Campaign Investments Matter

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The man who killed Eric Harris, an African American man from Tulsa Oklahoma, is an insurance company executive who contributes or invests to play cop.

Robert Bates, 73, shot Harris when he attempted to assist in his arrest as he struggled on the ground with Tulsa sheriff’s deputies. Bates accidentally pulled out his gun instead of his Taser.

Bates is a volunteer reserve Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputy, part of a group of wealthy donors who make large contributions to the Tulsa Police Department. He’s donated cash, multiple vehicles, weapons, and stun guns since becoming a reserve deputy in 2008.

Bates also has contributed/invested $2500 toward his re-election campaign of Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.  Call it an example of “pay to play” cop.

Eric Harris’ tragic and unnecessary death is yet another example of the power of private money over rational public policies. Not a trained officer, Bates was on the scene and armed for one reason alone — he had forked over large amounts of cash and other goodies. This wasn’t simply a case of buying access to an official — a Sheriff. It was buying entry into becoming a (deputy) Sheriff. How cool, right?

We know from the killings of Tamir Rice in Cleveland and other African Americans across the nation by police officers how out of control police officers can become when they are supposedly fully trained. But giving a guy a gun to “play to play” cop after limited training simply because he opened his checkbook is both a problem of “privatizing” policing and the problem of money influencing elections and elected officials.

Without the constitutional “free speech” shield that permitted Robert Bates to donate/invest to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s campaign coffers and police department, Eric Harris might have been protected from an untrained insurance exec who would be deputy sheriff.

“Money as free speech” not only kills democracy. It kills people.

Money is not speech. It’s property. Time to amend the U.S. Constitution to make it so…as well as the equally lethal doctrine that corporations are legal “persons.”

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