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Letters from alumi about running for office, public service, and losing elections

June 20, 2003

I have a footnote to the April 9 PAW article on alumni who were losing candidates for public office.

My late cousin Paxton Hibben 1903 was active in Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party campaign in 1912. Pax continued his political quest and made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1914 on the Progressive Party ticket in his home district, Indiana's 17th. We don't know how badly he was defeated; his class notes (PAW, 12/23/14) put the best face on it, reporting only that he finished well ahead of his ticket. With this, Pax abandoned politics and went on to a career in journalism.

Stuart Hibben ’48


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April 21, 2003

Mark Bernstein talks about the heavy, frequently self-funded cost of political campaigns today (No Thrill of Victory, April 9) with dismay, since sound proposals for campaign finance reform would allow candidates to run without having to risk their homes and life savings on a campaign.

Clean Money/Clean Elections breaks the campaign spending spiral by giving limited and equal public funding to all qualified candidates who raise a set number of $5 contributions from voters in their districts. Since 1996, CMCE has been adopted in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont, and legislation has been introduced in other state legislatures and the U.S.Congress.

When enacted, CMCE ends the constant chase for special interest contributions, allowing candidates to spend time discussing issues instead. More information is available from good-government groups such as Public Campaign and by US Action's state affiliates. I am proud to chair the CMCE campaign in New York City.

Marc Andrew Landis '84
New York, N.Y.

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April 9, 2003

In his April 9, 2003, PAW piece (feature), Mark Bernstein '83 makes a colossal error, or at the very least a colossal over-generalization, when he writes that political candidates "run because they are committed to public service."

People committed to public service do their serving by joining nonprofits and other do-good outfits. Political candidates run because they are driven to exercise coercive power over others. Government is a system for telling people what they can do and what they can't do. It attracts people who like telling others what they can do and what they can't do. Only in politician doublespeak* can it be said to attract (or reward) people committed to "service."

Terry Wintroub '69
Lawrenceville, N.J.

* Doublespeak is defined by Rutgers professor William Lutz [The New Doublespeak. Why No One Knows What Anyone's Saying Anymore, 1996, Harper Collins) as "language that pretends to communicate but really doesn't."

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