Friday, January 18, 2008

Thompson, Dhaliwal and Pictures!

I really don't know what to make of Jessica McBride's weird post on Darshan Dhaliwal, the gas station owner currently under investigation for sketchy business practices in Milwaukee. McBride's pissed that the MJS didn't mention his financial contributions to other candidates (more on this in a second) and that's fine, but is anyone really surprised that the article focused on Dhaliwal's relationship with Tommy Thompson? After all, it's one thing to be a donor, it's quite another to be an intimate associate:
Dhaliwal is a longtime Tommy Thompson supporter who pledged to raise $1million for Thompson in his recent bid for the presidency. Dhaliwal never paid as Thompson's candidacy fizzled.

Thompson's son, Jason Thompson, worked for Dhaliwal before joining a Milwaukee law firm.

Dhaliwal visited with President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and is one of Wisconsin's leading political donors.

In 2006, Dhaliwal pledged $4.5 million to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside to expand its communication arts building, and in 2001 Dhaliwal gave $200,000 to help found the Tommy G. Thompson Center at Marquette University.

Those are some pretty extensive ties, personal and financial, a hell of a lot more than the $17,000 McBride notes Dhaliwal gave to Doyle. Pledging a $1,000,000 to anything is no small thing, even if one doesn't deliver (and I would blame that mostly on Thompson's ridiculous candidacy, as opposed to Dhaliwal). And Dhaliwal's connections aren't exactly news ... Oh and here's a picture of Mr. Dhaliwal and the Governor:

(The caption from the web site linked to above reads: Former Governor Of Wisconsin & Sec. Of Health and Human Services Tomy [sic.] Thompson, CEO Dhaliwal Enterprises Darshan Singh Dhaliwal and Producer Of radio Shows Jhankar and Raunak Mela Manjit Singh Gill.)

There's a picture of Illinois Governor Rod Balgovejich -- or however you spell it -- at the same site (though not with Dhaliwal ***). Maybe we should get our panties in a twist over this display of bipartisan influence peddling? Then again, this kind of thing is par for the course in Illinois.

And here's one of Dhaliwal with President Bush:

The article implicitly raises a very large question that results from the fact that Dhaliwal has manifestly benefited from his relationship with Gov. Thompson. I seriously doubt President Bush would have been interested in meeting with just any old gas station owner from Milwaukee shortly after 9/11. I would hope he had bigger fish to fry at the time. Meeting the President is a privilege and an honor most people don't get a chance to experience and it helps exponentially if, say, you're friends with the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

That being said, there is the possibility that Dhaliwal may have benefited in other ways from his relationship with Thompson. I don't know if he has -- one instance certainly does not establish a pattern -- but it does raise the possibility. At the moment no one has any reason to believe that Gov. Thompson somehow covered for these alleged actions -- there's just a paper trail connecting the two men.

I'm not against disclosure rules at all, but this is one of the consequences of relying on the current campaign finance system. Thompson, Doyle or anyone else who took money from Dhaliwal had heretofore no reason to think the guy was anything but an honest businessman. Now that it turns out he may not be, everyone who simply accepted what they thought was legitimate money is somewhat stained -- at least in the eyes of some constituents.

No one who accepted money from Dhaliwal should regret doing so unless he received some sort of special treatment as a result of his contributions. Or, to put it another way, this wouldn't be a "scandal" if there were publicly funded campaigns.

To her credit, McBride does mention that Dhaliwal gave her husband $1000 for his campaign for Attorney General (in fact, Dhaliwal gave a shitload of money to a lot of state politicians over the last decade -- including Oshkosh's state Rep. Hintz and Sen. Roessler) ... but does that make Paul Bucher (or any other recipient, for that matter) any more in league with this guy than Doyle? I doubt it, and judging by the tone McBride uses so does she.

In fact, the only interesting relationship in this potential web of influence is the one between Thompson and Dhaliwal because it very clearly goes beyond the run-of-the-mill donor-candidate bond revealed in the disclosure files. It's really that simple, not some grand media conspiracy to suppress Dhaliwal's bipartisan influence.

*** CORRECTION: My bad: there is a picture of Gov. Baglojevich and Mr. Dhaliwal. Someone alert the Illinois State Board of Elections! I'm sure they'll get right on this ...


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