Obama flip-flop: Bagmen to the Philly streets

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.