No I haven’t gone partisan.  But, yes, I have offered to help with Steve Pagliuca’s campaign to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy’s death.  And I don’t know Steve from Adam.  What I do know if that he’s a successful businessman from modest beginnings who understands the value of hard work.  He’s been questioned about his ideology (supported Romney, Bush, Weld and is now running in the Democratic primary) but, as you know from my last blog, I don’t care much for ideology.  I care more about competence, commitment, and compassion and, based on his background, I believe he’ll bring all of these to the job.  And if I find out otherwise I’ll bail on him.

The assumption when someone with money runs for political office is that they are simply dilettantes looking to put a feather in their caps.  And, in fact, a certain Boston Globe columnist stated as much in the process of dismissing Pagliuca’s campaign.  But who would want to run for office these days given the intrusive and abusive nature of political campaigns.  No, I believe someone with Pagliuca’s background runs for office because they believe they can make a difference.  Accuse him of being naive, but don’t simply dismiss his campaign as being motivated by the self importance that often comes with wealth.  There are easier, more certain ways of feeding one’s ego, no matter how large.

We need to be careful in putting too much stock in the opinions of the talking heads that populate the media.  They share something in common with professional politicians – an occupation that puts a lot of emphasis on posturing and self promotion.  And, to a certain degree, they depend on each other.  So when an “unknown” enters a campaign there’s a little bit of “where the hell did he/she come from and what dues did they pay?”  Its human nature just like its human nature for professional politicians to not bite the hand that feeds them.

Now that’s one thing I like about independently wealthy candidates.  They are not beholden to lobbyists.  Influence peddling is a problem in every society but – in terms of its size and power – nothing can compare to the Washington-based lobby community.  Meaningful healthcare reform – that is, reform based on logic and efficiency – didn’t have chance once the various lobbies in Washington got mobilized.  (BTW, did you know that Senator Baucus received substantial campaign donations from the insurance industry?  So much for healthcare debate neutrality.)

So I’m supporting Steve Pagliuca’s Senate campaign until someone convinces me that he doesn’t stand for competence, commitment, and compassion.  And being (relatively) incorruptible.  Most politicians can make a credible claim to being committed and compassionate but most fail the test of competence and we’re all susceptible to corruption.  But I like the odds of a self-made multi-millionaire who can’t easily be bought.

Pagliuca faces an uphill battle because he won’t get the support of the Democratic political establishment, including the Kennedy diaspora.  All I can ask of you when you vote – in Massachusetts or elsewhere – is pay less attention to what is said and more attention to the character of the men and women you vote for.  Remember: It’s your money they’re playing with.

[Correction from last week’s blog: Polly Eriksen (my mother) sent me the article from Thomas Friedman via good friend Polly Goldstein. Not the other way around as I stated.  Sorry Mom!]

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