Burr should deliver papers elsewhere
Last Monday, Senator Richard Burr announced that he was donating all of his official papers to his alma mater, Wake Forest University. During his presentation, Burr said the collection is for, “all who are passionate to lead.” I hope that’s the case, but the sad irony is that Burr has spent his entire political career failing to lead. Burr’s “Go along, get along, quid pro quo” approach to elective office has been evident ever since he was first elected to Congress in 1994. Since then he has voted in lock-step with his fellow Republicans, and with a slew of special interests. But partisan voting is one thing, avarice voting is quite another. The fact is that Burr has received a fortune in donations from industries whose products and positions have brought hardship to millions of people, and he has enriched himself through the longevity those donations afforded him.
During his 2016 re-election campaign, Burr promised to lower the tax burden for everyone, but in December of last year, he voted to raise the taxes on 55 percent of North Carolinians. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, those tax hikes amount to $900 per household per year over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, Burr voted to lower taxes for wealthy folks like himself, who will save an average of $115,000 per year. It’s just one small example of how Burr is able to increase his net worth simply by staying in office long enough to enact policies that can bolster his wealth.
As a senator, he sits on a committee that has oversight of the FDA, Medicare and Medicaid. But instead of using his position to help people, Burr has voted with the interests of industries who he should be trying to regulate. According to STATnews.com, companies that manufacture drugs and medical devices gave a million dollars to his last campaign, and, in return, Burr pressed for lower taxes on Big Pharma. He also received big bucks from the insurance industry, therefore he opposed the ACA, voted to privatize Medicare, and refused to take on Blue Cross Blue Shield for price gouging.
And then there was Burr’s vote to oppose passage of the STOCK Act, which would prohibit members of Congress from trading on and profiting from insider knowledge of the stock markets. Sean Galitz of CBS.com suggests that Burr opposed the Act because he held stock in a number of companies who were “lobbying for several energy and regulatory bills that (Burr) co-sponsored,” and that those companies had donated a half million dollars to Burr’s campaign.
But perhaps the most disturbing example of Burr’s special interest votes has been his continuing refusal to support substantive gun reforms. Rob Schofield of the Progressive Pulse reported that in 2016, Burr voted against a bill that would have required universal background checks and limit the sale of guns to known terrorists. He has also remained steadfast in his opposition to banning assault rifles. Becky Ceartas, director of the North Carolinians Against Gun Violence wrote that Burr’s votes were a quid pro quo for the staggering sums of money he received from the NRA, which in his last campaign amounted to $7 million. “Burr chose not to put safety of our families first, pushing that aside to demonstrate (his) loyalty to the gun lobby,” Ceartas said. She’s right. Instead of fighting for bans and restrictions on guns, Burr has looked the other way after every massacre because that’s what the NRA expects him to do.
Campaign contributions from special interests like the NRA, Big Pharma and the insurance industry, along with votes against the STOCK Act, have enabled Burr to significantly increase his personal wealth. According to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Burr’s net worth in 1994 was $189,000. By 2004, it was over $2.6 million. That’s an increase in net worth of 500 percent during a period when, according to Ballotpedia.org, the average American household net worth increased by less than one percent.
I remember a time when elected officials acted like statesmen, and never compromised their ethics or their votes for political or personal gain. They arrived in Washington with very little wealth and they left the same way. Now that he’s no longer running for office, Richard Burr is being portrayed as a leader in the Senate. He is finally coming into his own as a statesman, but that’s only because he’s already come into everything else. I, therefore, call upon Burr to do the decent thing, and have his papers removed from Wake Forest and delivered to a more appropriate venue, like NRA headquarters, or to the cages at a local animal shelter. Either place will give Burr’s papers the respect they deserve.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).