Washington Watch: Oy vey, send money!

If you still want to donate to a politician or a worthy cause but not be harassed by a constant avalanche of email and dinnertime robo phone calls, donate anonymously.

Hillary Clinton (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hillary Clinton
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Are you feeling lonely and neglected because nobody writes or calls? No one seems to care? Do you stare at an empty email in-box as you sit around waiting for the phone to ring? Well I have a simple solution to your problems: Write a check.
Or sign a petition, put your name on a letter or email to a public official, subscribe to a newsletter or respond to an on-line questionnaire.
You can answer a request to wish a happy birthday this week to Hillary Clinton (68), send a thank you note to Joe Biden for his patriotic service, wish Paul Ryan success as speaker or show your support for our troops by simply clicking on the message.
And lately there’s been a rash of diverse emails asking people to express their support for Israel in the face of a new wave of Palestinian violence, declare support for the two-state solution, oppose Palestinian statehood, help fight anti-Semitism. They largely come from organizations whose mission is unrelated to the current outbreak and all have the same message: “ oy vey, send money.”
It’s worse when disasters hit.
Many organizations immediately spring into action, but for them “first responder” means rapidly mobilizing fundraisers.
Political and issues-focused fundraising has become an art and a science, as much in the organized Jewish community as in the broader political realm. It’s irritating, but the fact is, it works, which is why every group from AIPAC to ZOA does it.
And nothing raises more money than the shrai gevalt of imminent disaster like “Israel’s very existence is in danger because of (fill in the blank).”
But that very effectiveness creates an atmosphere of perpetual crisis and amplifies the voices of the extremists in our midst. It also gives us, ordinary citizens, an excuse to avoid the hard work of critical thinking. Public policy is reduced to shrill campaign and fundraising slogans, complex issues to the rhetoric of professional fundraisers.
The New York Times
reported this weekend on “scam PACs” which spend almost all their money they get for their own salaries, consultants and raising more money with little or nothing going to the candidates they claim to be helping.
When responding to appeals for money, make sure you write your name and both addresses – snail and email – clearly, include your phone number and any other information requested.
Then sign on the dotted line, send off your check or give over your credit card information.
Presto, like magic, your loneliness problems will be solved. Soon you’ll have more friends than ever. You’ll start getting mail, beginning with a warm and computer-personalized thank you that includes a request for more money. Then watch as the trickle turns into a tsunami.
In recent days I’ve heard from Barack and Michele Obama and Barbra Streisand. Several times. “It’s me. Barbra. (Really)” she wrote. “I’m passionate about politics.” She was asking me to donate to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
I got three personal notes addressed “Dear Doug” or “Please, Douglas” and signed “Barack Obama.” They arrived even he was speaking to the United Nations one day last month. It’s not unusual to get more than one a day. I guess he has nothing better to do than write to me. We’ve never met but he obviously knows who I am and appreciates my generosity and insights.
He didn’t want much. Only $3. On the subject line it said, “I need your help.” Imagine, the most powerful man in the world needs my help. How humbling.
That’s like the Pope asking John Boehner to pray for him.
President Obama told me he needs my help to stop “a group of Republicans in Congress” who want to “hold the government hostage over defunding an organization that women and families across the country rely on.”
He’s not alone. Here’s just a brief sampling of mail I’ve received recently, much of it from people I’ve never heard of, much less met, and usually several times each: Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Alan Grayson, Sen.
Al Franken, Sen. Tom Udall, James Carville, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Sen.
Kirsten Gillibrand, Michele Obama, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Sen. Ed Markey, ex-Sen. Russ Feingold, ex-Gov.
Martin O’Malley, and candidatse Raja Krishnamoorthi, Catherine Cortez Masto and Ruben Kihuen.
Then there were assorted candidate mothers and spouses, friends, aides, fundraisers and party campaign committees.
They usually don’t ask for much, just $3 or $5; or maybe nothing at first, just answer a questionnaire (they don’t want to know what you think, they just want to get you hooked).
$3? Hey, anyone can afford that.
What do I get for my $3? Mail. Lots of it. And phone calls.
I constantly hear from candidates, causes, organizations and others I never heard of in places I’ve never been. And that can happen to you, too. I guarantee it. And they all know exactly when you sit down to dinner and can’t resist answering a ringing phone.
Philanthropic organizations usually ask for more than a few dollars; many will hit you up for a continuing pledge, something like those annoying PBS fundraising drives.
If you want to track your newfound popularity, just make a slight change in your name, like a new middle initial or different spelling of your first name. Or get a separate email account for the purpose.
These pols and organizations swap and sell their mailing lists, so you will never be ignored again.
If you still want to donate to a politician or a worthy cause but not be harassed by a constant avalanche of email and dinnertime robo phone calls, donate anonymously.
And give directly to the candidate or organization, not some third party claiming to raise money to advance the candidate or cause.
If you get tired of all the attention from your newfound friends, you can set up filters in your email program to direct all this new mail to the junk pile. If you don’t know how to do that, simply ask any teenager you know.