As I Enter Politics Should I Go For The Honeypot Or The Book Deal?

Gary Baumgarten
3 min readApr 1, 2021

I can’t quite decide which political office to run for. But before I make up my mind, I know I have to consider what perks I can get from the job.

Before I delve any further into this enthralling subject I’ll point out that I’m writing about an hour into April first. So please take with a grain of salt anything I say.

But if I were to run for office, it seems to me I’d have to choose carefully. Do I want to run for Congress and increase my chances of being befriended by an attractive Chinese spy? Or do I want to run for governor and increase my chances of signing a $4 million book deal?

The first option is, of course, the one from which California Congressman Eric Swalwell benefited. And apparently he was not the only California politician to be so tempted.

The second option is a reference to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who reportedly was offered $4 million for his book deal.

Remember the circa 1980s American Express ad campaign, “Membership has its privileges?” It seems it applies to politicians as well. But should it?

Politicians are supposed to be public servants. But it seems that many elected officials focus first on personal privilege.

In his 1970 essay, “ The Servant As Leader “ Robert K. Greenleaf wrote, “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.” This obviously contrasts with the concept of a leader embracing the privilege of his or her position. If the public is helped along the way well, that’s a welcome but perhaps unexpected outcome.

In my decades of reporting I have found a handful of politicians who really represented Greenleaf’s concept. One who often comes to mind is Thomas J. Coogan, who was first elected as mayor of Melvindale Michigan in 1977 and then re-elected in 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993.

What was the secret to his success? Coogan was a public servant in every sense of the word. He owned a barbershop in town so everyone knew the best way to get the mayor’s ear was to just walk into his shop and talk to him.