Matt Welch

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© 1986-2004

ng Officer Noelia Rodriguez announced that -- taxpayer bailout bedamned -- the Democrats would absolutely NOT be accepting any money from tobacco companies, on prinicple.

"It's very tempting to go after every last dollar you can get, but we believe it's more important to send a message," Rodriguez said. And the message? "You can be successful without having to be in partnership with companies that some say are harmful."

Well, I guess that rules out Microsoft, right? It's the Justice Department, after all, not just "some," that says the software monopoly's business practices are so "harmful" that the company needs to be split up, and certainly propriety would suggest that a defendent in a huge government trial shouldn't be splashing cash around a governing political party, yes?

No. Microsoft is one of LA 2000's "primary sponsors," meaning it is expected to provide an estimated $1 million in cash or services.

How about Pacific Bell, then, a local monopolist that has done quite specific "harm" to me personally on a dozen occasions, and whose intrasigence and incompetence has directly stifled the development of DSL Internet access in the exact regions where it should be flourishing? Yep, Pac Bell's on the hook as a Primary Sponsor as well.

I hate tobacco companies as much as the next guy. Their record of publicly funded deceit in the 1950s and '60s is shameful, as has been their manipulation of our governance through the corrupt campaign finance system ever since. Bill Clinton, perhaps, deserves credit for cutting the umbilical cord connecting Big Tobacco with the Democratic Party.

But, fer chrissakes, enough is enough. There can't be more than 12 people left in this country who took up smoking because "it's good for you." It's a vice, a habit, an acquired taste and a calculated risk, and absolutely everybody who takes the first drag knows the rules. Now that every government body has spent the last five years suing the industry into oblivion, I can't see how the chastened tobacconists are any worse than the cretins who contribute to America's terrible obesity, diet and heart disease problems by putting Frito-Lay vending machines in junior high schools, or cute collector's toys into McDonald's boxes.

The "unprecendented" anti-smoking "principle" being trumpeted by the DNC is just another petty example in the phony politics that are supposed to separate out two dominant parties. Al Gore spent most of his adult career sopping up tobacco money like biscuits on gravy, until Clinton apparently gave him the religion. So now the Democrats will refuse money from Philip Morris, gunmakers and foreign companies without U.S. subsidiaries, while the Republicans will refuse money from ... let me guess ... trial lawyers, unions and foreign companies without U.S. subsidiaries?

Meanwhile, both parties continue to swallow up hundreds of millions of dollars from just about anyone else, not blinking an eye that it should cost a disgusting $35 million to nominate candidates that have already won the nominations, and write party "platforms" that will be forgotten one month later they were approved. (Quick -- name a single "plank" off the Democrats' 1996 platform....)

"Los Angeles is a healthy city and we focus on the well-being of our community," Rodriguez said, barely holding back giggles. "We're going to show that we are on the cutting edge of new policies and new decisions."

Well, Noelia, Al, and all your buddies, Los Angeles is actually city where one out of three residents don't have health care, and where $4 million could buy a lot of child care, or schoolbooks, or ... well, let's let L.A. Times columnist Al Martinez end this, with an excerpt of his uncharacteristically vicious and terrific piece from July 2:

"This isn't a celebration of America. It's a celebration of hypocrisy. The money it will cost could best be spent by the so-called party of the people on the needs of the people. If nothing else, $4 million would buy about 200,000 bottles of a good whiskey, and that might help us all get through the whole useless, cynical exercise in three-ring self-promotion."

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