Pat DiNizio

From the Smithereens to the Senate: An Interview with

Pat DiNizio

Fans of the Smithereens may have been surprised when frontman Pat DiNizio threw his hat in the ring for the New Jersey seat in the U.S. Senate that’s being vacated by retiring Democrat Frank Lautenberg, since the band’s music has never really carried a political message. Don’t mistake that for disinvolvement on the part of DiNizio, though — he’s had an interest in public service since his teen years, and even served two terms as a Republican Committeeman at the age of 18. Music was a stronger call, though, and DiNizio spent the next 20 years leading the Smithereens to a successful career, with hits like “Blood & Roses,” “A Girl Like You,” and “Only A Memory” furthering a career that would see them get very popular for a time before settling into a long career as a working band with a sizable cult following.

Fed up with recent trends in politics ranging from the Clinton impeachment to the desperate need for campaign finance reform, DiNizio felt the call to public service once more. Wanting to help make the world a better place (in no small part for his daughter), he spent some time considering his options before casting his lot with the Reform Party. While expressing reservations about the party’s choice of Pat Buchannan as this year’s Presidential candidate, DiNizio feels a kinship with the ideals of the Reform Party, especially on the issues of term limits, the exclusion of social issues such as abortion and gay rights from political agendas, and campaign finance reform. Not one to leave his music behind, though, DiNizio is using music in his campaign to “Rock Politics — Jersey Style.” His campaign stops not only include the usual speeches and shaking hands with voters, DiNizio gives a concert at each stop.

In conversation, DiNizio is very sincere — throughout our interview, he not only called me “my friend,” he really meant it. He’s also not afraid to stand up for what he believes in, and struck me as one of the most open, honest, and compassionate people I’ve ever spoken with. If I lived in New Jersey, he’d not only have my vote, I’d work for his campaign — it’s refreshing to find someone that is willing to put their money where their mouth is and try to make a difference. With more than half of New Jersey’s voters registered as Independents, he’s poised to do it, too.

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What sparked your decision to run for the Senate?

I had been involved with politics when I was a young man. I was a Republican Party Committeeman, I held elected public office for two terms when I was 18. I was always interested in public service, [but] at that point in my life, I felt the call to music more strongly than public service. So, we started the Smithereens, and we did pretty well, over the years. We’re still together, and it was 20 years, in March, with the same four members in the band. But I guess idea started over a year ago, when I saw the Clinton impeachment hearings on TV that brought me to tears, that I realized I wanted to put my best foot forward and get involved.

Do you feel your music carries a political message?

The four of us in the Smithereens agreed early on in our career that we were not going to be a political band. There was very little political sentiment in any of the songs that we ever wrote. There was a song that appeared on our album Blow-Up called “Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong,” that was probably the most inherently political song I ever wrote, and that was really about myself, and my generation. I graduated in 1973, I remember protests and marches against the war in Vietnam, I remember seeing all that stuff, and I even have my draft card from the Vietnam War. It was a rather idealistic generation that wound up really doing nothing, and the song is called “Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong,” and the lyrics of the first verse are, “We used to walk in the sun with our heads held up high/We used to stand on our own and we never asked why/We used to do all the things we were told not to do/Now we all stand in line like the rest of them do/And now it’s gone, gone, gone/Tell me when did things go so wrong/We used to laugh in the face of the things that they said/And if we had to be them that we’d rather be dead/And now we all stand in line like the rest of them do/.” That’s a political song, probably the only one I wrote. We always stayed away from it, because we were aware that a lot of our fellow musicians would jump on the political bandwagon in an attempt to save their career or bring publicity to their career, and we were always dead-set against it.

We had gotten some inside information about the Live Aid event; we were told specifically that the money never went where it was supposed to go. Our idea of a benefit was to hold a rent party or an event for someone where the money went directly into their hand. A friend of ours had breast cancer, and we held an event for her, and she stood at the door and collected the money. You follow? That’s the crucial difference. We were always suspect of involving politics in music. I’m using music in my campaign as educate the young and to inform the older people as to what our country was and what it can be again. People know me for my music. I can’t disassociate myself from my music and run the sort of typical boring campaign that everyone else runs. It’s not the same. I’m not that sort of person. I’m really a citizen politician. I’m not a career politician, I’m not a super-affluent guy, but people do know me through my music and it does come into play, and as I did in my press conference announcing officially my candidacy, I gave a speech and the speech was very, very tough. It was a real speech, it was talking about issues, it was talking about real things. But then I pulled the guitar out, and I did a song called “I Believe,” which appeared on our last album, which is really the theme of the campaign. I’m not afraid to do that. I have to do things that are different. I’m calling my campaign “alternative politics,” in just the way that you’d refer to some music as being alternative. [laughs]

So you’re using music in your campaign, but whether the campaign succeeds or not, when you return to the Smithereens, you’re probably not going to be introducing more political themes to your music.

Well, first, we’re not going to lose, we’re going to win. That’s the answer to the question. I plan on bringing the guys with me to Washington. I could not abandon my fellow travelers through the musical wasteland over the past 20 years, I wouldn’t do that.

There are 850 thousand registered Democrats, 1.1 million registered Republicans, and an astonishing 2.9 million Independent voters in the state of New Jersey. If 40% of the people vote – at the very end, we can talk about winning or losing, but win, lose, or draw, we are going to get a lot of people registered, and a lot of people voting that have never voted before, that have lost faith in the political system, that can’t identify with candidates – we’re going to get these people to vote. And that’s a political statement, my friend. We’re going to do that, at the very least, and at the bottom line, we’re going to create a new political movement in New Jersey, and a new third party. That’s something historic, and I’m proud to be part of that. If that’s what I bring to the table, as you said, win or lose, I’ve accomplished something. If I can put forth ideas and ideals that I think are important, I’m going to do it. It’s time for me to speak my mind and to become involved, and that’s why I’m doing this. I’m doing this for my daughter, I’m doing this to leave a legacy for her and for other kids, to be the sort of candidate or public servant that truly reflects the will of the people, who is not beholden to special interest groups, to soft money or PAC money, or any influence at all. Something that is really of the people and for the people, and this is what is sorely needed in politics, and it’s what the original ideals of the Reform Party were about. It was about average American citizens who want to serve their country and their fellow citizens faithfully and honestly, stepping forward, putting their best foot forward, and serving, and then leaving, and going home. We believe in term limits. Why should any politician be in office 30 or 40 years when the President of the United States is only allowed two terms?

I feel the call to public service. I do care about people very much, I’ve cared about them for 20 years. We always try to make our audience at any given Smithereens show a part of the band or a part of the show. Whenever they came to a Smithereens show – and still do – they’re looking into a mirror. They’re looking at a bunch of guys that are blue collar, working-class men from New Jersey who worked in refineries, and worked on garbage trucks like I did for 16 years, who they can relate to, that they can identify with. Some people came to a solo show that I did, a living room concert, they liked the show, and this group of four people, this man poked me in the chest, and came up to me and said, “hey Pat,” and he poked me in the chest and he said “we heard about your campaign,” and I said “You did?” And he goes, “yeah, and we’re gonna vote for you.” And I said, “I’m really flattered, but why?” He goes, “We’re gonna vote for you because you’re one of us. You’re from the neighborhood, you still live in the neighborhood, you care about New Jersey, and you’re one of us.” That’s the bottom line. We need more of this in politics.

Is that what drew you to the Reform Party, that whole kind of populist attitude?

Yeah, absolutely. I’m pretty much a centralist, I’m neither far left nor far right, but I was drawn to the Reform Party because of their ideals and the notion of campaign finance reform and average citizens serving – all of that. It is very much a populist party. It’s not what it was, and we’re on the horns of a dilemma at this point, with the controversy raging right now in Long Beach with the convention. I had to publicly disassociate myself from Pat Buchannan. It is my opinion that he’s turning the Reform Party, a party that is not about social issues – there are people in the Reform Party who are pro-choice, and there are people who are against abortion, and we all co-exist. It’s not about that, it’s about those other things that we spoke about. Now, Buchannan, I believe, is turning the party into a right-wing militia, a far-right militia, and I can[base ‘]t play that game, I won’t. So, in my press conference that was written about in The New York Times, I told him that I would not support his candidacy. And now we’re seeing what’s going on. I’m supposed to go to the Reform Party convention tomorrow, and I’m not going to go. I’m not going to be caught in the crossfire.

It’s interesting how that’s taken a turn with Buchannan, it’s a little bit disingenuous of him to even come into the Reform Party.

I believe that you’re right. I think you can view this as his last gasp, as it were, but I also think that he was looking at the $12.5 million dollars in matching funds that’s sitting there left over from Perot’s last Presidential bid, and I think based on the information that I have, to a large degree, his motivation is about the money. That will get me in trouble with the party for saying that, but I’m already in trouble because I’m not supporting him. What can you do? I’m not going to run a campaign if I can’t speak my mind.

Well, that’s worked for [Minnesota Governor] Jesse Ventura, as much as some people don’t take him seriously, I think he’s trying to abide by what he believes in.

You gotta take Jesse seriously. I think that he’s a serious man. I think that he has become a politician, that’s what he does, he’s the Governor of Minnesota. I think there have been no complaints about him in his Governorship, certainly I think he’s got grander aspirations. I think that there’s a certain value to being underestimated. Bill Bradley was a New York Knick, he was a champion New York Knick, he was a celebrity. He’s done a fairly good job doing what he does now. It’s been proven that entertainers can make a successful transition into politics. Obviously, we had an actor become President. Senator Fred Thompson is a great Senator from Tennessee who was an actor. You’ve got Jesse Ventura, who was a wrestler, Sonny Bono was an entertainer, it’s been done time and time again. There have been people that came from the private sector like Linda McCarthy from Long Island, whose husband sadly was killed in the Long Island train massacre. She’s a good Representative.

You don’t need to be a career politician, you need to have people skills, a lot of life experience, you need to have empathy for other human beings, and compassion for people, and you need to be willing to stand or fall based on your stand on the issues. You can’t vacillate. I got a call from a reporter from the Associated Press yesterday to ask my opinion on something, because the other two candidates in this race, the Senate race in New Jersey, won’t talk to the press! You’ve got a Republican candidate, Bob Franks, and you’ve got Jon Corzine, who pretty much bought his way onto the ticket for New Jersey, that wouldn’t talk to [the AP reporter]. Now, why are you running if you’re not going to put yourself at risk by speaking frankly on the issues? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Certainly, I’m going to put my foot in my mouth a few times in the course of this thing, and that’s show biz, you know? [laughs]

It’s funny you should say that, because I always find it amazing when we have trouble getting interviews with bands or artists that we know have a new record out, or are getting ready to go out on tour, or whatever, and obviously need the press to try to help them out…

They’re lucky, to begin with, that they have a record deal. I always said that, I’ve said that from day one. Anybody that was gracious enough and wanted to talk to me about my music, it’s a gift. Anytime you’re lucky enough to get on the radio to speak about what you believe in, or to be given the opportunity, if you have a record out, or you’re campaigning, to push that project or to let people know about it, to inform them — anytime people give you that airtime, it’s a gift. Anytime you capture anyone’s ear or imagination for ten seconds of their busy life, it’s a gift. I don’t respect anyone that doesn’t respect other people who are doing their jobs, like yourself, and writers, and on-air personalities and such. Everyone’s got a job to do.

Do you think that it’s still treated as a novelty for someone like yourself to get into politics? Although you’re obviously very sincere about what you’re doing, I would think that a lot of media would come at you with the angle of, “Oh, look, a rock star is running for Senate.”

Here’s what’s happening. That point of view is rapidly disappearing, especially in my home state, because we are relentless in our pursuit, we are relentless in our vision quest, as I like to say. We’re speaking seriously about the issues. I’m a serious man. I’m not doing this to complete my resume, I’m doing this because I want to change the world. I’m doing this because I feel the call to public service, because I care about people, because I care about society, and because I love my country, I love America. I’m a citizen politician. My campaign is not about doing things the way they’ve ever been done before. If I have to exploit my moderately ex-rock star status, I’m gonna do it. If it’s for the greater good, I’m gonna do it. People will take you seriously by the words that you speak and by your tenacity and by your ability to put forth those ideas. The more you’re out there, the more you speak about it, people are going to know that you are a serious candidate, and that’s what’s happening with my campaign. That’s why the Associated Press called me up, they’re starting to take it seriously. An editorial that ran recently in one of the major papers in New Jersey said “Why DiNizio’s Senate run gives us hope.” It gives us hope because I’m really just a guy from the neighborhood who used to be a garbage man who has a lot of life experience, who did well in music for a long time, who wants to serve. That’s a noble aspiration, and we need more people who are common folk, more average people, to take the risk to get interested, to get involved, to get active, to step forward and serve. If I set an example, and as I said before, if we can get a lot of people registered to vote, we’re gonna change things. If we get a lot of people to vote that have never voted before, that have lost faith in the process, then we’ve achieved what we set out to do.

One thing that I was surprised not to see anything about in your platform as detailed on your Web site (http://www.dinizio2000.org) is what I think is one of the most interesting issues both in the music industry and facing politics right now, the whole digital download/Napster/MP3 debate, which has recently gone before Congress.

That’s an issue point that I’m working on. It’s not up on the site yet. I’m very concerned about Internet security. I’m concerned about Internet terrorism, about the shutting down of entire industries through hacking and lawlessness. It’s something that is really of great importance, and most politicians are not even thinking about it. I’m in favor of the five-year moratorium on taxing the Internet. I’m very much in favor of it being a free and open place for people to exchange ideas.

One aspect, personally, that I don’t like about the Internet is the gossipy aspect of things, where people can put up complete untruths or falsehoods about other people, where they can slander other people, I think that needs to be addressed.

I’m not a fan of Napster. Napster to me is like, for example, my analogy is what would happen if you walked into 7-11, filled a bag of groceries, and walked out without paying? What would happen? Well, you’re stealing, so you’d get arrested, probably. Basically, to someone like me, as a musician, who [is] astonished – and I have Napster, I purposely downloaded it to see what was out there, and I have Gnutella, too, that other service, which apparently is more insidious than Napster. Basically, it gets in the way or prohibits me as a working musician to feed my children and pay my bills. If music is going to be free, then we’d better make movies free, we’d better make books free, I’d better be able to go into Borders and walk out with whatever I want, because basically, you’ve got a whole generation of people out there that have access to every bit of recorded music ever recorded, for free. They’re like kids in a candy shop or a toy store that are told to go in and take whatever they want, for free, for as long as they want. It’s definitely hurting sales of music, and it’s really the working musician, the recording artist — certainly, these kids feel like they’re screwing the system, and I think it’s a part of, a function of youth to want to screw the system. And that’s OK, it’s good to have that spirit, but they’re not screwing the system, they’re screwing the artist in the end, and they can’t see it because they don’t have the life experience, and it’s mainly young people that are doing it. You need to know what it’s like to be in the work force, to work for a living, to struggle, to suffer a little bit. I’m not that everyone should suffer, [but] you need to have empathy for other people. If they really search their hearts and souls, and they saw what they were doing to the musicians who are creating the work that gets them through their day, the music that gives them solace and comfort and enjoyment[sigma]

It’s baffling to me, because everything is up there. All of my albums are up there. I live largely on catalog sales, checks that come in like twice a year that are a gift, in reality, from people becoming interested in the music and buying the old catalog stuff. People won’t buy the catalog stuff if Napster provides that for free. They’ll just go on Napster and get it. It’s a corruptive influence, because you go on Napster, and you’ll say, “well, I’m gonna download one track,” and you download one, but then you think, “hey, I can get whatever I want for free, why should I go spend $16.98 for a CD?” Now, you’ve got to point the finger at the record industry, as well, for being greedy, for overcharging perhaps. It’s part of a corrupt system, in any event. Everybody’s responsible, you know?

It’s funny you should mention that. I don’t know if you heard the news that came down today, that 28 states are suing the five major record labels for price fixing[sigma]

I heard about that, and I think it’s good that that’s been revealed. For me, personally, I’m taking a different approach. My music is going to be available online only on a subscription basis at Patronet (http://www.patronet.com), which is a company that Todd Rundgren started. So, I’m going to be one of the patron artists, along with Todd Rundgren, Patti Smith, Peter Wolf, Ornette Coleman, Les Paul, and a few other people. It’s $5 a month or $40 a year, and you get three brand new songs that no one else can get, sent to you either as a CD to your house or as a digital download. It’s a really nice thing, and there are other things involved with it, for signing up you get a free live concert video, you get online access to the artist, you get chat rooms with me, you get all kinds of stuff. It’s really the wave of the future, especially for niche artists like myself, whose audience has obviously diminished over the years.

That’s something that I have, but that’s not my primary concern. I mean, I’ll always do music on one level or the other, even if I’m in politics, you know that I’m going to have a guitar in my office. I’m compelled to write songs, that’s a part of my makeup, but I’m also compelled to help people, and this is why I’m doing this.

I know that there’s a lot of other artists that have had success with similar ventures, I know They Might Be Giants do a lot of that kind of stuff, and have had a lot of success with it, and Kristen Hersh (ex-Throwing Muses) has done a lot of stuff like that, too.

Are you talking about the online stuff?

Not necessarily online, although some of that. I know They Might Be Giants do a lot of online exclusive stuff through eMusic.com.

When I went to South By Southwest, I guess two years ago, it was, for the first time, when I was on the convention floor, I thought, “My goodness, everything here is about e-commerce.” I investigated, and I created Psycholaborations (http://www.psycholaborations.com), which is my online songwriting service, where people who have never written a song before can send me their lyrics, and I’ll put them to music. It’s inspired by the old song poems of the ’60s, but the method is more real, and I’ve actually produced some interesting work, and these things, my collaborations with people I’ve never met before, I’ve partnered up with them and we wrote a song online, eventually, to give these people who have never written songs before the opportunity to write with someone who is established, and also to sell that work. It’s interesting, it’s been a great success so far.

I also created the living room tour, which was online on my Web site, and I did about 90 shows in 90 homes and backyards across the country from January ’til about April. I’m still doing some of them. I logged 55,000 miles on a rented car traversing the country back and forth, meeting people for the first time who booked the shows by direct contact with me on the Internet, and I’d only ever spoken with them via e-mail and phone conversation, and as a result, I’ve got wonderful new friends – close friends – all across the country. It’s been a great experience.

It’s really amazing how you can make connections with people like that over the Internet.

Largely, people are great on the Internet. The people themselves police the Internet. If someone is scamming somebody or someone is doing something illegal or someone’s preying on someone else, eventually it comes out. People look after each other, to a large extent, more than you might think. But wherever there is something new and there’s a new technology, there are suspect people, there are crooks, and you’ve really got to be vigilant. It’s a fine line. I mean, I’m for less government, quite frankly, and it’s really something that needs to be addressed. We need to think about where we’re going with the Internet. I mean, I’m a proponent of it – I get my groceries delivered to me every month from an online grocery service, and it saves me a lot of time. Every Friday, my groceries are delivered.

Well, I’m definitely a big cheerleader for the Internet, I have my job because of the Internet and I met my wife on the Internet.

That’s wonderful. You see, here’s my[sigma] Gandhi said something — there’s a quote on my Web site — whereby people have to voluntarily impose limits on their social behavior. If they don’t, it’s really the law of the jungle. This philosophy has to be put forth on the Internet. People have to learn respect, and they can’t slander other people, they can’t spread vicious rumors about people, and gossip that is not true, just because they can put it up there and hide behind a fake name. It’s not right.

There are certain things that I don’t believe in. For me, personally, Napster and Gnutella and these things, it’s not the way to go, because it’s hurting other people. No matter what the kid Shawn [Fanning] from Napster says, and no matter what they hide behind, it’s hurting people, and for me, hats off to Lars from Metallica for stepping up to the plate. No one else would do it. He’s putting himself at risk, and the career of his band at risk, because their own fans went against them. People really have to understand what the motivation is, where the artists are coming from with this.

There’s going to be stuff on my Web site about the Internet, because it’s a revolution, and it’s an important revolution, and it’s made the world a smaller place, but it’s also hurt us in a sense that people have access to the most private information, and that’s gotta stop. You shouldn’t be able to go on the Internet and get files on people, get their personal information. That’s wrong.

Kind of bringing that full circle, would you, as a Senator, pursue any kind of legislation on these issues?

I would only pursue legislation that ensures privacy for the individual, privacy so that people can’t go online and find out what your tax records are, or what your driving record is, or whether you’re divorced or single. It’s nobody’s business! That’s one thing that is a slippery slope, because we don’t want so much control, we want a free and open exchange of ideas, but you know, it’s going to change eventually. We can’t have people slandering people on the Internet. We can’t have people taking what’s rightfully yours. Giving away my music is tantamount to you working all week and someone else taking your paycheck. Think about it, that’s really what it’s about.

As I said, I’m a huge proponent of the Internet, I think I’ve made most of my income derived from the Internet over the last couple of years. I love eBay. I used to have a thrift shop which didn’t do well because we were local in town here, and I took the contents of the thrift shop — which, by the way, I called Adams Family Values [laughs] — and I put it in storage in my house. When I found out about eBay, I sold the entire contents of the store within two months. That’s a wonderful thing. But I think people need to be more courteous to each other, they need to think twice before smearing other people.

I think we’ve got to protect young kids from pornography on the Net. It just has to be done, we have to think about preserving at least some of the innocence of childhood for these kids. The fact is, there’s no way to protect them. You can have all these safeguards in your own home, but they’re going to go to their friend’s house and they’re gonna find it. People are naturally curious about it, it’s just that I believe until you hit a certain age and you have a certain experience, you’re not emotionally ready to handle certain images. I believe that. And there are people out there that would conspire, perhaps, to destroy the innocence of youth, and that’s not right.

So it is, again, a very, very, very complicated thing we’re dealing with here, because you don’t want to censor the Internet too heavily, but the minute you start enacting laws, there you go. There goes the ball game. It should be regulated somehow, but only on the levels that I’m talking about. The rules of society have to apply to the Internet, it can’t be a completely Wild West type of situation, but we have to be careful.

One of the big issues you discuss on your Web site is campaign finance reform. How are you financing your campaign, and do you believe your methods should be an example nationally?

Yes. I am a walking example, hopefully, of campaign finance reform. My opponent, Jon Corzine, should be the poster boy for the desperate need for campaign finance reform. He spent $37.5 million just winning the primary, but he’s going to have to spend $100 million to win.

96% of the people in America make no campaign contributions. This is astounding. Every penny of financing for every candidate for public office in America, from Dogcatcher to President, is supplied by only four percent of the people. I heard that there’s $50 million raised to nominate George W. Bush. Now, John McCain was on Meet The Press the other day, and he [said], “the U.S. Senate won’t proceed next year until we address this issue. I believe we have enough friends and comrades that we can force that.” Asked if that means McCain would close down the Senate, he said, “if need be, absolutely.” It is a real issue, and it’s the most important issue, and everything else stems from corruption in politics. I stand my ground with this, although polls taken recently in New Jersey [show] the average citizen thinks economics and Social Security are at the top of the list – well, they are, but we wouldn’t have problems with those things if we had campaign finance reform, and I’m not going to vacillate on it or change my position on it. If you do your research, you’ll find that all ill in government stems from corrupt campaigns or campaigns that are financed by money that’s improper. That’s all I have to say about it, unless you want me to say more.

Well, I agree with what you’re saying. I think it’s an important issue, and it’s pretty much being swept under the table.

People are not ignorant, like most politicians think they are. People know exactly what they are, and they know what the issues are, but a lot of times, the media will put a spin on things because they’re controlled by certain people that have special interests, and a lot of people are just burned out on politics, and they’re just trying to put in their 40 hours a week and make a living, they’re trying to survive. I’m going to educate them about this. This is my main campaign issue, and it’s the most important thing. When I’m done, they will know that this is what is most important, and everything else that happens is a result of the way campaigns are conducted and the way campaigns are financed. Things have to be on a level playing field for all candidates. I think campaigns need to be publicly financed. I think we all have to have the same amount of money to spend on our campaigns, I think the campaign should be limited in terms of the amount of time you’re allowed to spend on the campaign, in terms of the amount of TV commercials. You know, it’s like whoever has the most money wins. It’s not fair. Who’s got the best ideas? Who’s got the most passion? Who’s the right person? Not necessarily the person with the most money. And this is what I’m fighting.

On your Web site, you state that “high profile social issues should be put to public referendum.” I have kind of a two-fold question about that. First of all, I was wondering if you think it’s important for people to know what your opinions on issues like that are, such as abortion or gay rights?

The Reform Party is not about social issues. All of those questions are bigger than all of us. It’s not for, as I say, nine Supreme Court Justices, or 100 Senators, or Congress to decide, it’s for the people to put to a vote. People are wiser than anyone suspects that they are. It’s certainly bigger than my own individual opinion. I’m for democracy, that’s what initiative and referendum are for, to let the people decide. It’s not for me to decide, it’s not for one individual. I think that it’s proven successful and very, very, popular in California, for example. When they put it to a vote, when they let the people decide, the people always decide to do the right thing. They always take the high road, I believe that.

Sometimes it seems like these issues only become issues because they’re made such by outside forces, whether it be politicians or special interest groups or the media. Do you have any thoughts about that?

I’m going to say this: I have research and documentation that tells me that 87% of all journalists are liberal Democrats. So if you think about that – and this is not a condemnation of anyone – they’re going to put their own point of view into any article that they write. You can’t help it, it’s a volatile subject. The media definitely puts a spin on certain things that they think are more important than others, and they would ignore certain things that are in opposition to their points of view. That’s not fair, it’s just not fair to anyone. There has to be equal representation for people on both sides of the fence. That’s what my campaign is about, it’s about consensus. I’m a centrist, it’s about bringing people together. It’s not about divisiveness – that’s why I can’t support Buchannan.

Since you can’t support Buchannan, have you given any thought to who you are supporting for President?

I’ve talked about this a lot. The guy that I really like a lot — I don’t agree with all his position points, but I like his approach because he’s honest and he puts himself at risk and he’s passionate — I like Allen Keyes. I like him a lot . I don’t agree with all of his things, but he’s honest, at least. Whether you agree with him or love him or hate him, can’t you respect a person that speaks his mind without hiding behind redirect like Clinton did? Hiding behind legalese in front of the Grand Jury, not answering questions — I mean, come on. I like Allen Keyes.

I don’t like Bush, I don’t like Gore, I think they’re both flip sides of the same golden coin, quite frankly. There’s a certain sense of entitlement about their campaigns. They’ve both been groomed for this slot since childhood. This is not a monarchy, you know?

What do you think about Ralph Nader?

I think he’s a good man, I think he’s done good things for society, in general. I don’t know, maybe too extreme for me. I need to do more research about Ralph Nader. Is he a serious candidate? I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. I think a lot of young people are going to go toward Ralph Nader because he’s a ’60s icon, much the same way that they embraced Timothy Leary and Hunter S. Thompson. People that I was aware of and whose work I was reading when I was a kid. I don’t know, I don’t have an answer. I don’t support either Presidential candidate, I have yet to make up my mind. I can’t see a great choice.

It’s sad this year, because there really isn’t a great choice.

Gore has proven himself cut from the same cloth as Clinton. He was in the White House with this guy for eight years! Just tell us the truth, right? We can handle the truth, we can’t handle[sigma] we as a people don’t want lies anymore, we just want the truth. You had an affair, you just say you did and I’m sorry, and we’re all human, and we move on. Don’t tie up millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money and lie ’til the bitter end and finally admit it when you’re cornered, be honorable. This is all this is about. I don’t think Gore is particularly honorable. I don’t know enough about Bush to comment on him.

Do you have any political aspirations beyond the Senate? For example, would you ever consider a run for the Presidency yourself?

[laughs] Usually, I like to say I take it one step at a time, We’ll see what happens when we get to the Senate. Who can say what’s going to happen? I don’t know. I have to get elected first. Ventura has aspirations well beyond the Governorship; he’s got his eye on that prize. I don’t know if it’s a reality for him or not, but I would guarantee that if he ran last minute against Bush and Gore, he’d take votes away from them. That’s because people are dissatisfied with the system, and because they have no one speaking to them on a common sense, person to person, basic level. It’s like the way that we’re having a conversation right now. I like to talk to people. Some people are going to agree, some people are not going to agree, [but] you have to give people respect, you have to respect them. You have to talk honestly, that’s all. Like I said before, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to be a public servant, or the word that I loathe, politician, because it has negative connotation. You just have to be as honest as you can be, you have to keep your promises, and not make them to begin with if you know you can’t keep them. People also have to respect people that are running for public office, because you’re putting yourself at tremendous risk. People need space, they need to have privacy. You need your own life — all of us do. The Japanese have a saying that a fish does not live or swim in clear water – we all need to have our space. That’s the problem with running for public office — your life is no longer your own. That’s something that other people should respect, including journalists and the media. You shouldn’t be fodder for personal attacks. It’s a difficult thing. But basically, in answering your question, no, I don’t have any aspirations for the Presidency. I just want to be a Senator and I want to serve people.

• •

In the weeks since this interview has taken place, Pat DiNizio has been excluded from the upcoming televised US Senate campaign debates by opponents Jon Corzine, Bob Franks, and the League of Women Voters. Those interested in seeing DiNizio have a voice in the debate should e-mail Cheryl Graeve, Director Field Support at the National Headquarters of the League of Women Voters, at cherylg@lwv.org, the Franks campaign at bobfranks@bobfranks.com, and Steve DeMicco of the Corzine campaign at sdemicco@votecorzine.org. For more information, or to volunteer, please visit http://www.dinizio2000.org.

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