses don't play well with voters, O'Connor said.
The article is primarily about Carly Fiorina, which is odd because Whitman has set her sights on higher office, but whatever.

I've missed at most two elections since I turned 18 - I recall one municipal election for sure and I think there may be another in there. I am ashamed at both lapses. And for many years while I was in college or law school, I was voting absentee. I managed to find the time and I don't have a flock of staff around to keep me informed of deadlines, etc.

So the question is this: should we penalize those who many have come to be engaged in democracy and our state/country later in life or their careers, or welcome anyone with an interest? And does the answer to that question depend on the person? I know I opened this post with a cheeky anti-rich slam (and in many ways, I do believe that if you can amass the right level of wealth, you can live fairly insulated from public policy), but if you run a large corporation, you're going to interact frequently with all levels of government - so you should know you have an interest in the goings on. And your company is going to make contributions.

Like I say in my Prop 8 related posts: all the money or persuasion in the world only counts if people turn up to vote. So shouldn't you follow up on your donations by casting your ballot?

1 comment:

pazzer1 said...

We have 'Railtrack' bosses over here, who have taken the trough away from our bankers.