The Lighter Side
The surrogate Votergate
By Walter Brasch
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 26, 2008, 00:11

�Vote for Marshbaum! Get your vote recorded early!�

On Main Street, shouting and scaring away dogs, Marshbaum was campaigning furiously, stopping almost every carbon form within 30 feet of him. In one hand was a sign, �Change With Obama.� In his other hand was �3 a.m. Hillary.�

You are running for president?� I asked somewhat skeptically.

�Didn�t you read the signs?� asked an incredulous Marshbaum, upset that even a journalist could miss props that large. �I�m accepting votes for Obama or Hillary.�

�You�re doing what?

�Accepting votes,� he said matter-of-factly. �Whoever gives me the most money is the one I�m voting for.�

�Obama and Hillary certainly aren�t paying you to vote?�

�Don�t be ridiculous,� said Marshbaum. �They only paid voters in the Iowa caucuses. I�m after Republicans.�

With the Pennsylvania primary expected to give either Obama or Clinton the final momentum for the Democratic nomination, Marshbaum had figured out how to provide a nefarious service and be paid for it without governmental interference, something Republicans crave in the free market economy. �If more Republicans give me money for Obama, I�ll vote for him in April. If more give me money for Hillary, then it�s wake-up time in America, and she becomes the favorite for commander-in-chief.�

�Why would Republicans pay you to vote for Democrats?�

�With Bush�s approval rating around 18 percent and McCain getting the nomination, the Republicans need to believe they again matter -- like when they could pock-mark the environment, write unconstitutional laws, and start wars without anyone objecting. By voting for a Democrat, like they could in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Texas, they can regain their voice.�

�So, you�re taking money from Republicans who aren�t allowed to cross over in Pennsylvania, and you�ll vote for whichever candidate has accumulated the most money for your scam.�

�Yep.� That�s all he said. �Yep.�

�This sounds terribly illegal.�

�Are you crazy?� he asked. �It�s done all the time. Every politician has his or her price. Check with the K Street lobbyists. They�ll tell you the going rate.�

I was about to agree with him, when he nailed home yet another truth. �In Chicago, dead people often voted. I think there�s some kind of secret sauce in the embalming fluid that allows it.�

�That�s Chicago,� I said, �the cold winds damage brains, but what�s it have to do with Pennsylvania?�

�For decades, Philadelphia ward bosses rounded up drunks, deadbeats, and just about anyone who needed a few extra bucks. They went into the voting booths with them, and then paid them five bucks for the -- how shall I say this? -- the right vote.�

�I believe all that ended with a few legal challenges,� I said.

�Precedent,� Marshbaum said. �If there�s anything legal about it, then whatever happened before is what happens next. Didn�t you learn anything in journalism school?

�Even if buying votes is legal, it�s still unethical and immoral.�

�How dare you accuse me of that!� he said, a fake tear coming through his outrage. �Other politicians may take the money and double-cross their customers. I deliver what I say I deliver.�

�Even if this is all legal and ethical -- which I doubt -- doesn�t this subvert the democratic process?�

�As if lobbyists, backroom deals, and a billion dollars for TV ad campaigns don�t?�

I was about to respond, but three TV camera crews shoved me and two homeless and uninsured combat veterans aside to get Marshbaum�s story. Between the microphones, Marshbaum looked at me. He knew -- and he knew that I knew -- that his story would make network news, and gather even more income for the Marshbaum Fund for Disingenuous Politicians, Press, and People.

Walter Brasch�s latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at ands other stores. Dr. Brasch is a university professor of journalism, syndicated newspaper columnist and radio commentator, and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. You may contact him through his website,, or by e-mail:

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