Power play

I feel sorry for Dan Doyle. A judge sentenced the Oregon legislator Thursday to 10 months in jail and up to $127,000 in fines. Doyle is basically ruined. The Oregon State Bar issued Doyle a 30-day suspension for neglecting two legal clients and Doyle recently filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy claiming $296,000 in unsecured debt. Sure he skimmed $146,000 off his campaign and openly opposed most campaign finance reform efforts, but it’s not Doyle’s fault. Doyle is a victim of a larger system of ambition. As an elected official he had unrealistic ideals placed in front of him and he couldn’t live up to them.


Look at the same situation from a different income bracket, one you and I can probably better relate to. People in the U.S., regardless of their income level, are presented daily with the ideals of comfort and success. Bigger televisions, new videogames, iPods, more luxurious cars, McMansions, these are all objects that signify success in the U.S. Of course, if you have a family of four and work in a mill you cannot reasonably expect to live such a lavish lifestyle. But more and more these objects begin to represent happiness. How can you possibly get by without them?


So you look for other ways of attainment. Credit cards with unreasonable APRs, Rent-A-Center, pay day advances. There are corporations designed to feed on your desire. They take your “need” and make it seem attainable. You, as a mill worker, know it would take too long to save money for these objects, so you take the fast, albeit sketchy, route to attainment. Then come the repo-men, collection agents and bankruptcy, who feed on your inability to maintain your finances. The system isn’t out to get you; you just fell prey to it. It ruins lives without malice.

Doyle was already doing pretty well. He was a successful lawyer. He was well connected. But he wanted more. He wanted power. But Dan Doyle is no Tom DeLay, Bill Frist or George Bush. You have to be connected to have real power. Sure any wealthy republican Oregon lawyer can manipulate funds in the State House. But to go national, that takes more. It takes a web of contacts, corporate interests and dumping sites. It takes a pre-existing system of laundering to do it right.


Poor Dan Doyle. He was smart enough recognize the system, but not smart enough to know he would never succeed within it. Getting away with embezzlement takes more than the desire to do it. It takes contacts. It takes lobbyists. It takes connections. It takes Tyco.


Doyle isn’t the only one to set his sights too high in Oregon though. Look at poor Democratic State Rep. Kelley Wirth. While loading a computer into her parked car she was struck by Lisa Temple, and pinned between the cars. She received multiple fractures and could have died. Wirth, it seems, may have been sleeping with Temple’s boyfriend, a custodian who works at the state Capitol. And if that weren’t enough, what should investigators find in Wirth’s car but methamphetamines? Isn’t it ironic that Wirth was the only legislator to vote against toughening penalties for meth-related crimes?


Inter-Capitol affairs? Flaunted drug use? Attempted murder? Poor, disgraced Kelley Wirth. You have to be a Kennedy to get away with that level of crime.


Don’t judge Wirth too harshly though, and don’t judge Doyle. Sure they betrayed the voters’ trust. Sure they thought they were above responsibility. Sure they abused their positions of power. But really, how powerful were they? These are state legislators. They earn less than $1,500 a month. These aren’t heads of multinational corporations. These aren’t sons of wealth; they just wish they were.


The Doyles and Wirths of this world are victims. Victims of ambition and unrealistic standards placed upon them by the media. I like to believe that if Doyle had never been presented with the righteous indignation and abuse that is Tom DeLay he would have never strayed. If Wirth had never heard of Monica Lewinski or Bob Packwood she would have stayed on the straight and narrow. If I had never seen the advertisement for the new Honda Scion I would have never spent my daughter’s college fund on the down payment. It’s time to stop blaming the victims and start changing the system.