HACKENSACK, N.J. — It drizzled at the gas station but not in front of the supermarket a few minutes later. Congressman Andrew Maguire, D-N.J., hardly noticed either weather pattern. He was busy handing out to motorists and consumers material on his congressional record and asking for their votes. Twice he pumped gas and talked politics with the driver. The oil industry is pumping money into the 7th District to defeat this progressive, three-term legislator. He has been an informed and determined nemesis in Congress to the petroleum companies, fighting their drive for monopoly profits and political hegemony.
Maguire’s opponent is Marge Roukema. She comes to her campaign strongly backed by the Big Oil, Big Gas and Big Chemical producers. The long arm of Texas oil is reaching into Bergen County, N.J. Roukema is receiving contributions from the Dallas Energy Political Action Committee, for example, Southland Corporation Political Action Committee, the Texas Utilities Company and other kindred sources.
It may seem remarkable that a man like Andrew Maguire is in a close race, even acknowledging that this congressional district of New Jersey traditionally has been a Republican stronghold. At age 41, with a Harvard Ph.D. in government, Maguire has performed like a congressman’s congressman. Smart, hard-working, personable, he has a sterling voting record on consumer, environmental, governmental reform, tax justice and energy issues.
His office is known for its sensitive constituent service. He spends much time with his district’s economic and health problems.
But these are precisely the reasons — being pro-people and re-electable — which have attracted corporate money to his challenger. Maguire could be around a long time in congress and possibly be the state’s next senator.
A much larger gusher of oil money is pouring into the campaign of Jack Fields, the 29-year-old Republican opponent of congressman Bob Eckardt, the scholarly, populist Democrat from Houston. A genial rock of integrity, Eckardt to has stood up to the oil industry lobbyists in the ‘epic struggles over oil-pricing, chemical waste poisons and monopoly practices. The Exxons do not like such independence. They like their Texans to come to Congress marinated in oil.
Fields is conducting what may be the most expensive campaign for a House seat in Texas history —some $700,000 worth. Eckardt’s district in Houston is 30 percent black and Hispanic. It contains a heavily polluted petro-chemical area with a solid blue-collar population. But there is a high voting turnout from the white-collar employees of various companies that form Texas’s corporate elite.
At age 67, Eckardt still is going full speed. His investigative subcommittee is active and his detailed statements on the House floor models of reason and reflection. Even his adversaries in Congress have difficulty disliking the burly Texan, who for years rode his bicycle to work every day.
But the Exxons know that if he is re-elected, Eckardt will become chairman of a key House energy subcommittee and they want to stop that promotion on Nov. 4.
California politico Jesse Unruh once said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Unless the good citizens of this republic become more involved in the shaping of our political government, the relentless march of Mammon will fuse Washington with Wall Street.