I’ve made a terrible mistake.
Before I explain, please allow me to return to a time when I thought journalists should not have an opinion about anything. This, I thought, is how reporters stay unbiased, and staying unbiased was critically important to building trust.
I didn’t sign petitions. I didn’t put candidate signs in my yard. I didn’t attend politically events unless I was covering them.
If you saw the presidential candidates I voted for over the years, you wouldn’t be able to determine whether I was Republican or Democrat.
When I left full-time journalism I still remained unbiased. Or at least I tried to. Until this year. And this is how I made a terrible mistake.
The Democratic Party decided that candidates should have a certain number of donors to qualify for one of the party’s debates.
It didn’t matter if it was $25 or even less. The important thing was to attract donors. So I contributed $10 to several candidates. Not because I supported them but because I wanted to learn more about them. If Iowa is going to be the first-in-the-nation in the presidential process, then I think it’s our responsibility to check out all the candidates. (I’d feel the same way about Republicans.)
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
To give $10, I had to reveal my address and phone number.
The e-mail and texts started first. Every candidate I contributed to immediately decided I was their best friend. And what they most wanted was for me to give more money.
Julian Castro, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, sent me a text every day. Well, his campaign did. They sent me so many texts I had to ask them to stop.
Then the mailings started.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont sent me full-color fliers what seemed to be once or twice a week, even though I didn’t contribute to him.
If I remember correctly, Tom Steyer flooded my mailbox even before he announced he was running for president. I didn’t give him any money because I have a hard and fast rule:
Billionaires don’t get money from me. They should give me money. You know, like entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who promised to give 10 families $1,000 a month for a year at the last debate.
Bribery. Now we’re talking.
The e-mail, texts and phone calls were followed by home visits. Two volunteers for former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas wanted to know if I supported him.
“I don’t know yet,” I replied.
“Could you tell us your top three candidates?”
They haven’t been back.
Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland has a campaign office about five blocks from my apartment.
One of my best friends has the last name of Delaney, so I thought it would be fun to get her a yard sign.
But I know what would happen next. To get the sign, I’d have to give them my personal information, which would lead to more texts, e-mail, phone calls, fliers and all the rest.
A few weeks ago, I told you about attending a gathering for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She received some praise for her performance at the most recent debate. Could I encourage her by sending more money?
And how would I like a free ticket to the Polk County Steak Fry? All I have to do is wear a shirt that says, “Amy!”
Given that my ex-wife’s name is Amy, I’ll pass.
I have been so naive. I know presidential candidates need a constant flow of money. When the money runs out, the campaign ends. If some candidates appear desperate, it’s because they are.
I find it ironic that Democrats bemoan the influence of money in politics when they practically beg voters for more.
So far, the only candidates I don’t remember hearing from is U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
If they continue to leave me alone, I will support them as the Democratic presidential ticket.
Maybe Tom Steyer can float them a loan.
Ken Fuson lives in Des Moines. He may be reached at email@example.com.