I was born and raised in Kingsville, Texas….
Deep South Texas.
A bastion of Republican citizens.
I was arch-conservative until 1993 when I escaped the Great Nation of Texas and, after 22 days on the road looking for a place to live in one of those 49 foreign states, wound up in San Diego.
I had been politically active since 1972, my junior year in high school. I even donated a few dollars of my allowance savings to the campaign fund for Richard Nixon. I kept volunteering time and donating money through 2002, Republican candidates through April 1993 and Democrats from 1993 to 2002.
So what happened in April 1993 and in 2002?
In April 1993, after arriving in San Diego and deciding to stay, I starting working for Democrat candidates donating money and volunteering my time to make calls and work on campaigns. I still was a registered Republican, thinking that I would try to work within the Republican system to change it. That never worked. It wasn’t until 2013 that I finally switched my registration from Republican to Democrat.
What happened in 2002 started in Spring 1976 when I was a junior at Texas A&M University.
One of my required courses was Economics 301. My professor was Dr. Phil Gramm. (Google or Wikipedia him for more detailed information than what I will provide in my measly little blog post here.) He was a tenured professor making around $75,000 per year.
Gramm resigned his tenured professorship at Texas A&M University and went into politics. He lost his first election in 1976 when he ran as a Democrat against popular U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, also a Democrat. He decided to start smaller, and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978, as a Democrat, being re-elected in 1980 and 1982. He was what now is called a DINO, a Democrat In Name Only. The American Conservative Union (ACU) gave Gramm a score of 89 for his first four years in office. That’s extraordinary for a Democrat. Usually the ACU score for Democrats is well below 50%, and during any year averages about 10%, with most of them getting a well-deserved score of 0%. For comparison, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, often gets a 100% rating.
Due to differences with the Democratic leadership in the House, Gramm resigned from Congress on January 5, 1983. He then ran as a Republican in the Texas special election to fill his vacated seat. He won. Gramm became the first Republican to represent the Texas 6th District since its creation in 1846.
In 1984, Gramm was elected U.S. Senator from Texas, as a Republican, and served in that position from January 3, 1985 to November 30, 2002, being re-elected twice.
When Gramm retired, newspapers throughout the world announced that he had $64 million in his campaign war chest. He got to keep that money. Did not have to turn it over to the State of Texas or the U.S. government. Did not have to return—indeed, DID NOT return—any of it to those who had donated to his campaigns throughout the years, or to his constituents as a “Thank you for your support all these years!”
One person who donated consistently to his campaigns was yours truly. I got not a single cent back. It was that $64 million that resulted in me having never ever ever contributed another cent to a political campaign. I have volunteered my time, but not a single politician at any level is getting a penny of my hard-earned cash.
You can easily see the benefits of running for election, raising lots of money, and losing. You have to lose or retire, though. Another caveat is that the money has to be for a specific campaign. If you were a Senator but ran for President (Bernie Sanders, 2016), you had a presidential campaign war chest. If you lost the presidential campaign, the money in the presidential campaign war chest is yours to keep. The money in the senatorial campaign war chest had to remain there because you still were a Senator. All you have to do to verify this is look at Sanders’ tax returns since he released them in his latest campaign for president.
If Gramm had continued as a tenured professor at Texas A&M University through age 65, his salary with no raises would have been $2,126,300. As it was, he retired from politics at age 60 with $64,000,000, an annual salary of about $150,000, and great health benefits. Now you know why even rich people (Darrell Issa, net worth over $250 million) go into politics. They don’t give a crap about you and me. They are in it for the easy money and the power that comes with money.
Yet people continue to ask how Congresspersons and Senators become millionaires on their measly six-figure salaries….
Part 2 tomorrow.