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A sullied political season ahead

While the national political scene seems never to lack for highlights and controversy, the regional and local scenes are heating up of late and the action promises to continue, and amplify, through next November.

Certain issues are sure to take center stage at the national level, relating to the economy, to cultural differences, foreign policy. Surely the notion of “class warfare” will be floated to obscure the fact that income disparity in the U.S. is the highest it’s been since the late 1920s. We’ll hear about campaign finance, the role of big money in politics, the ideological divide, the legislative stalemate (blamed, at one time or another on each side of the aisle). Can the candidates avoid comment on gay marriage? We doubt it.

No doubt, also, that the deity will be drawn into the fray, at all levels. We sincerely hope our legislators and wanna-be legislators clearly recognize the beauty and necessity of what Christopher Hitchens, in his final essay (on G.K. Chesterton) termed, “the freedom of, and the freedom from.” It is a high watermark of American democracy and the distinction must be heeded if our system is to remain unique and functional.

The regional race this year promises to be a page-turner. With last year’s realignment of the 59th House District, the exclusion of Montezuma County and the inclusion of Hinsdale and Ouray counties and a portion of Gunnison County including the city of Gunnison, the game changes in the district. Some would say the change benefits a Democratic candidate — though we fail to see any strong evidence that Gunnison is less conservative than Cortez, and have never reckoned Hinsdale County to be a hotbed of rabid liberalism.

There will, however, be a different constituency to play to.

In this edition of The SUN, Rep. J. Paul Brown notes he has a bull’s eye painted on his back, and he indicates the race for the spot he now occupies in the Colorado House could attract attention, and money, from outside the district.

Brown considers himself a target for the state Democratic machine, his seat being the difference between a House controlled by his Republican party and one controlled by Democrats.

As a result, Brown contends that campaign funds will flow to his opponent. That opponent could be Durango’s Mike McLachlan, who announces his run this week.

The point to be gained here, regarding most state and all national elections, is recognition of the undue influence of outside money in the process.

The increasing influence of big money in races is a giant problem. The problem has been exacerbated by court decisions regarding the personhood of corporations and their right to free speech through contributions. It has grown more pronounced with the creation of PACs and Super PACs and the lack of transparency regarding donations at certain points in the political campaign process. The influence is felt at all levels. Two years ago, outside money was spent on the 59th District race, and it will happen this year.

A local, grass-roots group has formed to seek answers to the problem. If you are concerned — regardless of party affiliation — consider joining in. Perhaps the only solution is a constitutional amendment but, regardless of what is proposed, action must be mobilized from the local to the national level. Pagosa’s Move to Amend group meets Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Greenbriar Plaza, Unit B-15. If you are disturbed by the effect of outside money and loosely controlled money in politics, give a thought to attending.

Regardless, keep ears and eyes open as the political season heats up. There will be plenty to worry about, and plenty to avoid on the way to making a sound decision.

Karl Isberg

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