Skip to content

Privacy, Machine Politics

And The Difference Between An Act Of Charity And A Business Transaction


Our mayor took a not-so-subtle swipe at Councilman Bean and I Wednesday evening by mentioning that the identity of the recipients of all the money being distributed from the town’s collaboration with the Robin Hood foundation would be kept strictly private.  The implication is that we are just a couple of mean guys who are against helping people and want to embarrass the hurricane victims who accept help, and that he, on the other hand, is the tireless protector of the privacy rights of the people.  I hope nobody actually believes that.

There is a problem with what Belmar is doing and Bean understands it and I understand it and the state Department of Community Affairs understands it, but Mayor Doherty doesn’t understand it.  Actually I think he’s smarter than that and does understand it but pretends not to.

When somebody helps somebody who can do nothing for them in return, that’s what makes that charity.  When you donate to worthy organizations such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Belmar Women’s Club, you know that the recipients of the money they distribute can not do anything for them in return.  It is you, not the recipients, that they depend on for their existence so their sole motivation is to distribute contributions in a way that pleases you.  But if the organization chosen to hand out donations can get something useful from the recipients in return then a conflict is created.

When donated money is distributed by a government entity it automatically buys them political support, even if that was not their intention.  (Of course in Belmar’s case I strongly suspect that is their intention.)  Notice that all those people at the meetings praise Matt, not the donors.  Even though the money didn’t come from him, he becomes their benefactor.  But un-like the case of normal charitable organizations there is something the beneficiaries can do for him.  They can vote Democratic.

Actually I feel really bad for victims who had to accept their aid from Belmar rather than from an un-conflicted source.  If that help had been given by a real charity they could have taken it knowing that nothing was expected of them in return.  They could accept it with a clear conscience.  But when a politician is the one you have to receive the help from you are torn and can’t feel as good about the help.  You feel obligated to support him politically, but if you do then it starts to feel like a business deal.  It has to feel just a little bit dirty, like you’re being used.  It’s really unfair to put the victims in that situation.  I am certain that nobody ever felt like they were used by de Paul or the Women’s Club.

It is also this mayor’s fault that the identities of the recipients may not remain private.  By injecting himself into to donation distribution process he has made it the public’s business.  The donated money becomes the property of the borough and nothing the borough does can or should be secret.  Private charities don’t have that problem.  And his professed support for privacy rights rings a little hollow considering that he supports putting the name and address of someone who might contribute $50 to my campaign up on the town’s web site for everyone to see, but wants to be able to give somebody hundreds of dollars of the borough’s money in total secrecy.   And then of course there was the attempt to require all tenants in Belmar to turn over to the government a copy of their lease and copy of their driver’s license and the licenses of everybody living with them.  These are not the actions of someone who has a sincere respect for privacy rights.

So what lesson have we taken away from this?  I’m sure to some it will be that David Schneck and Jim Bean are mean guys who are against charity and want to embarass hurricane victims.  But for most of you I’m hoping that it will be that if your sole motivation is to help people in need, you should do it in a way that keeps the taint of politics out of it.




  1. Tom Burke wrote:

    Really really well stated. I do hope the the majority of our residents read and understand the issue here. I think, personally, that it is time to look at our local government structure. We may be better served if we move toward a “weak” Mayor form of government. One can see the difference by doing a google search on the subject of weak/strong mayor government. Some good material can be found on the subject.

    Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  2. claire deicke wrote:

    I take issue with the statement and suggestion that our donations due to Sandy had political overtones (the statement that says…..”I strongly suspect”……) I was thrilled and excitred that we were able to support and help oour residents…….it never entered my thoughts that we’d gain anything from it… I stated at the meeting before last, my family and I, including my Mom and Dad, would not want the world to know that we received charity of any kind is a matter of privacy, despite what the blog says….

    Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared.