My wife thinks I might live to regret happening upon a website that instantly tells you who contributed how much to which political candidate. When I discovered Politics.com I must say, regret was the furthest thing from my mind. At that moment, I felt pretty much the way those boys felt in one of the Porky's movies when they found the vent that permitted them to see into the girls' changing room. Yes, I was in snoop heaven.
At the lower righthand corner of the site, there is always a picture of a celebrity contributor. That first day it was Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who had thrown a grand George W. Bush's way on April 13, 1999. Below that, a couple of boxes enable you to summon up contributors by last name or ZIP code.
I typed in the name of a mainstream Democrat I know who had sounded enthusiastic at a dinner party last fall when a gaggle of Bradleyistas talked up what was then the only insurgency campaign anyone knew about. Thought so! He had covered his behind with $1,000 to Gore early on. I smiled at my computer screen. It was a moment to give thanks for having been allowed to live long enough to experience the information age.
Unlike those high school Peeping Toms, I had no reason to feel I'd done anything wrong. Even opponents of campaign-finance reform say it's absolutely essential to have full disclosure of political contributions. What's the point of disclosure if nobody is paying attention? I was helping the process along. I hadn't had such a guilt-free time indulging in questionable behavior since the days when I annually stuffed myself with every food for sale at an event in Pennsylvania that raised money for the Mennonites' disaster-relief efforts, explaining to my wife (when my mouth wasn't too full of scrapple to talk) that I had never found a cause more deserving of support.
Naturally, I looked up everybody I'd ever run across who seemed to have enough money to give some to a politician. Then I started making my way through 10021, the richest ZIP code in Manhattan, occasionally shouting out the contribution of a movie star or a business tycoon to my wife. Around the time I'd reached the Ds ("Patricia Duff's listed as a homemaker!"), my wife walked into the office. "Maybe you've done enough of this," she said.
"You're right," I said. "I'm going back to compiling a list of people who have contributed to both candidates in a bitterly contested race--the eggs-in-two-baskets givers."
"What I mean is, Don't you have other work to do?" she asked. "I'll get to it," I said. I invented a little parlor game I wanted to work on: you're given the name of a Washington lobbyist and a small American city, and you guess which one is the source of more political contributions. I tested it out by finding that Tom Boggs has contributed to more campaigns than the entire population of Dodge City, Kans. "Well, could you at least take out the garbage?" my wife asked.
"In a minute," I said. "I've got some citizenship responsibilities to take care of first."