A Hays native and Fort Hays State University alumna returned to campus Thursday to offer political science students some insight to possible careers, but she also offered a view of a political system in need of change.
Linda Murphy Tavlarios told a small group of students, faculty and community members in the Memorial Union Prairie Room how, following her 1981 graduation with a political science degree from FHSU, she worked for Sen. Bob Dole, then moved into a career that included working trading commodities for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in London, oil futures for Goldman Sachs in New York City and then for Chicago-based companies in the market data business.
Since 1988, she also has raised money for Republican presidential candidates, including Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“That is a lonely, godforsaken thing to do,” Tavlarios said of campaign fundraising. “It’s hard, and that’s why I have to do it. I look at it as my patriotic duty.
“I think it’s very important who our president is. So I try to get behind people who I think will be good for that job, and I help them raise money,” she said.
She is a “bundler,” she said, not just contributing to campaigns, but gathering other contributors and often working with hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars at a time.
“It's an anachronistic thing to do. It's weird,” she said.
It’s also a system in need of change, she told those gathered.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. FEC — in which the court ruled the federal government’s restrictions on political spending by corporations and unions was unconstitutional — online campaign fundraising and anonymous campaign donations have put democracy in danger, she said.
“Given what’s happened with money, Citizens United and everything, how this changed our government in ways that are pretty bad,” she said. “I think if there’s a tipping point, we have reached it.”
Online and anonymous donations should not be allowed, she said.
“You don’t have to report anything under $200, and when you start seeing millions and millions of people — as someone who knows how hard it is to get money out of people for politicians, I don’t believe it. I frankly don’t believe all the donations I see happening online,” she said.
“I think that’s something we have to be very careful about, and we’re finding out more and more about that now with what’s happening with Russian interference in our elections. I think that’s been going on for quite some time, and not just Russia,” Tavlarios said.
“I don’t think you should be able to give a penny to a politician without owning up to it,” she said.
There is a solution, she said, but it’s something the country is probably not ready for.
“The way to get the influence out of money is to get the money out of politics, and it’s as simple as that,” she said.
“How do you stop it from happening? You go British,” she said in answering a student’s questions of how to stop the influence of big money on politicians, referring to Britain’s more restrictive campaign finance laws.
“The only way to stop people from having access from giving money to politicians is to not let people give money to politicians,” she said.
Aside from a significant crisis in the country, she doesn’t see that happening, however.
She remains somewhat optimistic about the direction of the country and its political system, however, she said.
“My outlook is optimistic because I’m an American and I just know we have all the tools at our disposal to solve the problem. But it does depend on people. I feel like people are a little bit asleep, a little bit complacent,” she said.
“I’m optimistic as long as I keep seeing that people are talking about this and wanting to really get active about it. That’s what it’s going to take, I think. That kind of rabble-rousing thing. We may be coming to that point.”