Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome, Potheads And Atheists

It is not easy to work for a Member of Congress. The hours are grueling, the pay is mediocre and the politics raw. Yet, the experience is deeply rewarding for many reasons, especially if you're a staffer in the Washington, D.C. office.

The structure is nearly the same for every office: Chief of Staff, Counsel, Scheduler, Press Secretary, Legislative Director, Legislative Assistants and Staff Assistant. Each position carries a different and important duty so the Member can serve 750,000 constituents effectively.

But there is a responsibility common for every Congressional staffer who understands Capitol Hill: Always protect the boss from outsiders with bad intentions. Always.

All 535 Members of Congress have outsiders lurking. These are people who exist for the sole purpose of creating havoc and embarrassment. It's easy to recognize them. They're the kooks, the nut jobs, the wackos.

For example, the lobbies for atheists and potheads. Keeping the atheists and potheads away from the boss barely needs a staff discussion. They don't get in the door.

Except if you're Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand.

Meet Woody Kaplan, a shopping center magnate who lives in Massachusetts.

Kaplan sits on the board of a political action committee called Godless Americans. According to its website, the goal of Godless Americans is "mobilizing nonbelievers for political activism," which includes the removal of "In God We Trust" from our currency.

In addition, Kaplan is currently a major fundraiser for the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative, a ballot question that asks for the "decriminalization" of the plant this year. Among other demented provisions, it would replace criminal penalties with civil penalties for possessing marijuana.

Since her election, Congresswoman Gillibrand has met with Kaplan at least twice. He has contributed money to her campaign, which she refuses to return.

A scheduling meeting with a Member of Congress is precise. The boss wants to know the background of the person in consideration. Why? Because it may come back to haunt the Member if the meeting occurred with a person completely out of the mainstream. Like Woody Kaplan.

Who meets with someone determined to banish any mention of religion from American life? Why meet with an individual who devotes time and money toward a new law that empowers people to smoke a joint right outside your house or apartment without fear of heading to the slammer?

If Congresswoman Gillibrand didn't know Kaplan's background before she met with him, she needs to hire new staffers because she's surrounded herself with incompetents. If she did know Kaplan's background, voters should consider that fact on Tuesday.

Politics is about associations. Perhaps someone will ask Congresswoman Gillibrand about her association with Mr. Kaplan. Because we don't know how The Transparent Congresswoman happened to take money from, and meet with, a certified extremist.

We have more pressing problems than potheads and atheists in our country now. And that's why Kirsten Gillibrand should have blown off this Kaplan character and returned his money when she had the opportunity to do so.

"I'm not meeting with someone who believes in the precious 'right' of the bong hit or those who despise the mere mention of faith. Bring me someone who counts."

You can bet Congresswoman Gillibrand never uttered those words to her staff.