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The Good Old Days — Why Now?
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The Good Old Days

During the most of the 1960s the Republican leader of the Senate was Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois, and he was worth watching whenever he was on television. “Ev” was good for a quote. When he was in the House he had said “When a member of the House moves over to the Senate, he raises the IQ of both bodies.”

He was a conservative Republican. He supported Joe McCarthy, tried to get a school prayer Constitutional amendment passed, backed the Vietnam War etc., but he also worked to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The thing is, he wasn’t mean spirited. A fiscal conservative people remember a reported aside: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” I remember it as “million”, not “billion”, because in the days of the 15¢ hamburger, a million dollars was “real money”.

I don’t think Senator Dirksen would be pleased with what has been going on in the Republican Party of Florida.

The local paper carries the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald story: Sansom staffer rang up $1.3 million on credit card

ST. PETERSBURG — She was a 25-year-old junior staffer when the Florida Republican Party gave her an American Express card.

Over the next 2½ years, nearly $1.3 million in charges wound up on Melanie Phister’s AmEx — $40,000 at a London hotel, and nearly $20,000 in plane tickets for indicted former House Speaker Ray Sansom, his wife and kids, for starters. Statements show thousands spent on jewelry, sporting goods and in one case $15,000 for what’s listed as a monthlong stay at a posh Miami Beach hotel, but which the party says was a forfeited deposit.

Phister served as finance director for state House campaigns for 2½ years starting in mid 2006.

She was a Republican Party employee who mainly answered to Sansom, R-Destin, speaker-designate at the time and overseeing House campaign operations. The job involved planning fundraising events and often accompanying Sansom and other legislative leaders on fundraising and other political trips.

Phister’s card paid for nearly $650,000 in lodging, $60,000 in airfare — mostly commercial airlines — and $66,000 for charter planes. The statements show Republican donors also paid for plane tickets to Germany for Phister and her mother.

Phister declined to discuss those tickets, though the party said the trip was part of the expense of accompanying Sansom to Europe. Now 28, Phister parlayed her insider access to become a well-funded public employee, now earning about $70,000 yearly working for the Florida House of Representatives as a scheduler for special projects.

The RPOF sits in the legislature decrying waste and fraud in government, while spending campaign funds like they just won the lottery. The Democrats require that you spend your own money and then seek reimbursement. The Dems require receipts. So, which policy is more fiscally responsible: “tax and spend” or “just put it on the credit card” ?


1 Steve Bates { 04.11.10 at 11:31 pm }

Even in my own childhood, I remember thrilling to the 4/$1.00 hamburgers from the Someburger (chain? what chain?) a couple blocks from home… and they were big, satisfying hamburgers; two would fill a growing boy. Yes, that “million here” was indeed real money then.

Despite his extreme political ideas, Dirksen was reportedly a deeply decent guy. He obviously believed his job was governing, not arranging to sweep the next election for the GOP.

“Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on / I wonder what went wrong.” – Paul Simon, American Tune

2 Bryan { 04.12.10 at 11:00 am }

The thing with Everett Dirksen is that he was a good man with some bad ideas. In those days the ideas were attacked, not the people. No one attacked politicians families, or questioned their sincerity, just their policy. That’s one of the reasons that the McCarthy problem lasted so long – no one was willing to questions Joe McCarthy’s motives until the end.

These days actual policies get scant attention, it’s all about personality, so you get Barack Obama and Sarah Palin as major political players.