OUT & ABOUT: Should FOP Be Able To Donate To Politicos?

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BY DENISE CLAY/ One of the reasons I still listen to WHYY-91FM, despite its glaring lack of programming geared toward people of color, is because I always learn something … and sometimes it changes a perception I’ve always had. This morning, I learned something I didn’t know … and it actually surprised me.

Did you know the Fraternal Order of Police is not allowed to garner money for political contributions from its members, nor is it allowed to make any such contributions? No? Well, I didn’t either. Because of the machinations that the city’s politicians make when it comes to getting the endorsement of the FOP, I always assumed said endorsement came with a rather large check. But it doesn’t.

According to the story I heard this Tuesday morning, as a means of keeping corruption at a minimum, the City Charter stipulated back in the ’50s that neither the FOP nor the Fire Fighters Union could make political contributions. That has since changed for the firefighters. In 2003, the Fire Fighters Union went to federal court and sued, saying that keeping them from being able to go to their checkbooks amounted to tamping down their right to speak.

It’s the same argument Citizens United made to the United States Supreme Court that led to the very decision that gave corporations the same free-speech rights as you and me. Only difference is, with more money comes freer speech, thus banks and oil companies get listened to, while you and I sometimes are ignored. Just like in Citizens United, the Fire Fighters won.

So now, the FOP is trying to do the same. According to reports, word on whether or not the FOP has won its federal suit could come any day now.

The FOP is saying keeping them out of the money race amounts to abridging their speech. I don’t know how they’re making that argument because, and let’s be honest here, the FOP makes its voice heard to politicians and thus largely gets what it wants well enough without spending a dime.

Don’t believe me? Talk to any African American politician who has been brave enough to even suggest the trial of journalist Mumia Abu Jamal might not have been kosher. Then ask them how quickly they apologized as soon as the FOP voiced its displeasure. The City is fighting the FOP’s attempt.

The City says it’s well within its right to control what its employees do in terms of political participation.

I don’t know how this is going to work out, but I’m sort of tired of money taking over politics. When that money is coming from people who can pull you over, cuff you and shoot you legally – I’m sorry, but I get a little scared.

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