Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich seems to have a thing with college students. One of the most distinguishing features of his quirky campaign for Governor of Massachusetts has been the sheer size of his intern corps. Traveling through the Commonwealth in his bright blue campaign trailer, the “Reich Reform Express,” Reich could always rely on his devoted young supporters to show up at every stump stop, regardless of whether any actual voters bothered to come too.
In a single day here at Yale, I encountered two fellow Yalies, not from Massachusetts, yet still knowledgeable about Reich’s candidacy for Governor. Reich has an asset, perhaps his unabashed liberalism or vibrant speaking style that captures the adoration of idealistic college students. His mantra of making government more honest speaks directly to a generation that has grown cynical of the constant spin that clouds American political life. With a series of deceptions and personal attacks, however, Robert Reich has undermined his credo of making government more accountable. By this means, he has violated the trust and support that so many young idealists have conferred him.
Reich has constantly stated throughout the campaign that he is not taking any money from lobbyists. He even went so far as to challenge two of his other Democratic opponents who are taking lobbyist dollars to follow his supposed lead and refuse such contributions. Surely to Reich’s dismay, his canard of rejecting lobbyist contributions was busted when the Boston Herald reported that not only had Reich accepted over $1,000 in lobbyist donations, but that he was going to be holding a fund-raiser thrown by a Massachusetts lobbyist the next week (upon being caught red-handed, Reich cancelled the event). The situation was especially ironic considering the self-righteousness with which the hypocritical Reich had propped himself. Prior to beginning to criticize his fellow Democrats for taking lobbyist contributions, Reich ought to have examined his very own practices.
When Reich entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary this past January, he promised the voters of Massachusetts that he would run under the strict guidelines of the Clean Elections Law. This landmark campaign finance reform measure was passed as a ballot initiative in 1998 by 67 percent of Massachusetts voters, providing public financing to candidates who voluntarily agree to strict fund-raising and spending limits. Five days after clean elections advocates won a legal battle to get the law funded, Reich’s fundraising records revealed that on Jan. 31 alone he had raised 105 contributions that were over the Clean Elections limit of $100; a total of $34,000 that would have disqualified Reich from running clean. Reich was speaking out of both sides of his mouth, telling the voters that he would run as a Clean Elections candidate while simultaneously raising hordes of big money donations.
Reich’s sanctimony is truly the most frustrating aspect of his character. From the beginning, Reich has betrayed the principle of honesty on which his campaign was supposedly founded, a principle that especially strikes a chord with younger voters. Reich should follow the lead of his former Clinton administration colleague Andrew Cuomo and drop out of this gubernatorial race. Professor Reich, it’s time to return to the chalkboard.
James Kirchick is a freshman in Pierson College. He is a resident of Massachusetts.