Analysis: Senator Parker, the Honest Fundraiser

State Sen. Kevin Parker deserves a prize for honesty.

By Gabe Pressman
|  Monday, Nov 7, 2011  |  Updated 4:18 PM EDT
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Analysis: Senator Parker, the Honest Fundraiser

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State Sen. Kevin Parker deserves a prize for being the most forthright guy in Albany.

The Brooklyn state senator is holding a campaign fundraiser and the invitation reads: “I help you. You help me,” according to the Daily News.

That brief message sums up how the electoral system works, for good and ill. And it brings to mind the lyrics that Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby sang in a movie called “High Society."

“I give to you and you give to me,
True love, true love.”

In Parker’s case, he seems to be saying almost exactly what that song says: you give to my campaign and I’ll give to you. It’s the essence of politics as practiced in this age. The only question might be whether that will result in “true love.” In politics, it could be argued, there is no truth but winning the next election.

Parker’s invitation stirred some strong reaction from civic leaders. Dick Dadey of Citizens Union told the News that "it would be simpler if he just said ‘quid pro quo’ on the invitation.”

Susan Lerner of Common Cause said: ´”I find it breathtakingly straightforward. It gets to the heart of the deal from his point of view.”

Dadey added that it underlined “the public’s perceptions that, in order for you to represent me, I’ve got to pay up.”

At least Parker is being honest. His constituents know what to expect from him.

At Baruch College, public affairs professor Doug Muzzio told me: “We know that, in this way, politicians are wrong. The senator states it baldly. You can indict what he is doing and indict the entire political class for doing the same thing."

But Muzzio adds that "that's the way things are."

“You can have all kinds of reform but this is the way the system works and the way it will always work. And the Supreme Court won’t let you change it even If you wanted to. It’s the free speech argument,” he says.

So perhaps Parker has done us all a service by demonstrating what his annual dinner-dance gala on Nov. 19 is all about.

If we want campaign finance reform, we have to take the money out of politics. And that seems right now like an impossible task.

Parker, you may remember, was sentenced to three years probation last March for damaging a photographer’s equipment during a scuffle. He also must attend anger management classes. As he left the courtroom, Parker said: “Glad it's over. I think my constituents understand my passion.”

They certainly should understand his passion, especially for fundraising. When he attends the annual dinner-dance gala at Crystal Manor in two weeks, he’ll be getting a minimum of $150 per person to attend and from $400 to $2,500 for additional contributions.

Perhaps he could sing a couple of bars of that old song with the new lyrics: “You give to me and I give to you. True love. True love."

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