Here we are in small town, West Virginia.
Berkeley Springs, Morgan County, West Virginia, to be exact.
Where our member of Congress — Shelley Moore Capito (R) — comes to see us maybe twice a year.
Will citizens be allowed to ask her some questions?
Depends on which citizens you are talking about.
And it depends on what questions you might want to ask.
If you want to ask her about the arts and future earmarks to the Ice House — sure, no problem.
But yesterday, we wanted to ask her about campaign cash.
Specifically, campaign cash she has taken from the insurance industry.
Over $330,000 over the course of her career.
And is that why she opposes a single payer national health insurance reform?
The only reform — according to Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine — that would cover everyone and control costs.
Or the over $300,000 she has taken from the mining industry.
Is that why she supports moutaintop removal — a mining practice that is destroying the state’s most valuable resource?
Or the more than $400,000 she has taken from Wall Street interests.
And according to recent press reports, her extensive financial entanglement with Citigroup.
Is that why she opposes new financial regulatory reform?
Or her ongoing support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And when you look up Capito’s donors from Morgan County — they are dominated by the more than $20,000 from Ted and Patti Morgan — Ted being the CEO of STS International — Morgan County’s premiere defense contractor — and Patti being his wife.
So, yes, these were informed questions.
Based on public documents.
But they were reasonable questions.
That your average corporate controlled politician could swat away with the flick of a dismissive sound bite.
But not Capito.
Capito doesn’t want to confront the corrupt reality that she is mired in.
Instead, she calls the police to cordon off the questioners.
This happened last August when she came to Berkeley Springs for a ribbon cutting ceremony.
She said she wanted to hear concerns from citizens — but only certain citizens and certain concerns.
Want to ask about campaign cash driven politics?
We have a group of police officers to handle you.
Yesterday, Capito was in town to hand over a U.S. government check for $200,000 to the Morgan Arts Council.
The event took place at the Ice House.
About 30 citizens attended the event.
Two of us – RUSSELL MOKHIBER of Single Payer Action and Berkeley Springs High School student Emily Yarrington – stood stage right as Jeanne Mozier and Bob Marggraf gave introductory remarks.
And Mozier and Marggraf accepted the ceremonial check from Capito.
During the event, we were surrounded by two state police officers and two police officers from the Town of Bath.
Four police officers.
After the event, as we approached Capito, the police surrounded her.
Capito ignored a question about her opposition to national health insurance.
Yarrington had met Capito at a Girls State event in Wheeling last week.
She did get a question in.
Did Capito think that there were any problems with the current health care system in America?
Yes, Capito said.
The new health care law would force employers to switch insurance.
Nothing about tens of thousands dying from lack of health care.
Nothing about people going bankrupt because they can’t afford health insurance.
If you wanted to play ball with Capito yesterday, you got the check, felt good and had a good time.
If you wanted to confront the ugly reality Capito represents, you were surrounded by police, made to feel like an intruder, and left thinking that silence is golden.
RUSSELL MOKHIBER is the editor of Single Payer Action.