1. Opinion

Ruth: Campaign cash comes in all forms

Here's a vexing thought. It has occurred to me that my ersatz crusade to snatch the Republican presidential nomination might be doing a better job raising money than the rinky-dink campaigns of Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and most certainly Jim Gilmore, the Judge Crater of the GOP.

And I haven't even had to go to Iowa to pretend to like triple deep-fried heart transplant-on-a-stick.

Over the past few weeks, the mailbox has seen a steady influx of mail from loyal patriots eager to do their part to contribute to my quest to win the Republican nomination and capture the White House in 2016.

It is right about here, as a completely fawning, absolutely unprincipled candidate, where I am supposed to pledge to use these generous contributions to "take our country back!" It's always a popular refrain, although I'm not sure who I'm supposed to take the country back from.

I wasn't even aware it had been taken away, since each morning when I walk Gracie the Goldendoodle, my dedicated campaign manager, there is the country, where it's been all this time.

This may explain why so many politicians love to use this line, since it would seem a pretty easy campaign pledge to fulfill to take something back that was never misplaced.

To be sure, I owe my early hustings success to Thomas and Carol Epstein of St. Pete Beach. When others scoffed at my dreams and belittled the notion I harbored presidential ambitions, they stepped up to the plate to make a lovely contribution of phony Confederate money to my campaign.

But the Epsteins' deep pockets went even deeper. The couple has continued to make regular investments, often with genuine currency from third and fourth-world countries.

"What have you done to me?" Thomas Epstein wrote recently. "I take off for a couple of weeks in France, and when I get back find that I have become notorious."

Indeed, shame is a wonderful thing. Now the Epsteins have contributed a single Chinese Yi Jioa (whatever that is), 100 something or other from a country I can't figure out and 100 ngultrum from Bhutan, not to mention some loose change from what mostly appears to be South Africa.

Remarkably, one reader actually sent me at least $2,000 in U.S. currency. Unfortunately, it came in a shredded ball from the Federal Reserve. Gracie is attempting to glue it back together.

Carol Tallman of Dunnellon sent in 100 zloty in Polish cash. And LaMar Marchese of Indian Shores coughed up $20 in Canadian moola, which features an elderly Queen Elizabeth staring back at me with a very disapproving stare.

In what can only be considered a variation on one of those public radio fundraising drives, where hotsy-tots challenge the public to meet their generosity, Theo Wolfe of St. Petersburg sent in a contribution of 50 — count 'em 50! — Iraqi dinars.

"I could not allow the Epsteins to finance the entire campaign," Wolfe wrote.

Something tells me I can probably expect a handsome offering of post-World War I inflated worthless German reichsmarks any day now from St. Pete Beach.

At the risk of appearing self-serving, my campaign has been an inspiration to others, such as Jim Donelon of Pasadena who wrote: "I have been wondering for years what to do with the enclosed East Caribbean Currency Authority dollar, but after reading your column last Thursday my prayers were answered." This particular note features either a highly idealized rendering a very fetching, young Queen Elizabeth or Ingrid Bergman.

Donelon wasn't the only one moved by my populist campaign to take back the country from whomever. Retired former Tampa Bay Times executive Bob Haiman was so taken, so enthralled by the campaign's message of "Hey, Why Not Me?" that he, too, was moved to become part of the legions of Americans supporting my mission.

"While I NEVER make political contributions, I'm making an exception in your case," Haiman wrote. "I don't want to be outdone by M/M Epstein, so I'm going big."

And big doesn't quite capture Haiman's largess, which included a phony $1 billion bill and an Iranian 20,000 rial note featuring that devil-may-care image of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

I've tasked Gracie with handling all the paperwork related to these all too gracious gestures of support, a chore she'll get around to after she endlessly stares at the floor for a cookie to drop from the sky.

Mandates come in many forms. But nothing says "We believe in you!" more eloquently than $2,000 in confetti.