Democracy Connection, a new website based in Medford, poses this question: “Have something you want to tell your local Paper, Senator, Congressman or even the President?”
Well, who doesn’t? Thanks to our modern world, we can easily send our thoughts via email to our leaders. In fact, it’s free.
Except that the people behind Democracy Connection want to charge you to do it. Click the “$ Get Connected” button on the site’s home page and pay a $25 annual fee.
“Be heard with the Megaphone,” the site promises.
For trying to get Americans to pay for access they’re already entitled to—and for obscuring his less-than-democratic connection to this ploy—we award this week’s Rogue to a state lawmaker, Rep. Sal Esquivel (R-Medford).
You can look high and low and not see Esquivel linked directly to Democracy Connection.
The site operates out of the Medford office where Esquivel and partner Bruce Hough run Impact Marketing (“a leader in political consulting, campaign operations and telemarketing needs”), and where Taxpayers Union USA, a PAC that Esquivel helped create, is located.
Hough is chairman of Democracy Connection—all of which is cozy, but doesn’t directly tie Esquivel to the website.
For that we turn to the state representative’s wife.
Jan Esquivel, Democracy Connections’ vice chairman, tells the Rogue Desk that her husband helped come with the idea. She says Sal has kept his name off the business, but he’s the boss. “Ultimately, he’s in charge,” Jan Esquivel says of Sal. “We work for him.”
We caught up with Sal Esquivel, who told us his partner, Hough, came up with the idea and that he has no direct link. But Esquivel says he heartily supports Democracy Connection and helps behind the scenes.
Esquivel says Democracy Connection provides a service for people who want to send messages to elected leaders but don’t want look up 600-plus email addresses.
“It can save folks a heck of a lot of time,” Esquivel says.
The Rogue Desk notes that Taxpayers Union USA promotes a similar deal on its Facebook page. On Aug. 1 Jan Esquivel used an address associated with the state rep’s campaign website, salesquivel.com, to push Democracy Connection: “Sign up today to use this powerful tool to really step up our game here in Oregon and allow our conservative Oregonians to be heard. Just $25 a year gives you unlimited access directly into the offices in Washington, D.C.”
Sal Esquivel says he sees nothing improper with what Democracy Connection is trying to do, or his support of it.
“We are doing a service,” he says. “If that’s unethical, so be it.”