Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Day At The DFL... Schedule and First Impressions of Money in Politics

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, my day begins at 6 am. In true politico fashion my eyes are drawn first to the news. I check several sources for news and political hearsay. I get ready and eat breakfast at 7 am right as I gain consciousness and the St. Olaf Caf opens. My friend and I carpool to the Twin Cities for our internships and usually depart St. Olaf at 7:45 or so. It is a long day. I listen to conservative talk radio on the way to the Cities and argue with the hosts and callers. The very first day of my internship I heard about how the recent snow storms on the east coast were evidence against climate change. Despite the fact that climate is an accumulative history of weather events thus one storm does not sufficiently mount a challenge to an entire phenomenon and the exact reason for the scale of the snow storms were due to climate change in the first place. Anyway it provides motivation for the 9-5 grind at the DFL office.

My day begins with reading constituent mail and e-mail in order to pass notes and questions to the Senate office. Much of the constituent mail ranges from support to contempt. Many people have an honest question on policy or share wishes of support of Senator Franken and the Democratic agenda whilst others warn us and Sen. Franken about the radical Democratic agenda, etc. Reading and sorting these are essential for Sen. Franken to represent Minnesota, yet it seems that these views are not necessarily representative of public opinion in Minnesota. Not everyone writes a letter, thus it is not always a barometer of what Minnesotans are thinking yet to hear the opinions of Minnesota is important to conduct the business of representative governance. As an intern and representative of the DFL, I feel as though I am part of a larger and essential conversation with the people of Minnesota.

I also handle event calendars and write briefs on policy to keep the day busy and staffers informed. My day is based on a variety of these activities while I learn as much as I can from my supervisors and fellows.

I also handle contributions and manage the data. This is an intricate process and I will not go into much detail, yet it is astonishing the amount of contributions that come my way despite the fact that the 2010 campaigns are just beginning. Fundraising is a constant activity. In able to function PACs and campaigns fundraise 24 hours a day. It is often mused that a Congressman or Senator has to raise every day during every constituent visit in order to be re-elected. Now, political action committees contribute to several campaigns at once, it is still rather disconcerting how intertwined money is to one's chances of remaining in political office. Contemporary campaigns are expensive and committed supporters do see monetary contributions as a way to ensure victory even in a hard economy.

It is the current state of the political culture. More than half of a politician's efforts are to ensure fund continue to roll in. Is there more appropriate and essential things that can be done in this time? Sure. Yet until a change to our culture occurs (either public financing or further reform) interns, such as my self will be around collecting, planning, asking, mailing, and entering money for campaigns and causes.

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