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RE: Etiquette

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What follows is a repeat of a post that I submitted yesterday afternoon.  I have been told that it did not go through.  If you did receive the original, then please accept my humble apology for this duplicate...

Gail S. Kelley, P.E. wrote:

I stand by my opinions on people who:

a.) brag about obtaining work by holding fund-raising breakfasts for politicians.  (It seems to me that straight prostitution would be easier,  think of it, no dirty dishes to wash.)

b.)  appear to think that the rest of the world is interested in their political views

I do notice that I made a grammatical error in my remark about pancake breakfasts though.  Does that make me ignorant? 

Dear Ms. Kelley:

I learned long ago not to judge the intelligence of engineers, American or foreign, by their email grammar.  Thus, I have no opinion whatsoever on your intelligence or ignorance.  However, based on your comments above, it is obvious that you are uninformed, unenlightened, or simply naive.

The American political system depends upon private-sector campaign contributions, and elections would be virtually impossible without them.  Labor unions recognized this simple truth more than 100 years ago.  Employers and professionals learned it somewhat more recently.  That is why our laws explicitly provide for political action committees (or PACs).  PACs are not limited to America's big corporations.  Many AE firms and professional engineering associations (ACEC, NSPE) operate PACs.  My firm operates a state PAC and a federal PAC.  Employees are encouraged to participate in either or both PACs, but their contributions are entirely voluntary.  Throughout the year, the PAC trustees determine which candidates to support and in what amounts.  All of this is published.  You call this prostitution, but I call it good citizenship ... supporting good government.

Some candidates, such as county commissioners, occasionally call and ask if we will help organize fund-raisers on their behalves.  I have received many such calls, and have sometimes agreed to serve on their steering committees.  Such service usually entails meeting with the candidate and several other steering committee members (a.k.a., competitors), dividing up a spreadsheet of prospective contributors, and then writing and calling those prospective contributors to solicit their donations to the candidate.  Usually, but not always, the fund-raising campaign ends with a high-cholesterol (pancake-free) appreciation breakfast at a local country club.  Virtually all of the major AE firms, as well as many minority and women-owned AE firms, end up contributing and attending the breakfast.  Most of the important state and local politicians also attend.  All contributors are listed in the breakfast program, and their contributions are published in the candidate's campaign finance reports which are open to public scrutiny.  In summary, all of this is entirely above-board.  Totally legal.  Totally ethical.  It's the American way!

Now then, what does an engineer gain by participating in such activities?  He or she simply gains access to their elected officials.  By that, I mean they get to know them, and vice versa.  For example, at my most recent county commissioner fund-raising breakfast late last year, I was introduced to the new mayor of a fast-growing suburb of Dallas.  We chatted for about 30 minutes on a wide variety of topics.  Consequently, when I or my colleagues call on him in the future, he will no longer be a stranger (and neither will we).  With enough calls and visits, we might even get on his radar screen for future city projects.  All of this is called "networking", and it is the preferred method of pursuing meaningful projects.  By contrast, many engineers (especially structurals) prefer to simply wait at the architect's back door with their hands out, only to complain that they are subsequently treated like stray dogs.  That might be fine for some, but I prefer to be proactive!


Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas

France would be a wonderful country,
were it not inhabited by the French.