Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Dark Money and Lauren Hill

As “dark money” haunts American politics, it is reassuring that many Americans can see beyond their own self-interest.

Dark-MoneyThe GOP made major gains in the just completed election as only a third of Americans bothered to vote. One possible reason for their disenfranchisement was the wave of negative advertising sponsored by shadowy organizations and funded by anonymous donors.

Republicans and Democrats alike benefitted from dark money, but the GOP was by far the larger beneficiary. Secret cash went for more than attack ads. It paid for an aggressive ground game, ostensibly to get out the vote. That’s where the disconnect exists.

If empowering voter participation was a goal of dark money donors, you might pause in your disapproval. But the results speak for themselves. Your surmise the real purpose of these huge, non-transparent political contributions have another, less altruistic purpose.

The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, whose benefactors are undisclosed, spent $12.6 million on ads supporting Senator Mitch McConnell and trashing his Democrat opponent. McConnell’s victory, along with GOP victories in other key Senate contests, elevated him from Minority Leader in the current Congress to Majority Leader in the next Congress.

Then President Obama negotiates a startling agreement with China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the two largest economies on earth. Word of the pact hardly made it to the mainland when McConnell was blasting it as unfair because it will impact the U.S. coal industry. Coincidence or clue about who was writing those checks to the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition?

Substantially more encouraging is what happened to help Lauren Hill realize her dream to play in a college basketball game.

Lauren HillAs many news stories have reported, Hill, a 19-year-old freshman, is suffering from terminal brain cancer. Her days are literally numbered. Time was running out on her dream. So officials at Mount Saint Joseph University approached the school’s first women’s basketball opponent, Hiram College, about moving up game day by two weeks. Hiram College officials immediately agreed.

Hill was only able to play a short while in the game, which was moved to larger arena to accommodate the large crowd expected to attend. The Terriers played matador defense to let Hill drive the lane and score a layup on the first play of the game. When she entered the game near its end, they again put up minimal resistance to another successful scoring drive by Hill. The night before the game, Hiram College players joined Hill and her teammates at dinner.

After the game, Hill addressed the crowd and said it was a dream come true.

This remarkable example of sportsmanship, this contribution to making a dream come true, is reverberating around the world by expanding awareness of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma, the condition that is killing Hill. Hill’s courageous pursuit of her dream prompted sympathetic “Layups for Lauren” efforts as far away as Finland, Japan and Australia.

Hill is failing. Her balance since playing in the game against Hiram College is less sure. She suffers symptoms similar to vertigo. Still, she says she isn’t afraid of dying.

Play til the final buzzerWhen she passes, Hill will have left a legacy of courage and community. She faced her destiny with dreams, not dread. Her life became an open book for all of us to see and share. She inspired others to “play until the final buzzer.”

That won’t be the legacy of dark money donors. They will have to be content with the fruits of their secret self-interest, which few will cheer, even if many pay the price.







One comment on “Dark Money and Lauren Hill

  1. Les AuCoin
    November 14, 2014

    Gary, congratulations. You braved (political) criticism to make a profound point, in a way that touches the heart. Not easy in your position. Not easy in the position of a lot of political leaders. But you did it. And I tip my hat to you.

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