As Charlie Brown leads, others merely criticize

From the Left
By: Rob Haswell
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We are always searching for the politician who won't break our hearts. Isn't that the truth? It's such a dirty business at times ” with backdoor dealings still the main way legislation gets passed ” that few candidates survive the process without some level of taint on them. Most of them jet right past taint and into full-on slime and dirt in their first term. We are always asking our candidates to lead by example. We tell them talk is cheap and that actions are what matters. When I ran for state Assembly in 2006, my slogan was People Before Politics. Having no political experience, I was free to pursue what I considered the highest level of public discourse. I argued that we needed to break the stranglehold that big money and big special interests and career politicians have on our country. We needed to reclaim the mantle of public servant. I argued for serious redistricting reform so we could once again have competitive general elections in our Assembly, state Senate and congressional districts. I argued for public financing for elections so candidates don't need to be multi-millionaires or glorified bag men for big corporations and special interests in order to run for public office. Unfortunately, we are a ways away from taking back our political system. Every once in a great while, however, a political candidate rises above the political muck and mire and does something so commendable that it not only warrants notice, but it ought to be celebrated by Americans of all political stripes. Such was 4th Congressional Distrct Democratic candidate Charlie Brown's recent Promises Kept Veterans Charity Challenge campaign, in which Brown pledged to donate 5 percent of every campaign dollar he raised to assist non-profit organizations that aid veterans of the United States armed forces. Sure enough, in a recent ceremony, the Roseville Democrat donated more than $17,000 to three organizations, The Gathering Inn of Roseville; Francis House of Sacramento's Resource Counseling Center; and the Sacramento VA Community Team of Soldier's Angels. Let's be clear: This is an unprecedented act of leadership from a candidate for public office. I can tell you that there are political consultants who frowned on this idea. In political campaigns, virtually every nickel you raise is typically dedicated to some form of political advertising. So the idea that a candidate might donate campaign funds to charity is unthinkable. Unthinkable. Heck, $17,000 will pay for direct mailing to about 40,000 households. (And I know you Republican readers are lining your trash cans with these virtually every day right now.) Charlie Brown, the candidate, quite literally is putting his money directly where his mouth is. How much will Charlie's donation impact The Gathering Inn? Suzi deFosset, the executive director of The Gathering Inn, said Brown's donation enables them to keep their doors open over the summer. The past three years they had to close during the summer months. That's a real-life impact. With today's economy, we're serving more families, more veterans and more individuals than ever before, deFosset said. Now, you'd think that Brown's leadership and integrity on this issue might be lauded by people of all political persuasions. Think again. Apparently, the Republican party's statewide American Idol-style search for a suitable candidate to run for Congress in District 4 has left them two front-runner candidates so hell-bent on painting the other as the bigger carpetbagger that they are incapable of acting like statesmen and acknowledging the obvious: That Brown's Promises Kept model, should be emulated, not derided and dismissed. But a spokesman for Tom McClintock (state senator, Thousand Oaks) called it a non-story and a spokesman for multi-millionaire developer Doug Ose (ex-congressman, Sacramento) called it politically driven. Eric Egland, who dropped out of the race and now endorses McClintock, was appalled. Excuse me? Reactions like this ought to outrage us all. If giving a percentage of campaign dollars to needy charitable organizations who help alleviate, even a little bit, some of the pain for our increasingly desperate veteran population is politically driven, then I say count me in. If McClintock and Ose cancelled just one mailing each out of the dozens that will go out between now and June 3, and redirected that money toward charitable work, think about how much real benefit might come of such leadership. But don't hold your breath. Auburn resident Rob Haswell is the Region 1 Director of the California Democratic Party. He can be reached by e-mail at