Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert's re-election campaign is smoking - all too literally.
Take a look at the attention that Representative Boehlert has been getting in the news lately, and you'll see that his reputation is largely that of being Washington D.C.'s most desperate smoker. The news has been full of stories this year about how, as much as he wants, Congressman Boehlert just can't quit smoking - in spite of the fact that he needed cardiovascular surgery during the 2004 election season in order to deal with the damage he has done to his body.
Well, that's his business, I suppose, although you'd think that our elected representative in Congress would have enough respect for us constituents to keep himself in better shape. I can't imagine how anyone could do a good job in the House of Representatives with a set of clogged lungs and a heart that struggles to keep up with every drag. It's a wonder that Sherwood Boehlert keeps up even the weakening pace of work that he managed lately.
No, the real trouble with Sherwood Boehlert is his more public addiction to tobacco. I'm not talking about his bad habit of puffing on cigarettes. I'm talking about a more nasty habit - Sherwood Boehlert's addiction to political contributions from big tobacco corporations.
Congressman Boehlert has been taking campaign contributions from the Altria Group, a big tobacco corporation, ever since the Altria Group became the Altria Group - a change from its previous incarnation as Philip Morris. Last year, Sherwood Boehlert's campaign committee took the maximum allowed from Altria's corporate political action group, sent in two big checks, one sent in February 2005, and another sent in September 2005. Why? It's not in the business interests of corporations like Altria to just throw away money without some expectation of a significant financial return.
The last time I checked, New York State's 24th District was not a big center for tobacco farms. Tobacco grows better down south, in places like Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. So Altria's funding of Congressman Boehlert's campaigns has hardly been a matter of just supporting the home town boy.
We who live hundreds of miles away from Altria's corporate headquarters have the right to ask just what Altria's corporate lobbyists are expecting in return for their money. We also have the right to ask why Sherwood Boehlert is taking this money. He's our representative, after all, so isn't our money good enough for him? If Sherwood Boehlert can't raise enough money from his constituents to fund his re-election campaigns, isn't that a pretty good sign that it's time for him to step aside?
The only cigarette-related activity that goes on in the 24th District is smoking - including the sale and transmission of cigarettes to kids. It's been a major problem for years that Sherwood Boehlert has not adequately addressed. Is he afraid to offend Altria, out of fear that his fundraising resources will dry up?
Congressman Boehlert, it's time for you to kick the habit. We, the people of the 24th District, are calling upon you to send back all the money that you've received from Altria for this election cycle. We want to see a clean campaign, with clean money. We're tired of all the smoke and mirrors.