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Scalia: $3.5 Mil Just Chump Change

Politicians for Sale; NP Fires Photog, Lands in Hot Water; Sexting Suit


Face it, folks. You’re screwed.

Unless, of course, you’re rich. The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that you can contribute to (support, buy, bribe) as many politicians as you want.

You can now donate up to $3.5 million per federal election cycle. I don’t mean you, reader, unless you’re one of Santa Barbara’s multimillionaires or billionaires willing to dump major bucks into the electoral sweepstakes. Why buy a racehorse when you can buy a candidate? Now that kind of money may sound like a lot to you and me, but it’s only spare change to the court’s resident buffoon, Justice Antonin Scalia. He cracked, “I don’t think $3.5 million is a heck of a lot of money.”

Barney Brantingham

Until last week, you could only spend a total of $123,200 in any federal election cycle. Now, according to the Supremes ​— ​or the usual 5-4 conservative majority ​— ​the sky’s the limit, anywhere in the land of the free, as long as you don’t give more than $5,200 to any particular favorite politician.

You say you can’t afford to hand out any money at all to politicians? Too bad. But as a poor person, you still have the theoretical freedom to do it. Reminds me a bit of the famous remark by Anatole France: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.”

Predictions are that even the $5,200 limit will soon be lifted. Tagalong Justice Clarence Thomas, who normally votes with Scalia, said he’s all in favor of it. Then it’s open season. Anyone could give the entire $3.5 million to a candidate or, heck, all the job-seekers he or she can afford.

You might think Representative Lois Capps, running for reelection this year, would welcome with open arms what could be an outpouring of campaign dough. But she’s as outraged as anyone. She’s cosponsoring a Constitutional amendment to clarify that Congress and the states have the authority to pass campaign finance laws.

By the way, be sure to vote. But not for the Supremes. You can’t. Scalia, Thomas & Co. are there for life.

NEWS-PRESS ACCUSED: The Teamsters Union is accusing the paper of unfair labor practices in the firing of photographer Mike Eliason, a member of the newsroom union’s contract-negotiating committee and an employee of the paper for 25 years. In its complaint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union said the Santa Barbara News-Press also secretly videotaped employees and “continues a pattern of intimidation and coercion of union supporters” while showing “extreme leniency” to anti-union employees for similar actions. As a result, the NLRB postponed a May 12 Santa Barbara hearing into previous unfair labor charges against the New-Press, pending investigation of the new complaint. Meanwhile, the N-P has advertised for two new photogs to replace Mike, but they are to be part-timers. (Why pay benefits, eh?) Also part of the controversy is Mike’s complaint to Cal/OSHA about mold allegedly affecting the newsroom.

PARK & SPARK: In light of the sexting scandal involving the ex-undersheriff and the search-and-rescue public information officer (PIO) and their parking lot “kiss, grope, and fondle” sessions, readers may want to suggest the best parking lots for illicit trysts. Then-undersheriff Jim Petersen and ex-PIO Valerie Walston reportedly liked the lots at Costco, Kinko’s, and an Isla Vista apartment building. Now both of them are gone from their jobs (he abruptly retired), and county supervisors last week settled Walston’s sexual harassment, etc., suit for $30,000.

Winners of the Favorite Parking Lot Cuddle-and-Coo Contest will be announced soon.

KEILLOR THE RED: Garrison Keillor was in town the other night, reminding us that even if nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, it can still be fun. He stepped out onto the Granada stage decked out in red shoes and socks and a red tie, making us smile, then laugh at his jokes, and then sing along to familiar patriotic songs and the Beatles. In his mind, they represent our shared culture, sort of. “Santa Barbara is tidy,” he said in his funny, singsong-y way, meaning no offense. “You think you’re in Spain, but you ain’t. Santa Barbara is full of Midwesterners dressed up in tropical disguise.”

At a reception afterward, Linda Hedgepeth told Keillor, “I have three heroes: my second husband, my plastic surgeon, and you.” For once, Keillor was speechless. (Sponsored by UCSB Arts & Lectures.)

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