“Matt Cartwright’s office,” the man who answered the phone said this morning when I called the number published on the front page of the Scranton Times Tribune as part of the paid ad hawking tickets for “Rep. Matt Cartwright’s 2nd Annual Family Picnic!”
The first-term rookie Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives is holding his fundraiser Saturday at Mercatili-Segilia Park in Moosic.
“Matt Cartwright’s office?”
I suffered a terrible flashback.
The last time I called for tickets to a political fundraising event in Moosic, a slick political animal who answered the phone at then state Sen. Bob Mellow’s Harrisburg office put me in touch with Senate employees in Mellow’s district office.
Selling tickets out of an elected official’s office is illegal and one reason why the veteran Democratic Party warlord is sitting in federal prison on public corruption charges.
“Matt Cartwright’s office?” I said I disbelief. “You mean his congressional office?”
“His campaign office,” the man said.
Thanks for the clarification, kid. To be on the safe side, why not answer the phone, “Cartwright for Congress?” In this politically corrupt community, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
“There really is a difference,” I told the Cartwright worker, who really should have known better.
To make sure I heard him right, after I hung up I called back.
“Matt Cartwright’s office,” the man said.
Cartwright really should know better.
Still, even this simple confusion could spell trouble for the rich lawyer who cannot afford the simplest mistake that could tarnish the public trust he is duty-bound to serve and help restore.
Take a look at Cartwright’s photograph in the newspaper ad. Puss on the front page smiling, pampered, liberal and well-fed posing and paid for by “Cartwright for Congress.”
Thought you are in Congress, champ. But you mean next time. Cartwright for Congress next time. So you got to raise the money, put out the hand, put the touch on the people so you can hang onto your big public service job. You’re even offering picnic donors the chance to sponsor an ice cream truck for $250. That’s right, you can sponsor the ice cream truck at Cartwright’s picnic. The bounce house, too. And for more money you can sponsor Cartwright himself, bought and paid for, courtesy of the American Way.
Kids get into the picnic free, by the way, although when I asked if free tickets are available for poor families that cannot afford the twenty bucks, Cartwright’s campaign worker said he’d have to check..
C’mon, Corbett, cash is the name of the game. Exactly That’s the problem. And Cartwright is as bad as the rest, singing in the band no matter what his politics, playing the game rather than fighting loud and proud for campaign finance reform, making a brawl out of changing the system the way he promised when he was running.
I supported Cartwright back then when other Democrats, the biggest most important local names in our party, turned their backs on him or stuck knives in his. When Cartwright opposed longtime incumbent Tim Holden, an old-style conservative Democrat with more than two decades in the House, I stood with Cartwright. Powerful Democrats (who will no doubt be at his picnic/clambake) worked to defeat him against the status quo politician. Cartwright appeared on the air with me regularly because he was thrilled to get the time. And Cartwright won the primary and general elections.
I, too, was thrilled – sort of. I had a bad feeling that he would not be the progressive prince of democracy he portrayed himself to be. I worried he might turn and run when the first firefight erupted. And run he did. I asked for his help in changing the name of a park named after gangster Mellow. Cartwright refused. He whined. He justified and made excuses for his silence. He lost a lot of respect that day because he surrendered before the real battles began - fights to make the system better, more inclusive and more representative of the power of the people.
Cartwright now is the system, one of them, one of the elected public officials who turn people away from participatory democracy rather than welcoming us into the fray.
So, taking a lesson from Mellow, the menacing political cartel enforcer, Cartwright is having a summer picnic, a clambake, a fundraiser, a way to cash in on his newfound popularity among those who once wanted his head.
Mellow’s clambake was legendary. The money flowed like cold beer from a frosted tap. Re-election was assured time and time again. So was corruption. Cartwright should have distanced himself from anything even remotely resembling a clambake. Instead, Cartwright’s bash announces his surrender to the dark forces of inner circle partisan politics.
Soft, plush and comfortable as it is, Matt Cartwright’s office already needs disinfecting.