Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Regula Way of Doing Business

Let’s get this out of the way first. Today’s BJ fronter headlined “Regula under fire for favorites” means nothing for the election. If you just saw the head, you might think Ralph is caught up in an ethics probe. No. Some watchdog groups – the lefty Center for Responsive Politics and the more balanced Taxpayers for Common Sense – are criticizing him for his earmark-driven funding of the National First Ladies Museum.

I was working in Canton as all this went down. The Museum was pretty much an eye-roller among the people I talked to. It was another one of Ralph’s projects. More of Ralph being Ralph.

Meanwhile, Ralph has been in Congress since I was a child. Jeff Seeman got his clock cleaned despite running a brilliant internet-based campaign against him – so brilliant in fact that it catapulted his internet guru Tim Tagaris into a stratospheric career arc. Word on the street is that the Dem bosses won’t work against Regula on the theory that he will be gone soon and they want their boy – for most of them it’s party Chair Johnnie Maier – to make a run at the open seat. Ralph is winning in ’06. Ralph will continue winning until he’s done, one way or the other.

As the article says, the controversy is interesting as a window into how Congress works. Stark County is a virulently anti-tax area. Citizens there resist mightily piggy-back sales taxes that pay for law enforcement. The county has the largest number of people living in townships – where the taxing power is minimal – of any county in the state. When Jackson Township tried to incorporate a few years back, residents beat the proposal mercilessly.

And yet, people in Stark are all good with Ralph bringing home the pork. They may think projects like the First Ladies Museum are silly, but they are happy to see the silliness in their back yards.

Which is why earmark reform is important, but is a loser as a political issue. It’s awfully hard to get people excited about a bill to cut off the flow of money to their districts. People may hate taxes, but by the time their taxes go through the Washington mill and gets shipped back home, it become free money.