Obama flip-flop: Bagmen to the Philly streets

posted at 9:25 am on August 19, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Last April, I complimented Barack Obama for his principled stand against the corrupt practice of providing “street money” to political organizers in Philadelphia.  He insisted that his new kind of politics didn’t allow for the cash-on-demand tradition in Philadelphia, and that his organization would remain voluntary.  Even with ward bosses playing the race card against him in response — claiming that Obama spent his money at “white” television stations instead of on black volunteers through street money — Obama held firm.

That was then.  This, unfortunately, is now:

According to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the local Democratic Party chairman, Sen. Barack Obama’s general-election presidential campaign in Philadelphia will be run different from his primary operation, which relied more on volunteers than on Democratic ward leaders and did not provide street money on Election Day.

“We’re not going to pay for votes or pay for turnout,” Obama said before the Pennsylvania primary.

But Brady said that the campaign has promised street money to pump up turnout in November. And now that Obama is the official nominee, his campaign will team up with the city’s Democratic ward leaders, who traditionally help get out votes.

Obama needs Pennsylvania to even have a hope of winning the presidency, and in order to do that, he needs to win big in Philadelphia.  Just as with Obama’s flip-flop on raising money from PACs and special interests, his principles on street money just went under the bus.  Obama will send cash to the streets to buy votes in the Philly Democratic machine tradition.

The Democrats in Philadelphia paint this as a work ethic, saying, “We pay people to work.”  This isn’t a payroll, however; it’s a bagman system.  The campaign provides a large amount of cash on Election Day, with no accountability and no control.  The ward bosses get the cash and distribute it to their foot soldiers for whatever purpose they deem fit.  It’s legal but almost obviously unethical, especially given the lack of accountability for how the money actually gets used.

In April, the campaign said that the field operation “hasn’t been about tapping long-standing political machinery.”  In April, Obama refused to participate in that system.  In August, he’s readying the cash for the bagmen and paying off the machine bosses.  Hope and Change seems to have passed by the wayside.


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He’s a part of the Chicago Machine and he wasn’t handing out bribes, I mean walking ’round money?

thekingtut on August 19, 2008 at 9:29 AM

How is this not illegal? Does the GOP do the same thing? This is just bribery, plain and simple.

pullingmyhairout on August 19, 2008 at 9:30 AM

That bus is going to have trouble getting mcuh forward traction with all those bodies under it. Soon, the wheels won’t be able to touch the pavement!

Star20 on August 19, 2008 at 9:31 AM

Obama’s economic stimulus plan: Transactional politics.

I recall Ed Rollins supposedly did this in NJ during the 1993 gubernatorial race and you would have thought he started WW III.

JammieWearingFool on August 19, 2008 at 9:36 AM

How is this not illegal? Does the GOP do the same thing? This is just bribery, plain and simple.

pullingmyhairout on August 19, 2008 at 9:30 AM

.
I don’t know about Pennsylvania, but it is legal in Wisconsin, where you can give ‘gifts’ of minimal value to voters. I recall in the 2000 election where people filmed street activists paying drug addicts in booze and cigarettes to vote, and vote often.
We should also watch Philadelphia closely. In 2000 and again in 2004, several precincts voted at 105% to 120% turnout – in other words, more people voted than were registered. /Somehow, this was never investigated./

Think_b4_speaking on August 19, 2008 at 9:36 AM

If those bagmen are smart, they’ll use some of that money to increase fire insurance coverage on their houses, just in case,……. I assume Philly is one of those places which would have difficulty adjusting to an Obama loss.

a capella on August 19, 2008 at 9:39 AM

Can Philadelphia give Obama a 120% effort?

Democrats promise that this will be the most vote-stealingest election ever!

Never forget that the Democrat Party is rife with unethical, immoral, thieving, perverted scum. Never, ever, ever, ever, think about voting for a Democrat and never vote for a third-party candidate who gives a Democrat a better chance to win.

NoDonkey on August 19, 2008 at 9:40 AM

Another Obama flip-flop, getting to be old news.

TooTall on August 19, 2008 at 9:44 AM

I’m assuming these guys get a 1099 for this money or is it a gift? But if it is a gift, then the

The Democrats in Philadelphia paint this as a work ethic, saying, “We pay people to work.”

would really “work.”

New BO slogan,
CHANGE, CHANGE, CHANGE! It’s what we spread around to get your vote!

VikingGoneWild on August 19, 2008 at 9:45 AM

Obama knew he was going to lose PA, so he scored some points with that.

Now he needs to win it.

You do what you’ve got to do. (He does, anyway.)

tigerinexile on August 19, 2008 at 9:47 AM

obama is just a cruel farce being played on the nation.

elduende on August 19, 2008 at 9:50 AM

I wonder if they get free yard signs for their efforts.

Buy Danish on August 19, 2008 at 9:53 AM

Reminds me of the time about a decade ago when the then Head of the South Carolina Democratic Party said “I don’t want to buy the black vote, I just want to rent it for a day.”

rbj on August 19, 2008 at 10:04 AM

I guess we can say that it takes a community organizer to understand community organizers. Sheesh.

-$1000 rebate to be paid by oil companies (windfall profits tax)
-$20 billion economic stimulus
-$10 billion foreclosure prevention fund
-$10 billion extend and expand unemployment
-Increase minimum wage
-”Street money”
-Free health care
-Expand AmeriCorp by 175,000 jobs

Who is trying to buy this election?

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on August 19, 2008 at 10:05 AM

Obama grows scarier by the minute. It’s all the small things about him which taken together show a huge lack of character in that man. For example: He obviously never bothers to learn about issues, that’s too time consuming, let some lackey do it. He backs aways from any principle if that principle might lose him votes. He flat out lies! He uses people when ever necessary and discards them when they are no longer useful in his bid to win. He has got to be one of the world’s worst judges of character. I bet he even refuses to admit to himself that his ethics are shakey to non-existent. He surrounds himself with people whose ideas of right and wrong are even more questionable than his. I’m going to predict(and hope I’m wrong!) that if he gets into the White House, it will make past scandals there, due either to him and/or his advisors, fade into inconsequence sooner or later. He is a huge, huge, huge mistake.

jeanie on August 19, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss . . . .

AZCoyote on August 19, 2008 at 10:07 AM

Change We Can Believe In!

rockmom on August 19, 2008 at 10:15 AM

Pennsylvania Republicans should be checking the Philly voters registration rolls right now, if they haven’t already done so, to make sure there’s no repeat of four years ago, when some precincts actually did report 101-102 percent turnout which helped Kerry win the Keystone State (I suppose a Ridge pick as VP would help focus the GOP in PA on that problem, though Ridge’s abortion views could end up as more of a liability outside the state than his appearance on the ticket inside of the state would be a benefit).

jon1979 on August 19, 2008 at 10:39 AM

How is this not illegal? Does the GOP do the same thing? This is just bribery, plain and simple.

pullingmyhairout on August 19, 2008 at 9:30 AM

Unfortunately, I don’t think it matters. If liberals do it, it’s all good.

Grafted on August 19, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Hope ‘n Hamiltons.

smellthecoffee on August 19, 2008 at 10:45 AM

This piece and Obamaman remind me of the character in The Wire, Senator Clay “Sheeeeeeeeit” Davis. Except Davis was a lot more funny and honest about his dishonesty.

fgmorley on August 19, 2008 at 10:50 AM

Obama is a living example of “you can fool some of the people all of the time”.

jeanie on August 19, 2008 at 11:01 AM

So much for being a “new kind of politician”.

CP on August 19, 2008 at 11:05 AM

Obama only won 65% in Philadelphia in the primary, a near catastrophe for a black candidate. Some of that was due to him not paying the street money, but most was due to Hillary getting the endorsements of the popular mayor and governor. They are of course supporting Obama in the general. Obama does have a very big problem in the sizable Philadelphia Jewish community though. One reason I really hope McCain will pick Eric Cantor as his running mate.

rockmom on August 19, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Buying Philadelphia.

Connie on August 19, 2008 at 11:30 AM

We should also watch Philadelphia closely. In 2000 and again in 2004, several precincts voted at 105% to 120% turnout – in other words, more people voted than were registered. /Somehow, this was never investigated./

Think_b4_speaking on August 19, 2008 at 9:36 AM

and

to make sure there’s no repeat of four years ago, when some precincts actually did report 101-102 percent turnout which helped Kerry win the Keystone State
jon1979 on August 19, 2008 at 10:39 AM

I can’t find a source to back up these assertions. Can you point me in the direction. All I could find is this document from some group called the committee of 70 purporting to be “a good government group in Philadelphia founded in 1904.” See Wikipedia entry or their website

However contrary to your assertions, this document indicates that voter turnout was not over 75% in any of the wards in the city/county of Philadelphia. In fact in the areas of Philadelphia that Kerry did the best in, the voter turnout was mostly in the 50-65% range.
Please point me to your sources that back up your assertions. I admit that the one source that I have produced should not taken as definitive, but I have not made the accusation of voter fraud.

New_Jersey_Buckeye on August 19, 2008 at 12:01 PM

This could well explain why Philly almost always goes liberal and/or Democrat in each election. Pennsylvania has typically been heavily Democrat in the major metropolitan areas like Philly and Pittsburgh with the suburbs and rural areas going Republican. After The One’s “bitter clinger” comments, Team O knows they need Philly and Pittsburgh big to overcome suburban and rural voters who are more likely to go for Maverick.

Wildcatter1980 on August 19, 2008 at 1:04 PM

New_Jersey_Buckeye on August 19, 2008 at 12:01 PM

.
Try John Fund’s book on stealing elections. I recall seeing the report on Fox TV, but don’t know if it was online as well.

Think_b4_speaking on August 19, 2008 at 2:50 PM

OK, fingers tired of typing, but I’ll add this to my list of BO’s 26 27 flip-flops.

jgapinoy on August 19, 2008 at 4:58 PM

How can this be legal?

Terrye on August 19, 2008 at 5:30 PM

New_Jersey_Buckeye on August 19, 2008 at 12:01 PM

This certainly isn’t definitive — it’s pre-2004 election and from The New York Times — but you’ve got to admit the folks in Philadelphia certainly seem to be wildly civic minded as far as voter registration goes, compared to the rest of the nation:

Republicans say they are trying to prevent people from voting twice in states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where in Philadelphia the number of registered voters is almost as high as the number of voting-age residents. Ed Gillespie, the Republican national chairman, has said that in some critical places registration is even higher than the number of eligible voters, though election officials say such discrepancies can result from people moving.

jon1979 on August 19, 2008 at 5:40 PM

I am surprised this is legal also. How embarrassing for us…guess I’ll be calling my Rep to complain about this. ugh

This is bribery..pure and simple.

becki51758 on August 20, 2008 at 6:45 AM