There’s a common storyline in old gangster movies where the mob boss goes into someone’s store and tells the store owner that it would be a shame if something bad happened to him or his store. In this case of explicit implication, the store owner decides to “buy” the rather expensive protection services of the local mob boss. It might work, but it’s extortion nonetheless. Politicians play a similar game with their constituents, particularly those who represent groups of like-minded constituents.
Take for example the farm groups that consistently gives money to Democrats thinking that maybe someday these Democratic lawmakers might, kind of, maybe see things their way and stop writing laws that take their water, land and livelihoods. As much as the Supreme Court has ruled that political contributions are protected under the First Amendment as free speech, the case can be made that such donations to sitting politicians are nothing more than legalized extortion. If nothing else, these political donations do not generate the return on investment that the farmers would expect. So the question then becomes, why continue donating to and supporting these wasted causes?
It happens on a regular basis. Farmers contribute to many of the same politicians who then side with the environmental extortionists and further strip farmers and the rest of us of our private property rights and extort more money from us in the way of taxes, fees and levies. I’ve seen it happen with Dianne Feinstein, who claims to enjoy support from farmers, only later to reportedly threaten physical harm against the head of one prominent ag-based organization who also happens to be one of her constituents. Read the story “Breakdown” in High Country News for one such example.
This puzzled me when I used to work for one ag organization and was a reporter and editor covering the ag industry. I could never understand allegedly conservative farmers and ranchers donating richly to the coffers of folks like Feinstein and other Liberals. The line of defense was similar to the honest storekeeper who admits to his closest friend that he doesn’t like paying the mob, but if he doesn’t the cost to him, his family and his business would be worse.
I’ve written in the past on the national security implications such votes have. Farmers and ranchers in America not only provide the safest and best food and fiber produced anywhere in the world, but they contribute in a large way to our national sovereignty by making us agriculturally independent from the rest of the world.
California agriculture (and its larger American ag industry cousin) would do well to end this practice of voluntarily contributing to these criminals. While blackmail is an ugly word, what other word aptly describes the implied threat that if you don’t give to my campaign I’ll vote against your wishes, but then again when the time comes around to call on those favors, the politician suffers a lapse in short-term memory and still votes in favor of legislation that further restricts farming and ranching and adds one more nail to the coffin that will someday be eulogized as “American Agriculture.”