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Ask candidates if we're in a new Gilded Age

ASK THIS | May 05, 2006

The division of labor for politicians and moneyed groups, as seen by Boies Penrose 110 years ago: You send us to office, we help you make money. What else is new?

By Morton Mintz

(For Senate and House candidates):
Q. How do you respond to people who say we are we in a new Gilded Age? That Senators and Representatives in Congress mainly pass laws to help bring big profits to major campaign contributors?   

During the so-called Gilded Age, railroad and oil moguls put and kept Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania in public office. For 12 years starting in 1884, he was in the state legislature, first as a representative, then as a senator. In 1896, only months before being elected to the U.S. Senate, he told a business audience:

"I believe in the division of labor. You send us to Congress; we pass laws under which you make money...and out of your profits you further contribute to our campaign funds to send us back again to pass more laws to enable you to make more money."

Penrose, a Republican, was re-elected four times. His quarter-century as a U.S. Senator ended with his death in 1921.

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