MASTERSON ONLINE: Money taints politics

Bear with me as I express my biggest peeve with our election campaigns in the modern-day America we’ve so willingly embraced.

I’ll begin with a little story about a longtime friend. Pat Moles was elected mayor of Harrison more than a decade ago–but not by pestering supporters and voters for more and more contributions.

Instead, the Vietnam veteran who is profoundly handicapped from injuries suffered at a firebase during that war proved how badly he wanted to serve his community.

He purchased a substantial pair of thick-soled shoes and wore them down by spending several weeks walking the entire community and knocking on every door.

His goal was to meet every possible voter and seek their vote in person. When Election Day arrived, voters responded to his selfless commitment by electing him to office.

Pat never really fancied himself a “leader,” as such, but more a public servant whose sole purpose was to act on behalf of those who elected him, which is just what he did.

Everyone seeking office could borrow a page from Pat’s playbook, even though I’m speaking about politics in a smaller community. Still, I can’t help but contrast where we are today with the never-ending race to constantly grub every last dollar from prospective supporters and voters.

There seems to be little either party won’t do nowadays in pleading and shilling for endless dollars. The solicitations come hourly over social media. And heaven help those who do contribute, as their names are recorded forever on a contact list where the solicitations go on and on and on. You’ve seen it, I’m sure.

Briefly put, there’s seemingly never enough when every dollar raised must equal or surpass the exorbitant total raised by the opposing party.

This worship of money has been going on ad nauseum since well before this latest presidential election campaign began. Hollywood, academia and others lately have sent many millions to the Jan. 5 Senate runoff race in Georgia, which triggered yet another panic from the GOP, which pleaded relative poverty and instilled fear of losing its two Senate seats as its primary motivator for begging for ever more dollars.

No one mentions that $100 million or so was spent in the unsuccessful attempt to unseat GOP Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine. All those millions spent to defeat them amounted to what I like to say was diddly-squat.

Their races weren’t ultimately decided on who had the biggest war chest. All that money didn’t appear to matter a faded red cent. Instead, voters reacted to each candidate’s policies and actions in office.

As we can see, the destructive role of money has corrupted our system of government. Still don’t believe me, eh? Look no further than those “public servants” who arrived in D.C. with relatively limited financial statements only to leave office as multimilionaires.

The modern-day money grubbing has only intensified with each election. It’s not at all a positive sign for our future. We have allowed money, and the disgusting love of it to overshadow all else in state and national races, as if every donated dollar somehow equates to a vote, which we’ve seen is far from true.

Sure, all these contributions enable a candidate to purchase more signs, advertising, travel and staff. But thankfully, enough reasonable, common-sense voting adults still exist to reason beyond superficial fundraising benchmarks established by this gawd-awful insatiable quest (and love) for money.

I suspect most independent-minded Arkansans (as oppose to the blind followers of an ideology) know how we hope the vote in Georgia will go come Jan. 5 for the sake of our nation’s future, although we obviously have no horse in that race.

Meanwhile, Hollywood and its progressive ilk continue pumping enormous amounts of lucre into that state in a flagrant attempt to influence the vote, which, of course, prompts the GOP to plead for more and more.

It’s a voracious and endless cycle we experience every day.

I have no doubt our framers never imagined such a scenario when they established the process for free and fair elections to choose those to represent our interests rather than those of wealthy corporations, tech giants, foreign countries and other special-interest groups with the financial wherewithal to buy influence in D.C. and elsewhere.

The shameful, tainted mess is solely of our doing and only we can change it.

Here’s an admittedly impractical (certainly in national or state elections) yet relatively inexpensive concept. Why not check with former Mayor Moles to discuss his up-close-and-personal approach to seeking prospective voters?

Weeks of meeting every voter across his city of 13,000 worked for him, and all it cost was a pair of shoes (well, maybe two) and determination as he generated widespread respect and support to become a genuine public servant.

Christmas generosity

In this bleak period cloaked in the gun-metal gray of a miserable pandemic, when good news can be difficult to find, it’s a ray of sunshine and hope to read of random act of kindness that remind us we each have the option of compassion and empathy in all we can do for others.

That’s why I enjoyed Tom Sissom’s story the other day about the diner at Jose’s Bar and Grill in Tontitown leaving a $600 tip on his $17.70 bill.

The story said this generous tipper, who wanted no publicity for his deed, was by no means a wealthy person and reportedly worked two jobs to make his own ends meet.

To me that says his giving of $600 at this time of year is a powerful gesture aimed at brightening the lives of others he seldom sees and barely knows.

He asked that his gift be split between the servers on duty when he was eating at the restaurant, which translated to $100 each (yeah, higher math was my forte).

That’s easily more than a day’s tips for most who serve in restaurants. And it comes at a time of year (and under covid restrictions) when such thoughtfulness undoubtedly can significiantly help those workers.

I call this a fine example of one person treating others like he’d want to be treated.

And hopefully, just learning about this man’s selfless generosity helps spread the Christmas spirit when we need empathy and generosity of spirit the most.

There are other examples. I read that another generous Arkansas soul unexpectedly paid for a stranger’s purchases at a Dollar General Store just because he could. Imagine the ripple effects arising from such kindnesses.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master’s journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at

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