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Election secrets: follow the money to know for who you vote

Tales from the Mark Side: The Conservative Voice in Manatee County

Election secrets: follow the money to know for who you vote

By Mark Young


Billions of dollars are wasted every election cycle in America.

It’s money that could be better spent on things like veteran services, law enforcement, job training for the homeless, and quite frankly a plethora of other community needs.

(Yes liberals, conservatives care about community issues and probably more than you do because we care about actual issues, not made up fantasies and lunatic policies that hurt, not help the community.)

If there is one thing I’ve learned in 26 years as a journalist, it’s to always follow the money. Nothing can be more true when it comes to politics and politicians.

Even locally, there are significant political war chests packed with cash and, as voters, it’s important for you to dig into those public financial disclosures on the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website.

It’s all right there for you to see as far as who is donating to any particular candidate. Then comes the key question: Why are those donors shelling out cash for those candidates?

What’s the motivation?

I can tell you it’s not always about politics when it comes to political financial support.

It’s not always an easy path to follow. A lot of people donate because they do believe said candidate represents their politics and values.

So you not only have to look closely at what the candidate represents, but also the office they want and the potential decisions they will make that will impact your lives.

And that’s when studying the donors matters. In some cases, you’ll come to understand that you aren’t always voting for the candidate. You could, in fact, be voting for the donors. 

If a candidate is getting a lot of financial support from developers, (just as an example) ask yourself why that is. Are they donating to a candidate who is looking out for the taxpayer or are they donating to a candidate that will help fill their pockets with taxpayer money? 

I’m not throwing developers under the bus. I’m pro growth and pro development myself, but believe development must be accomplished in a responsible manner that will benefit the community.

A good many candidates in Manatee County are pro development as well, but the question lingers: Will those candidates and elected officials be beholden to irresponsible developers that don’t take into account a burdened infrastructure and increasing traffic woes?

The big money players in Manatee County don’t always back a candidate or a referendum that aligns with their political beliefs. They’ll set aside conservative values in exchange for financial gain.

It’s one of the reasons why several big money players backed the Manatee County School District’s extra millage tax. They didn’t do that for the taxpayer. They did it for the taxpayer’s money because the more the school district has to spend on capital expenditures, the more money they make.

That’s their right to do so, but it’s why voters must understand the motivations behind the donors to understand the motivations behind the candidate. And subsequently, whether they are the type of person to sell out taxpayers to benefit the donor and expand their own political ambitions.

Sadly, this isn’t always a Republican or democrat issue, although democrats are almost always in it for themselves.

I’m not at all saying accepting money from a developer or a realtor association is wrong or has potential for corruption. I am saying it’s up to us to ask the right questions.

And, in turn, it’s up to the politicians to ensure they are spelling out their political goals and that those goals align with a better life for Manatee County taxpayers.

And then they have to prove it.

Always remember that a political donor may throw a few thousand dollars behind a local candidate they believe will benefit their financial goals, but we as taxpayers, are the ones flipping the bill for their salaries and decisions. We, as voters, have a much higher financial investment into local candidates no matter how many dollars are ultimately donated to a campaign.

Those donated dollars pale in comparison to the costs we pay for bad politicians making bad decisions for the community as a whole.

If those political goals are to advance the quality of life for us, then great. If those political goals are personal ambition paid for by the already rich and powerful, well, that’s just not going to work for us any longer. Those days are over.

Again, it’s just an example, but your vote should reflect the direction you want to see for Manatee County. Following the money trail will at least provide the opportunity for you to ask all the right questions.

There’s no harm in finding out who is donating to a candidate and then asking that candidate why. Some will always fool us, but if they truly have Manatee County’s best interest at heart, their tenure sitting on any political dais will be short lived if they promise one thing and do another.

We’ll spend a lot of time digging into who is supporting our local candidates and when we launch our podcasts soon, we’ll be asking a lot of those questions.

I realize running for office has costs, but some of these local political war chests are packed a little too full of cash for my taste when those dollars could go to serve a higher purpose.

I realize not everyone is as diligent as I am when it comes to supporting a candidate. I realize that not everyone is a political junkie like myself.

But I do know that if more people would take the time to pay attention to a candidate or a seated politician’s track record, and just who it is that is throwing cash at them, we’d all be better off.

Again, accepting donations to fund a campaign is fine. Just be prepared to answer why you accepted those funds and if they come with an alternative cost.

We’ll be watching and we’ll be asking those questions. Be prepared to answer, and if it comes down to it, be prepared for consequences if you don’t hold true to your word.

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