TC News Desk
May 2, 2006
New York, NY
Jonathan Field, co-founder of That's Capital, says he was eating his breakfast when the phone rang. He thought it was his landlord.
"It's that time of the month when they normally figure it's time to start hounding me for last month's rent," Field recalled.
But it wasn't someone asking for rent money. They were asking Field for something much more important.
"All of a sudden, someone's telling me to hold the phone, as they had a speaker from Congress who wanted to talk to me. They even knew my first as well as last name. I was so surprised I dropped my bowl of oatmeal. Luckily I was pretty much done, anyway."
What happened next is hazy, according to Field, but nevertheless important. Because in the next 20 seconds Field found himself invited to dinner with President Bush, along with other carefully chosen members of this country's great business community, asked to head as a headliner to Washington D.C.
The point of this journey? To act as Honorary Chair of something official-sounding called The Business Advisors Council, a group supporting apparently much-needed tax cuts for business. This personal invite coming courtesy of Representative Thomas M. Reynolds, congressman of the New York's sterling 26th District and a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, according to his Honorable's very honorable web page," one of the most powerful in the House, with legislative authority over economic policy, trade, Social Security, welfare, and health care policy."
And indeed it is. And so Field, never someone to turn down an offer to act as an Honorary Chair (or dishonorary Chair) so long as it includes a decent meal, says he felt a sense of urgency. Or maybe it was ecstasy. Whatever, because...
"You know, I lose a lot of sleep about That's Capital, wondering whether my audience is with me... or against me," Field said sadly. "Sometimes I even wonder if I have an audience, outside of my teenage nephew who I pay to correct my spelling and offer up tips on pop culture so I don't sound uncool. Suddenly, I was being recognized for the peerless... well, I wasn't sure. But they wanted me. Who was I to say no? You know."
Field remembers a sense of shock and, yup, awe at being singled out, one among millions of New Yorkers (and podcasters, too), to sit on an exclusive panel of American business leaders joining Congressman Reynolds and President Bush charting the course of the economy, and hopefully, a nice fluffy desert.
At the end of the Congressman's recorded announcement, a live speaker came on to the phone.
"Sooooo... as part of this package, we'd like to invite you to donate a figure between $300 to $500 to this cause," the speaker said.
"I better get a really fluffy desert for those amounts," Field says he told the guy. "Right downstairs from me, steps away, there's a Krispy Kreme, a Ben & Jerry's, AND a Papaya King Hot Dog joint. Fancy award ceremonies are fine but if you're gonna make me fly real miles as well as pay real dollars, you better put on a real good spread. You know?"
"We know," said the speaker. "So if you pay the full $500 dollars today, not only do you get a big fluffy desert, but you get a roast beef dinner and we send you home with your own personal gavel. With signatures of the Congressman or the President. All this for fighting the spread of high taxes."
"Five hundred bucks. Hmmm. Dinner and a gavel," Field said, trying to calibrate. "But tell me, do I get to choose which signature I get, the President or the Congressman, and, secondly, is it an authentic signature?" Field asked.
"Can you just stop with the detailed questions and think of the issues," the speaker said defensively.
"Every single issue in my life always comes with at least five questions," Field answered equally defensively. "Five just to start. Just ask all of my former girlfriends."
"We didn't call you about your love life," the speaker snapped back.
"What's that got to do with the price of mud?" snapped back Field.
"Because if everyone asked President Bush or Representative Reynolds to personally sign these gavels, don't you think it might give these great leaders carpal tunnel and other syndromes?" the speaker declared triumphantly.
Suddenly Field remembers feeling the slight sense he was being scammed, but also a simultaneous thrill that he might be able to put the House speaker on the defensive.
"Tell me something, if you would. What exactly is the exact number of winners and gavels being given out here?" Field says he said, fighting his confused emotion of attack and defend, and vice-versa. "Numbers would help my decision."
"My computer screen for those numbers is temporarily down, but the important thing is you have been chosen as a leader, and for our leaders we have promised signatures that always look authentic. All of our past winners have agreed that they do, I assure you," the speaker said, probably mistaking ambivalence for doubt in the respondent's voice.
"Really?" Field half asked, half said, an odd telemarketing logic now leading him to buy into his dutiful role as a respondent, doubt taking a nose dive into helpless shame for any instinct to even imagine question marks, nevermind full questions.
"Give me your credit card number immediately," said the speaker, according to Field, "and I will personally guarantee that the good Congressman will give his up-most commitment to getting a personal signature on your personal gavel."
At that firm promise, That's Capital's publisher Field finally (and shamelessly) agreed, giving up this month's rent to join others at the White House. Now if only his credit card hadn't expired just this past weekend, for which he does feel a wee bit embarrassed.
All that said, Field says he is relieved that one of New York's great politicians with the stature of sitting on a government body that commands the future of taxation of our great country is finally looking out for taxpayers, current as well as future.
"Not only is this visionary guy not just looking to cut taxes," Field told us. "He's actually spending the public's budget on something worthwhile. Telemarketing campaigns. And they say Republicans are antagonistic to real science. Hah, I say. Hah!"
Asked to explain what he meant, and the tone of his "hah!," Field uttered another "hah."
"Efficiencies. Market efficiencies. Hire marketers to lead a telemarketing campaigns to raise money by calling America's top business leadership, along with anyone else in the phone book, to get their credit card dollars, and then he earns big buy-in for big buck donations from these big buck CEOs and other big vision leaders with a promise of a three course, five dollar roast beef dinner and a two dollar gavel. Just do the math. I mean if that's not an example of smart Republicans doing government, I can't wait to see what they think of next. How about a Labor Day telethon to raise morale for the Iraqis and money to buy American soldiers their own vests? How about that, mister fix the handicapped, Jerry Lewis!"
Field says his only regret is that he won't make it to the dinner for the fluffy desert. On the other hand, he's delighted to have been chosen by Congressman Thomas M. Reynold's in such a brilliantly effective delineation of who's who in leading American business to raise funding to... cut funding.
If you want to ask why Congressman Reynold's hasn't invited you for your own award dinner, call or write him here.
Field believes there's at least a 200 percent chance that Reynolds will be delighted to get your credit card number, too. Hopefully yours won't have been expired.
And in between getting to talk to Congressman Reynolds, check out the bravest political commentator since Jon Stewart, speaking on America's best reality television channel, C-Span. Namely Stephen Colbert at the White House Press Dinner. Blog sites like Crooks and Liars, as well as web zines like Salon have done an excellent job at both offering it up, and pointing out how gutsy it was.
Watch it and then think about Reynold's dialing for dollars. Confirms my sense that the clowns running Washington are a lot less funny but much more insidious than any comics on television, even such violent novelist Bozos like Bill "bust 'em up" O'Reilly.
For a quick download, go to Crooks and Liars.
Or... Video Dog - Salon.com.