Lobbyists snap their fingers and politicians jump.
I've been an announced candidate for mayor of Arvada for just a week and already the dog-and-pony show of special interest groups making requests has begun.
This is the opening paragraph of an email message I received on Monday, August 15:
Yesterday, I received a telephone call from Susan Aldretti, JCAR's Director of Public Policy & Communications; she repeated the same offer as in the email ... be interviewed at their Lakewood office.The Jefferson County Association of Realtors invites you to meet with our candidate interview team on Wednesday, August 24 at 10:00 am. The interviews will be conducted in the conference room at the JCAR office, 950 Wadsworth Blvd. [That's in Lakewood.]
To which I courteously replied that I'd be happy to meet with the "interview team" from the Jefferson County Association of Realtors here in Arvada at a mutually agreed upon time and date.
And the response was a "it's been nice talking to you. Goodbye."
First of all it sounds to me like the Realtor's Director of Public Policy & Communications could learn something from her working members: consideration and salesmanship.
I've dealt with local real estate agents ... every once and awhile my wife and I see a house that we like and we call the agent to schedule a showing (and every individual agent we've met has been friendly and accommodating). I've never had one give me a call-back and issue a demand: "Be at the property at 10:00 am Wednesday morning." Click.
But I don't think putting a benevolent face on the powerful Realtor's lobby [and getting more powerful, see: Denver Post; August 10, 2011] was the point of the summary "invitation" -- it was a notice to me and other candidates about influence and money.
What the "invitation" demonstrates is how pervasive and invasive and insidious politics has become in this country --- even down to the barest local level!
The Jefferson County Association of Realtors (through the Colorado Association of Realtors) can give big money in a municipal election, up to the maximum to its endorsed candidates. So, you can be sure that most of the contenders for mayor and city council in Arvada this year will be clearing their schedules to trek to Lakewood to be grilled by the "interview team."
This is how elected politicians are conditioned into the system of influence peddling. Though all the participants deny it, the point is that for the chance of a campaign contribution, candidates will acquiesce to the special interest's request -- then if the endorsed individual is elected, the process of favoritism has already been established.
Now I understand the reality that under the current system candidates have to raise funds ... I have to collect contributions, too.
But here is what needs to be learned: the campaign contributions a candidate decides to accept reveals a picture of her or his judgement and priorities.
It is your prerogative as a voter, consequently, to judge candidates based upon their decisions.
The challenge to voters is to remember that the candidate with the most yard signs had to pay for those signs; the candidate who mails the most fliers had to pay for printing and postage; the candidate with the slick four-color brochures had to pay for that paper and ink -- all that money came from somewhere.
In this particular case, it's not like the Jefferson County Association of Realtors is a citizens' grassroots volunteer activist group merely trying to voice concerns over a community issue ... they are a large professional organization with paid staff, they can well afford to give due deference and regard to candidates and the citizens they seek to represent.
For me, it is also a matter of respect, not so much for me, but for the people I am asking to represent -- the citizens of Arvada. Does the Jefferson County Association of Realtors respect the eight or so candidates from which four will become elected officials of the people enough to come to our community to to talk to us? There is nothing wrong with Arvada and Arvada-based real estate agents and Arvada voters.
For the values of my candidacy ... Arvada folks first.
Look, I'll still be happy to meet with the "interview team" from the Jefferson County Association of Realtors ... here in Arvada at a mutually agreed upon time and date. But on behalf of the citizens of Arvada whom I am asking to represent as their mayor, I'll be asking them just what it is they want for their campaign money from our Arvada city government.