Street Money—Who Gets It?
November 04, 2008, 07:43 PM
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Salena Vito writes about the possible absence of low-level bribes for uninterested voters in Pennsylvania.
Forty-Fourth Estate blog - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

How will no 'street money' play today?

Posted November 4, 2008 7 :30 AM

For the first time in any Pennsylvania general election, ”street money” — the cash apparatus used mainly by the Democratic Party to reward its supporters on Election Day — is in danger of extinction.

”It’s a problem and a concern,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who distributed nearly $500,000 in his 2002 primary battle against fellow Democrat Bob Casey Jr., who lost that race but won a 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate.

The Democratic Party in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are two of the last party machines that expect cash from candidates for city council races on up to the presidency.

The cash is doled out by low-level party leaders to volunteers to get out votes. Those volunteers can reward reluctant voters with small amounts of cash or free lunches.

Longtime Pittsburgh pol and Duquesne law professor Joe Sabino Mistick explains that the practice of handing out cash in city neighborhoods is perfectly legal. ”It is all done within the boundaries of the law. You basically have political operatives who are a little short on the loyalty but long on the mercenary that get the vote out.”

While the practice is traditionally conducted by state Democrats, longtime Republican strategist Ed Rollins bragged about using street money in the 1993 successful gubernatorial campaign of Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey.[More]

I remember that. Although she doesn't say so, what Ed Rollins said was that he gave "walking around" money to black ministers, to encourage them not to get out the vote in the inner city. Thanks to Time magazine's decision to put all its archives online, you can read African-American columnist  Jack E. White being bitter about it here:Paid to Stay At Home?,Nov. 22, 1993. White wrote
"The controversy cast a powerful light on the unseemly tactics both parties have used to influence black voters in many elections. Payments of walking- around money — small amounts given to ministers and community leaders to encourage maximum turnout of black voters — are a staple for Democratic candidates and are legal under New Jersey law. But black party activists say privately that the money is often used to purchase endorsements. "You can buy black preachers by the dozen very cheaply," says a black New Jersey Democrat, who admits participating in such schemes in earlier elections."
Speaking of "bitter," in rural Pennsylvania, where they're clinging to Bibles and guns, street money doesn't seem to be a problem.