Date: Feature Week of
August 22, 2004
KEYS VERSUS OBAMA: THE BUCK$ STOP HERE
There are at least 40 millionaires in the United States Senate, and in the nation’s 2004 elections the number of rich senators is expected to grow. But, either way the Illinois Senate race goes, the state’s millionaire delegation will drop by one.
While one of the Senate’s millionaires will be retiring, Illinois’ Senate contest represents another historical landmark. The contest marks the first time in history that two African-Americans have challenged each other as major party nominees for election to the U.S. Senate. The winner will become only the third black elected to the chamber since Reconstruction and, with Carol Moseley-Braun in 1992, the second African-American senator elected to represent Illinois in 12 years.
In 1998, it was a millionaire banking heir, Peter Fitzgerald that wrested the seat from Carol Moseley-Braun, spending $14 million of his own money. Now, former ambassador, presidential candidate, and Maryland senatorial candidate Alan Keyes has moved to the "Land of Lincoln." to challenge State Sen. Barrack Obama for that same seat.
The millionaire may be gone, but the need for campaign is still the same. And, based on funding; Obama is likely to be the winner. His funding to date totals over $10 million and he goes into the peak of the election cycle with over $4 million in the bank. Vastly out-funded, Keyes is relying on support among social conservatives and abortion opponents to gear up his fundraising machine. Keyes' 1996 and 2000 presidential campaigns, as well as his radio show in the 1990s and his 2002 TV show on MSNBC, made him an icon of social conservatives, especially abortion opponents. In the first 30 hours after announcing his candidacy, Keyes took in $50,000 in donations online, and donors continue to seek out his campaign Web site in large numbers.
Obama has drawn campaign cash from high-profile entertainers such as comedian Chris Rock and singer Barbra Streisand. His much-lauded keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention also got him over $150,000 in unsolicited donations. Obama's money has come from organized labor, such as teachers and trade unions, as well as individual leaders in the legal, finance and medical industries. Including his primary contest, his biggest donors have included Nicholas Pritzker, chairman of the board of the Hyatt (hotels) Development Corp., and relatives and business associates of billionaire investor George Soros.
Keyes brought other baggage with him to Illinois. He owes $524,169 from his two presidential bids, according to federal elections records. And, state court records, show him owning $7,481 in unpaid state income taxes in Maryland. The state filed a lien against Keyes in December 2001 for those unpaid taxes. Before deciding to run for elected office, Keyes who has a Ph.D. from Harvard in government affairs served in the U.S. Foreign Service, was appointed ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council by President Reagan and served as an assistant secretary of state. He first ran for the U.S. Senate from Maryland in 1988, winning 38.2 percent of the vote.
While it is noteworthy that an African American will win the Illinois Senate seat, it is rather foolhardy for Black Americans to see the winner as any beacon of brighter hope than Sen. Fitzgerald toward for us gaining broader equality in the American system. Better yet, we should follow the money. Because the new seat holder is more apt to be beholding to his campaign contributors than to blacks who, in the main, contribute less than a nickel of every dollar political candidates raise.
Ironically, it is Keyes, the conservative that has thrown a hot “race issue” into the contest. The Republican candidate once referred to reparations as “an insult to our slave ancestors”. But now he is calling for a plan that would exempt the descendants of slaves from income taxes for at least a generation. He says such a tax exemption would give blacks "a competitive edge in the labor market," because they would be cheaper to hire than federal tax-paying employees" and allow Blacks to be compensated "for all those years when their labor was being exploited.” Ancestors of slaves would be precluded from paying federal taxes for a generation or two. The exemption would apply only to federal taxes, as opposed to state taxes, since slavery "was an egregious failure on the part of the federal establishment,” says Keyes. He does not have an exemption from Social Security taxes in his plan.
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