Asked voters, "If your representative...


March 26, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

A NATIONAL POLL asked voters, "If your representative repeatedly bounced checks, how would that affect your vote?"

One percent answered that they would be "somewhat more likely to vote for" the repeated check bouncer! Four percent said they would be "strongly more likely to vote for" the repeated check bouncer!!

Seem strange to you? Did to me. Then I got a press release from my congressman detailing his 12 bounced checks. I would classify 12 as "repeated." But after looking the list over, I decided that I probably would be at least "somewhat more" and maybe even "strongly more" likely to vote for him.

My representative is Kweisi Mfume. His bounced checks, or "overdrafts" as he calls them, included the following:

"$414 to Baltimore Orioles . . . $500 to NAACP Baltimore Branch (donation) . . . $100 Brown's Memorial Church (offering) . . . $51.80 Dee Crowe (Sun Paper delivery)."

That's not a confession. It's a pitch for votes. How could any Baltimorean vote against somebody this loyal to the city's leading institutions? All that's missing is "$15 to Angelina's (crab cakes)."

I doubt if Mfume or many other check bouncers will suffer at the polls this November. The worst offenders will get beat, but not even all of them. Why? Because the electoral process is controlled by the incumbents and their campaign contributors, not by the voters.

Money, as Paul Tsongas said last week, is the mother's milk of politics. And if your momma is broke, you can't get elected. Especially running against a milk-fattened incumbent. Incumbents typically are able to outspend challengers by a factor of 8, 10 or much more. As of Dec. 31, House incumbents had $91.5 million in campaign funds, their opponents had only $5.8 million.

Incumbents like to say that their getting re-elected proves they are preferred by the voters. The implication is that they are

better lawmakers than their opponents in the eyes of voters. But all it proves is the value of expensive advertising campaigns. Compare an election campaign to any other market place. The biggest advertiser usually wins the most sales.

Recently the eight members of the Wall Street Journal Atlanta bureau, which is known for its soft drink coverage,

blind-taste-tested the following cola drinks: Coke ($1.19 for a 2-liter bottle), Pepsi ($1.29), Big K (6, Sam's American Choice (7 and W Pop (7. Pepsi got two votes for best, all other colas got one, there was one Coke-Sam's tie, and two tasters could tell no difference in any of the drinks. The tasters picking winners said there was very little difference between No. 1 and the rest.

NTC But Coke and Pepsi, which outspend other colas about the way incumbent congressmen outspend challengers, account for over 80 percent of the cola market.

Democracy in action?


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