Money Laundering

In your article “The Power of Dirty Money” [July 14-20], Councilman Wesson argues against public financing of campaigns, asserting that big-money contributors who could no longer give directly to candidates would simply funnel their excess cash into independent expenditures.

Wesson clearly doesn’t understand how Clean Money works. The public financing systems that work (and those proposed, like Proposition 89) have a provision that gives participating candidates additional matching funds (up to a cap) to respond to independent expenditures.

Wesson warns that shrinking the contribution limits to $5 will only cause independent expenditures to balloon even more. Here again, he misunderstands. No one is suggesting the contribution limits be lowered to $5. In Clean Money systems, the $5 contributions in question are just ones a candidate must collect in specified numbers (usually a few hundred) in order to qualify for public funding. Wesson also drags out the oldest and lamest remedy of all: more disclosure. It’s not that it’s a bad idea; it’s just that we’ve already had more than 30 years of such requirements since the Watergate era and we can all see where it’s gotten us. At best, even if it were comprehensive and voters ever bothered to look at it, all disclosure would tell us is which special-interest group bought which candidate, when all we really want to know is that none of them bought any of them . . . which is what Clean Money will do. The system will pay for itself many times over by avoiding expensive boondoggles like those highlighted in the rest of your article. It’s time for pay-to-play politics to end, and Clean Money is the proven way to do it.

Craig Dunkerley

San Jose

Another Satisfied Customer

Another masterpiece, this time by Steven Kotler (“The Heidi Chronicles,” July 7-13). This was one of the most entertaining pieces of journalism I’ve ever read. I must have awakened half my neighborhood with my bursts of laughter. There are qualities of Lenny Bruce’s writing style (his autobiography) in this piece, which goes far beyond the realm of journalism and reaches into the palace of Literature. If Madame Fleiss has her wits about her (which I suspect she does), she should consider doing a book with Mr. Kotler as the ghostwriter.

Gary Eisenberg

Los Angeles

Cornfield, Revisited

Regarding F.X. Feeney’s appreciation of Hubert Cornfield [“Beyond the Imaginary Line,” July 14-20]:

While I was hovering by the entry door at a bachelor party, a bald, academic fellow in coat and tie came up to me and introduced himself: “Good evening. I’m Hubert Cornfield.” He repeated the introduction to the others, but I’m sure no one but me had seen Plunder Road or The 3rd Voice or had the least idea who he was.

It was a rare chance to speak at length with a truly independent filmmaker, and I seized that chance with both hands. But at first everything I said seemed to bother him. He even bridled when I spoke appreciatively of Brando’s performance in The Night of the Following Day. “I told him not to do that,” Cornfield snorted, “but he did it anyway.” He thought that Brando’s interpretation clouded the point of the script — that the whole kidnapping-ransom plot was simply a teenage rich girl’s dream about her chauffeur.

I insisted that the film was clear on that point. I grew desperate to give him, at least, a bit of the pleasure his movies had given me. But every performance, every line of dialogue I brought up from his work was just one more source of annoyance to him.

Finally, I mentioned a scene from The Night of the Following Day that made him smile and purr. After torturing a young Pamela Franklin, leaving her nude, bloodied body hanging from a closet door, a truly hairy and sadistic Richard Boone dons his coat and says, “Thank you, my dear, for a charming interlude.”

Having obtained this conversational foothold, I pressed my advantage. The stiff, somewhat formal demeanor dissipated, and he and I spent the rest of the evening talking film in quick rhythm. At one point he seemed a bit resentful that Roger Corman had somehow earned a retrospective series at the Westside Nuart, whereas even those few who’d seen and remembered Cornfield’s movies didn’t know his name. But by night’s end he turned to the actor who’d accompanied him to the party and hollered, “Mike, this guy’s seen all my pictures!” It was a yelp of joy.

I was glad to provide even that much appreciation to a writer-director who deserved much more. It’s disturbing (and demeaning) that something like Open Water is highly regarded as an “independent” film, while the movies of Hubert Cornfield, a genuine artist, go unnoticed.

Howard Schwab


LA Weekly