The San Francisco Chronicle
I’m sure it’s fun to be a legislator. Lots of people want to talk to them; lots of people want them around. They have power, and power makes people better-looking and smarter and funnier.
Plus, they get to be pious about doing the public’s business. They don’t just have power, they have Power for Good. And they do believe, deep in their hearts, that they deserve more respect than they get, even when they take off for long weekends when the budget is due.
So last week, the Assembly Banking Committee voted down a measure that would have strengthened consumer privacy protections, so that there would be some restrictions on the freedom with which banks and other institutions could trade data on your net worth, sexual orientation and shoe size.
This bill was the subject of intense lobbying by the banking industry. And, in a stunning coincidence, eight of 12 members of the committee either voted against the bill or abstained. There is, of course, no relation between the lobbying and the fate of the bill.
After the bill was defeated, a group called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights did just a bit of checking in the Internet, shelled out $26, got all the Social Security numbers of the legislators who voted against the bill and posted the first four digits of those numbers on its Web site (www.consumerwatchdog.org/corporate/pr/pr003416.php3).
Raged Assemblyman Ed Chavez of La Puente (alleged first three digits: 565): “We should be free to vote our conscience and not be threatened or harassed.” No doubt this sentiment was echoed by Assemblyman Tim Leslie of Pleasanton (alleged first three digits: 559) and Russell Bogh of Cherry Valley (alleged first three digits: 550).
It is the experience of columnist Jon Carroll (actual first three digits: 562) that the beginning of the Social Security number is not the key part because many institutions use the last four digits as a de facto ID number.
But perhaps the legislators did not realize that. Probably people who spend that much time with bankers don’t have to worry about a lot of credit checks and identity fraud. I’m just guessing here.
So what happened to the politicians is exactly what’s going to happen to their constituents — their Social Security numbers (their entire Social Security numbers, too) are going to be traded like baseball cards on the Internet. When it happens to taxpayers, it’s the cost of doing business; when it happens to politicians, it’s an outrage.
Not only that: Politicians now feel so beleaguered by lobbyists that they want to pass laws to keep them in check. Somehow “get out of my office right now, you scumbag” is just not sufficient, probably because lobbyists also control money and votes and thus have to be coddled.
But apparently Richie Ross, gonzo Democratic solon hustler, has been acting badly. He told the chief of staff of one assemblywoman that he was “dead in my eyes.” Gosh, that’s the way the cops on “The Wire” talk. Pretty cool.
Now, why did the chief of staff not say: “Great. Dead men don’t return phone calls, you cheap suit.” Why did he need a damn law to prevent Richie Ross from making unkind remarks? Can’t these guys protect themselves?
Apparently not. They’re afraid of digits on a Web site, they’re afraid of lobbyists acting like lobbyists. They want the reign of civility to return, although not apparently at the expense of turning off the money tap. They find themselves trapped between equally compelling desires: the need for campaign contributions and the need to spend a nice weekend in the backyard without Richie damn Ross calling every five minutes saying, “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”
Life ain’t easy.
As a great man once said: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Oh the shark has pearly teeth, dear, and keeps them out of [email protected]