Q: I recently listened to your interview on NPR and applaud you for your comeback after spending time in a federal institution. I was on my way back to academia when I was arrested while being a practicing psychologist for two counts of fraud. I got 21 months. I have no criminal record prior to this and am very concerned about my future beyond incarceration. Any thoughts? Right now I am still in the numb/ embarrassment stage. —R.V., A City in Calif.
I actually have a chapter in a new book about recovering from crisis. I think the key is to repair and reinvent yourself in a way that stays true to the best of who you are. For instance, if you lose your professional license, could you still offer counseling at a halfway house after you complete your sentence? Or perhaps at a shelter for the homeless or victims of domestic violence?Something that will be therapeutic for you and helpful for others. For me that’s taken many forms, from teaching about the legislative process and addressing elected officials about ethical dilemmas to advocating for educational opportunities inside prison.
I won’t lie to you: Prison sucks. But it forced me to pause and reflect and thus gave me an advantage over the Sanfords and Weiners on the road to recovery. It can do that for you, but you must constantly remind yourself that failure is not falling down but staying down.
Q: I want to run campaigns, but getting a job as a manager is quite difficult. Candidates have two main problems: They often seem to think that they do not need to be managed, and when they do, they do not want to spend money for a salary. Of course, it is full-time work that is simply too much to ask of a volunteer. I have spent a lot of time on campaigns in general, and last year in particular. Consequently, I have taken the position that I will not do any more free work for politicians—I’ve seen that it usually does not pay off. I do not like sitting on the sidelines. Do you have any ideas? —C.B., New York CityI totally agree with the paradox you reference regarding candidates and campaign managers. As I’ve said before, candidates who try to run their own campaigns have a fool for a manager.
I think you should broaden your search and consider working for an issue campaign instead. There are lots of benefits to that; for instance: (1) no lying awake at night wondering if your candidate will make a campaign-ending faux pas; (2) no screaming candidate calling your cell at 2 a.m. to berate you about a typo in an email you did not write; (3) no frantic middle-of-the-night calls to bail the candidate’s son out of jail.
Most important, when you work for an issue campaign, you don’t have to worry if the candidate will actually follow through on the campaign pledge that motivated you to work on his behalf, because an issue never lies. And you don’t have to worry that your candidate’s efforts to follow through will be scuttled by her evil colleagues in the legislature, or wherever. So if you win an issue campaign, you really do win.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: Do As I Say — A Political Advice Column
Last month, Rep. Michele Bachmann announced her decision not to seek a fifth term amid an array of ethics charges, one of which is an allegation that she secretly paid Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson for his support during her abortive presidential bid. According to NBC, Bachmann’s former chief of staff, Andy Parrish, swore in an affidavit to the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee that Bachmann “knew of and approved” a scheme to funnel $7,500 per month to Sorenson through an allied consulting firm in exchange for his backing, despite Iowa Senate ethics rules barring lawmakers from receiving presidential campaign payments. In his affidavit, Parrish called Bachmann an “outstanding public servant,” suggesting he had no axe to grind. Sorenson flatly denies any violation of ethics rules, and says he received money only to cover expenses. While gleeful liberals and dismayed Tea Partiers have mostly overlooked the charge in the wake of her announcement, it may be an important harbinger of future election cycles.
To understand why, you have to start with turn-of-the-century urban machine politics. Early get-out-the-vote (GOTV) systems relied on money changing hands through employment: Party bosses, generally divided by ethnicity, rounded up votes from ethnic neighborhoods in exchange for control over the abundant patronage positions available in rapidly-growing cities. At first the practice was confined to European immigrant populations, but African American voters were gradually included. In Chicago, for instance, blacks were gradually incorporated into the machine by powerbrokers like the late Rep. William Dawson, and were offered municipal positions like the one held by Fraser Robinson III, a pump worker at the city’s water plant (and Michelle Obama’s father).
Many American cities have a storied tradition of machine politics. But in recent decades, party electioneering has evolved into arrangements whereby candidates and parties pay people small amounts of cash in exchange for GOTV efforts like canvassing. When I represented an inner-city St. Louis state Senate district, I was often approached by operatives proposing such arrangements. That’s not strictly illegal, but it creates a lot of untraceable campaign cash, and it’s vulnerable to corruption. (Although I declined, I did run afoul of federal campaign-finance law during my 2004 U.S. House race: I approved coordination between two aides and an outside party who created a flier about my opponent’s legislative attendance record. I then lied when asked about it, earning me eight months in federal prison for obstruction of justice.) I know people who have disbursed several hundred thousand dollars on Election Day. In some cases, the process is blunter, not to mention illegal: Low-level operatives simply distribute cash in even smaller increments to individual voters.
In St. Louis, local powerbrokers often steered “street money” through a trusted ally or relative — and, according to scuttlebutt, siphoned off a chunk for themselves. Sometimes a powerbroker will even dole out money to low-level party functionaries himself. In 2004, John Kerry reportedly dropped hundreds of thousands on the street in Philadelphia alone, though ultimately the Republicans’ all-volunteer ground game was widely seen as superior — and Kerry lost.
Read the rest of… Jeff Smith: ‘Walking-Around Money’ — How Machine Politics Works in America Today
By Jonathan Miller, on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 2:11 PM ET
Welcome to Episode Two of The Recovering Politician’s CRISIS TV, a weekly roundtable discussion of the highest profile national scandals, with expert analysis from those who’ve served in the arena and suffered through crises themselves.
SPOILER ALERT: Be prepared to laugh — these former pols tend not to take themselves too seriously.
CRISIS TV is hosted by The RP, former Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller.
This week’s guests include:
Rod Jetton, former Speaker of the House, state of Missouri
Jason Grill, former State Representative from Kansas City
Josh Bowen, Nationally renowned and published personal trainer
Click here to order
This week’s topic — Baseball and Performance Enhancing Drugs
The panelists discuss the nature of the scandal, what Major League Baseball and accused players such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriquez have done wrong, how they could have handled the crisis more effectively, and what advice they would share with the players and owners.
The panelists discuss the lessons they learned from their own crises, detailed in the book they co-authored, The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. Click here to order.
Click here to purchase e-book for ONLY 99 CENTS this week only
The first Correctional Officer (CO) I met was straight out of Deliverance. I came in with a young black guy who mumbled and a middle-aged Chinese man who spoke broken English, but at least I could decipher their words. The CO was harder to understand. Manchester, Kentucky is tucked in an Appalachian mountain hollow, and he had apparently never left. When he sauntered into the austere, concrete holding room and asked the Chinese man his name, the man replied, “Shoi-ming Chung.”
“Sesame Chicken?” replied the CO; laughing uproariously and then repeating it twice as if it were the funniest thing he’d ever heard.
He sent me to a heavyset nurse for a battery of questions.
“Height and weight?” she asked.
“5’6”, 120 pounds.”
She examined my slight frame and frowned. “Education level?”
She shot me a skeptical look. “Last profession?”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, I’ll put it down if ya want. If ya wanna play games, play games. You’ll fit right in – we got ones who think they’re Jesus Christ, too.”
Another guard escorted me to a bathroom without a door. He was morbidly obese and spoke gruffly in a thick Kentucky drawl. “Stree-ip,” he commanded. I did. “Tern’round,” he barked. I did.
“Open up yer prison wallet,” he ordered.
I looked at him quizzically.
“Tern’round and open up yer butt cheeks.”
“Alright, you’se good to go.”
Read the rest of… Former State Sen. Jeff Smith: From Politics to Prison — AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis
By Nick Paleologos, on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 1:30 PM ET
Last week, the US Senate voted 54-46 to strengthen gun safety laws in America. It failed.
That’s right. 54%–a solid majority of the US Senate–voted in favor of universal background checks, and the bill still lost. Because the filibuster rule requires a 60% vote for anything to pass.
Which made me think about Elizabeth Warren.
You will recall that Ms. Warren carried her reform message together with everybody’s highest hopes into the halls of congress. Shortly after her election–I received an email from her. This is what she said:
“You know what I want to do. You know what I care about. But here’s the honest truth: Any senator can make a phone call to register an objection to a bill, then business comes to a screeching halt. On the first day of the new session in January, the Senate will have a unique opportunity to change the filibuster rule with a simple majority vote. I’ve joined Senator Jeff Merkle and four other senators to fight for this reform on day one. No more bringing the work of this country to a dead stop.”
The only problem is that on the first day of the session she fought for nothing of the sort.
Neither did Jeff Merkle, nor any other senator—Democrat or Republican. And by fight, I mean rise to their feet on the floor of the Senate and use the filibuster to change the filibuster. Bring that shameful institution to a screeching halt on behalf of majority rule.
Stop everything. Force a national conversation on why—in the “world’s greatest deliberative body”–a simple majority isn’t enough.
Why–after 20 kids got their heads blown off—doesn’t 54% of Senators voting in favor of gun safety legislation advance that bill to the next step? I’d like Ms. Warren, and Mr. Reid, and the Democratic majority in the United States Senate to explain to the parents of those twenty dead six year olds, why protecting the filibuster is so much more important than protecting our children?
Read the rest of… Nick Paleologos: Filibuster the Filibuster
SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.
I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.
People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.
I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.
They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.
This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.
Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.