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December 17, 2008

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publius: Well said.

It's frustrating to read about, considering Caroline Kennedy has played it safe her whole life. She's worked at the Met, and a couple of feel-good commitees. Meanwhile, lots of state representatives, mayors, and administrators are on the front lines of government every day taking risks and struggling to bring consensus. I wish gov. Paterson would recognize one among this group instead of an individual who's only claim to fame is that she's survived the Kennedy curse and edited a book of poetry her mom liked.

Also - can anyone who supports Kennedy for this office say what her positions are on executive power? On trade? On government funding for green technology? On stem cell research? On judicial appointments? There's precious little that I can find anywhere on this subject (Kennedy's wiki page is a joke). Is a famous name worth trading if it turns out she's a Rockefeller Republican in disguise?

What was so bad about Rockefeller? Apart from the Attica incident and the drug laws, he was good for education and had many other progressive ideas and policies. Or did you prefer the Goldwater branch of the Republican party?

"The whole thing just sort of stinks, frankly."

Sausage making has a rather strong smell associated with it too.

the political world needs fewer Clintons, Kennedys, Bushes and Jacksons.

It's hard to see how anyone "supports" Caroline Kennedy (in response to boston satyr). There's no question that what she has going for her is celebrity and nostalgia, not substance on particular issues. On the other hand, everyone is a crapshoot these days, especially someone appointed rather than elected, and it's likely that she'd stand behind Obama's agenda, especially with regard to healthcare. So, although there are no doubt more talented people around, her name and charisma would give comfort to a lot of people.

I'm not from NY, and don't really care, but I'm not offended by the fact that she's being considered. I realize that I might feel otherwise if we were talking about a different legacy candidate, and freely admit that my opinion isn't based entirely on reason.

I don't really see a quid pro quo in this though. People are attracted to the prospect of Caroline Kennedy, not because of any endorsement, but because she's Caroline Kennedy. If she had endorsed Clinton, or if she had remained neutral and merely done something else as a political debutante (say worked on a local campaign, or run for some local office), it would have resulted in the same prospects. It's also unfair to say she has completely eschewed public life - she's tried to remain dignified in the face a National Inquirer media interest, and largely succeeded. She's done minor public speaking for local candidates around the country at times, and she has written on the subject of Constitutional law. Is she a great legal scholar, or a great political mind? I can't judge, but she's not nothin'.

The reasons I can think of that Patterson might select her are:

1. he thinks she will be a good senator.

2. he thinks she has a high likelihood of getting reelected.

3. he thinks she will help him politically, including with fundraising.

Which of these reasons "smell bad"? Is it number 3? So, you think Patterson should go out of his way to select someone who is bad at fundraising and won't help him politically? That sounds kind of stupid. Reasons 1 and 2 seem completely unobjectionable to me.

I normally agree with your posts, but this one makes no sense to me.

I can see why a Kennedy appointment might be offensive, if you regard a Senate seat primarily as a prize. But I think I can see why Patterson is considering appointing her to the seat.

Rather bluntly, were I in Patterson's position, I'd be looking for


  • Someone who wants to keep the seat. I wouldn't want to appoint a caretaker, because seniority matters in the Senate. There's a good chance of a bumper crop of Senators in 2010, so I'd want to beat the rush.
  • Someone with a reasonably high profile and a good political brand. Candidate would need to compete with Bloomberg or Giuliani.
  • Someone who can raise huge piles of cash. Defending a Senate seat in NY ain't cheap, especially if you have to do it twice in four years.
  • Someone well-connected with the Democratic political leadership. I'd be hoping for someone who has more influence than the norm for a freshman Senator.
  • Someone female.

Kennedy seems like a reasonable choice by these standards.

She's fairly well known to the people of NY, certainly not a nobody. She's a Kennedy. (And I don't think her uncle would be pulling for her if he thought she was a closet Republican.) Moreover, many women of her generation seem to see her as an iconic figure. (For example: go over to dailykos and note the genders of her defenders.) All this says that she'll have the opportunity to raise cash. And I think the fact that the Democratic leadership is pulling for her makes it fairly clear that she's well-connected.

What we don't know right now is if she has the political chops to function as a Senator. She'll have to learn the managerial aspects of the job on the job. A proven track record would be better, but I'm willing to leave this judgement to those who actually know her. Not that I have much choice; the choice is Patterson's alone.

Political dynasties shouldn't exist in democratic societies. The funny thing is that dynastic choices operate against the rhetorical frames of both parties (reality may differ of course).

Republican Party rhetoric--let the market work and the good can rise to the top, meritocratic yada yada. Dynasties work against that. We have a rather good example of that in Bush II.

Democratiic Party rhetoric--rich people have too much influence in politics just because they're rich. America isn't class conscious enough--we have too many upper upper class people making decisions which impact the lower classes in way that they don't understand because they are out of touch. 3rd generation aristocrat, Kennedy? Seriously?

Appeals to political dynasties are pretty much against the whole idea of democratic government. They are an appeal to an easier world where we don't really have to think about who our leaders are, they just are born into it.

As for the functional reasons talked about by Jim W and AJ, the problem is that if you are making an appointment to what is normally a democratically elected seat, it shouldn't just be "do they marginally fulfill the requirements", but rather "is this person the best person for this job".

Furthermore, how dispiriting must this be for anybody who is coming up through the political ranks in NY. Two drop-in candidates in a row? If you are an ambitious New York politician you shouldn't believe for a moment that your work in the state is ever going to lead to a good chance at running for Senator. You are going to be pushed aside by the fly-in celebrity of the month and your Party is ok with that.

Let me add: I think we can drop "female" from the above list. It gives Cuomo a better argument, but he probably still loses on point 3.

Hi there,

I have been reading a lot of blog conversations lately about Caroline and her interest in the Senate seat.

We have the people who think "just because her name is Kennedy, she can have a Senate seat! Hmmmph."

These same people turn around and mention a bunch of assumptions about her simply BECAUSE she's a Kennedy!

There are plenty of unqualified and under-qualified white men who have had Senate and Congressional seats for decades and decades.

They get in based on persona, popularity and connections. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that More than 80% of those talking heads in elected office in Washington were elected due to THOSE three factors.

Suddenly, a woman emerges and NOW there's outcry over people getting a Senate seat with persona, popularity and connections??

Hmmmmm....

I guess women who step into the political arena can't have the same cake white men have been eating for decades and decades and decades...

Oh and by the way...didn't this country elect a peanut farmer as President?

I'm with sapient, A J and Jim W. When I first read about her Senatorial ambitions Iflet mildly pleased, based perhaps erroneoulsy on the assumption that she would be a reliable liberal vote for years to come. I understand that there are people working their way up throught he ranks of New York politics and I also understand that the glibness of my reaction to Caroline is based in part in my lack of knwledge of her competitors; if I knew of and was in vested inn a particular NY politician who was "more deserving" I might have a different attitude.

Which brings me to ask: is a person who works their way up more deserving than a person who doesn't?

Does the end (getting someone into the seat who can get re-elected and who votes the right way) justify the means (just appoint someone who meets that critieria, regardless of the al ternative merits of those who might not meet that criteria).

On the other hand it could be that in NY any Democrat can be counted upon to win reelection and hold the seat for decades in which case in isn't necessary to pick the famous candidate.

The point being that inpolitics there is always a tension between promoting merit and being pragmatic.

It believe that a governor appointing a senator to replace a vacant seat should not be looking for personal favors or even good public policy. The governor should respect the will of the people and appoint as near as possible to the functional equivalent of the senator being replaced.

In this case, the senator being replaced was a woman with a thin political resume who owed her job to family ties. That's exactly what Patterson is choosing to replace her, so the appointment is perfect. [/snark]

There’s a couple of lists why he might want to appoint her here – none of them include that she would be a good Senator for NY. (AJ – why on earth should gender be a criteria?)

The folks in NY just went through years represented by a carpetbagger whose interest in the seat was primarily as a springboard to bigger and better things. Now they should have a Manhattan socialite? And the main reasons seem to relate to Democrats keeping the seat.

Enough of the dynasty thing. Bad enough we’ve got a Biden family friend keeping his seat warm until his son gets back from Iraq…

I don't think it looks bad at all. If Caroline were after THAT Senate seat, then it seems to me she would have "early-endorsed" Hillary.

The bigger question is, is she qualified. I think she is. Her public service creds are sound. I like her politics, especially on privacy issues.

I can understand some wincing at the whole SYSTEM by which the seat is filled, but as for Caroline herself, what's the objection?

AJ – why on earth should gender be a criteria?

This looks like an invitation to thread-drift. Best reason I got is that it seems to matter to enough voters. (Maybe they like the idea of having a few women in the Senate?) You'll note that I tried to remove it from consideration.

First, let me say I'm against dynasties in politics and sports as well.

Second, is it fair to argue about Caroline Kennedy's "qualifications" to join a club that included Strom Thurmond at 99 years old and the current Jim Bunning?

Finally, I live in Minnesota where we are still trying to figure out if we elected Franken or Coleman. If she doesn't get the NY seat, I'd be plenty happy to see her appointed here.

AJ: note that I tried to remove it from consideration.

My bad. I should have previewed.

Enough of the dynasty thing.

Or else. I’m going to wish Jeb Bush on you all in 2012.

(I keed. Not on my life.)

Political dynasties shouldn't exist in democratic societies.

Goodness, Sebastian, can you give me an example of a Democratic society in history that did not have them? Should Pericles never have been elected? How about FDR?

Second, is it fair to argue about Caroline Kennedy's "qualifications" to join a club that included * * * Jim Bunning?

As far as I know, Caroline Kennedy never threw a perfect game in her life.

"Second, is it fair to argue about Caroline Kennedy's "qualifications" to join a club that included Strom Thurmond at 99 years old and the current Jim Bunning?"

People elect Senators, and I can dislike their choices. But when one is appointed to fill a vacancy is appropriate to think beyond the lowest common denominator of the elected officals.

Political dynasties shouldn't exist in democratic societies.

Goodness, Sebastian, can you give me an example of a Democratic society in history that did not have them? Should Pericles never have been elected? How about FDR?

Democratic societies haven't existed very long. And I'm not sure what you are saying here. I said that they ought not exist in democratic societies. I certainly didn't say that they do not exist.

As the absolutely lastest person to write on this: I hate it. I hate dynasties in general. I hate people getting things handed to them. I think we Children of Privilege get enough stuff without adding Senate seats.

But I also think: NY is a pretty blue state. Any decent Democrat should be able to keep the seat. NY is also full of interesting people with extensive track records in public service. Why not appoint someone who's really, really great, and deserves (has earned) a much bigger platform? Someone who's imaginative and creative and deeply decent, but who, for one reason or another, might not actually run for Senate?

What a wasted opportunity.

As far as I know, Caroline Kennedy never threw a perfect game in her life.

I never thought of that, so maybe they should appoint A-Rod or Sabathia?


Sebastian: There are probably thousands of people in New York qualified to be appointed Senator and do a good job. I don't think CK falls into the "lowest common denominator" category.

If she gets appointed, the people will get a chance (2010?) to approve or disapprove

"There are probably thousands of people in New York qualified to be appointed Senator and do a good job. I don't think CK falls into the "lowest common denominator" category."

I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. By lowest common denominator I was responding to the idea that we can't talk about qualifications for a body that has Sen. Thurmond.

The folks in NY just went through years represented by a carpetbagger whose interest in the seat was primarily as a springboard to bigger and better things. Now they should have a Manhattan socialite?

Why would one assume that Kennedy's interest in the seat is not primarily as a springboard to a presidential run too? I rather assume that it is.

Hey come to think of it, guess who'll be of constitutional age to run in 2010? Maybe Kennedy's not such a bad pick, dynasty-wise, after all.

(Answer: notnilC aeslehC.)

Caroline Kennedy's CV, at least according to what I read on Wikipedia, is remarkably thin: she has her name on a bunch of books that were either written with a co-author or books she "edited", i.e. books written entirely by other people who Kennedy was able to round up; she served on a bunch of charitable boards; and she raised a lot of money for the New York Public Schools. All of these are opportunities she had because of her birth, and jobs she could fulfill successfully largely because of her celebrity. In none of her career do I see any sign of surprising success or breaks with conformity.

I'm not in principle opposed to a celebrity or a dynast running for office. I'm not even opposed to their being appointed, at least to the limited extent that I'm OK with anyone being appointed to an elective office. But it's important to ask about their records, about who they are, about how we know what they might want to achieve in office, and about how good they might be at it.

And the point is, Caroline Kennedy doesn't have a record. She hasn't spoken out on the issues of the day, she hasn't worked for local candidates, she hasn't been engaged in the political or ideological trenches. Instead, she's a very wealthy and privileged young woman who's spent her entire life being nice to the wealthy and priveleged.

Contrast her to, say, Al Franken. Mind you, I've never been enthusiastic about Franken, though I did send him a small contribution for the General Election (and, full disclosure, I've never lived in NY or MN). But he's spent years speaking forcefully on the issues and working for local and national Democratic candidates. We have some idea of his policy and ideological preferences. Frankly, I'd say he's more qualified to be New York's Senator than Caroline Kennedy is - he lived there for a long time and he seems willing to work for a Senate seat rather than to simply demand one. And I say that, I reiterate, not even liking Al Franken much.

And if I see one more person claiming that opposition to Caroline Kennedy necessarily has anything to do with her gender, or that the existence of nonentities like Bunning justifies the selection of someone with no track record, I think I might scream ...

I too am pretty strongly against handing her a Senate seat. Nothing personal -- but I'm anti-dynasty

I agree, methinks our tweedledum/tweedledee legacy establishment isn't even bothering to hide it anymore.

I have no particular objection to Caroline Kennedy as a Senator, but I don't see that she can make an especially persuasive case for being handed the job. I also feel Governor Paterson's pain. If he appoints any of the contenders, he'll make a dozen enemies and one ingrate.
Contrary to an earlier commenter's suggestion, I would recommend a caretaker appointment, preferably some distinguished elder statesperson, and let the contenders for the full-time gig fight it out the American way.
But who? For any other person serving as Governor, Basil Paterson would be perfect, but his son the Governor can't appoint him. (Or can he? Such a display of chutzpah might actually help Paterson's image now that he has to do serious head-knocking to close the budget gap.) Mario Cuomo might be good, except son Andy is a plausible candidate for the full-time gig. Maybe Judith Kaye, who has to leave the Court of Appeals on account of age.

As long as the system of appointment by governors is retained, then high among the considerations for appointment will be the political consideration of ability to retain the seat in an election two years on.

Viewed purely from that standpoint, even aside from the dynasty considerations, it's hard to justify the appointment of someone who has never run for office at any level. I don't care how much money she can raise, or how many people get a warm, fuzzy feeling from the Kennedy brand. Running for statewide office in a state the size of New York is a seriously challenging undertaking.

The people of New York have no real idea of Caroline Kennedy's positions on the policies they care about. She has no record of real accomplishments on her own. It would be a stupid gamble to hand her this office.

I'm with those who'd like to see an explicit caretaker, someone with the legislative experience to do New York proud, so that the Democratic voters of New York get to decide who should be their nominee in 2010.

I'm glad to see the ObWi writers discussing the possible Kennedy appointment in terms of political dynasties, rather than nepotism. Someone needs to explain to Andrew Sullivan and a few other bloggers that nepotism is when those in power show favoritism to their own relatives -- and David Paterson is not related to the Kennedys.

"When I was your age..." dept.

NY has a long history of Senate carpetbagging. Remember Caroline's uncle, Bobby? And yes, he too used it as a platform to run for president. Moynihan was born in NYC, but had mostly lived and worked in Boston, when he wasn't overseas. So Hillary, and now Caroline (if she's appointed) follow a long tradition.

publius, well said. To me, there is little difference between appointing Ms. Kennedy to the senate and Blago's cash for seat strategy. I actually think the latter is a bit fairer.

I think there are two different things going on here. One is whether someone should be given a Senate seat. The other is whether Kennedy would be a good Senator. I am against dynasties as much as the next person. So, I certainly don't feel anyone should be given a seat. The reality is that Paterson is going to give someone a seat, so he has to choose what is right for NY.

That comes to the other point about whether she would be a good Senator. Senator is mainly about influence, and Kennedy has an abundance of that. As soon as she arrives in the Senate, other senators are going to want her to co-sponsor bills and work with them on issues. When she calls a press conference, the press is going to be there. This is the exact same thing Clinton had going for her. As a two-term senator, Clinton had influence way beyond just seniority. She was able to bring incredible amounts of money to NY, including fighting the way dollars in health programs are handed out to not disadvantage NY. No other name being thrown out has a chance of exerting that kind of influence that Kennedy can. So, I think it is a no-brainer that she would give NY the most influence and the loudest voice in the Senate.

bperk: She was able to bring incredible amounts of money to NY

Could you list some of the things HRC did to improve things in NY? I’m really not aware of much. Her track record as far as NY State goes is pretty sad IMO. It was just a springboard...

so he has to choose what is right for NY

Again, I just don’t see it. What has Kennedy actually done?

Carolyn Maloney seems like the no brainer to me.

I don’t like the fact that she’s from the city, and I don’t like some of her politics. But she has an impressive track record concerning the middle class, women’s and children’s issues, gay rights, etc. Plus, she has two X chromosomes for those who feel that is important. Bonus – she has a long track record of running campaigns and actually getting elected in NY.

OCSteve, re: Clinton, she was very effective manuevering regarding grant formulas for the Ryan White Care Act and SCHIP to ensure that New York maintained its funding. In addition, her earmarks placed her in the top 10 in the Senate. I don't find that sad, I find that impressive.

Whether Kennedy has done anything impressive is not really relevant to me as far as how effective she can be in bringing money to New York. That's the job of the Senator as far as I am concerned. Bringing money to the state and making sure that the state's issues stay in the forefront.

Maloney is a fine representative. But, Senators are not going to be clamoring to get her to cosponsor their bills. The media is not going to give her the attention that they would Kennedy. Maloney would enter the Senate as a freshman Senator with no name recognition. Is that a better deal for New York than what Kennedy would offer? Her uncle is one of, if not the best, Senator in the U.S. Senate. It's too great of an opportunity for New York to maintain its influence in the Senate to pass up.

I don't think Kennedy would have any trouble holding on to the Senate seat. Her fundraising would clear the primary field pretty well, and her name recognition would make it an easy election for her.

"If she gets appointed, the people will get a chance (2010?) to approve or disapprove."

In 2010, Peter King could finally represent a Republican who will threaten to win one of New York's senate seats.

FWIW, I think Kennedy would probably make a good senator, just as Clinton did.

Bperk: she was very effective manuevering regarding grant formulas for the Ryan White Care Act and SCHIP to ensure that New York maintained its funding. In addition, her earmarks placed her in the top 10 in the Senate. I don't find that sad, I find that impressive.

From the comments I’m guessing that your frame is NY = NYC. That’s probably why we’ll disagree… Ryan White Care Act – First that was just extending existing legislation, and I wouldn’t say it was for the benefit of NY as a whole. In fact, she opposed shifting any funding from urban to rural areas. That was a purely calculated move – who’s support would she need to run for president. She could manage without those folks in Upstate NY. She needed them to get elected originally, and she made the right promises. But once elected, city voters in Chicago were more important to her presidential run than any rubes in Upstate NY. But again that’s my objection to candidates parachuting in to take open seats in NY, their concern is with voters on the island, not the state as a whole. I object to Kennedy or Maloney less from that angle (at least they have lived in the state for some time), but all they really know is the island. And I give HRC more SCHIP credit as first lady than I do as a Senator.

And on earmarks: There were earmarks won and spent even, but no jobs followed. HRC promised to bring 200,000 new jobs to upstate New York in six years. She made that promise again and again – it was the bedrock of her campaign to woo Upstate voters. And the suckers fell for it. By the time the suckers re-elected her and she announced her run for president NY State had lost almost 100,000 jobs and Upstate had lost over 32,000 irreplaceable jobs on her watch. (Note, I call them rubes and suckers with love as a lot of my family lives there.)

Guess who is meeting the rubes now (for the first time)?

Carolyn Maloney seems like the no brainer to me.


You're not alone, OCSteve, she seems that way to lot of us here in New York, too! ;)


That may be just a bit too snarky: Maloney isn't really that bad, just the usual (IMO) undistinguished Rep. from the affluent East Side and reliable NYC Dem. There's really (again, IMO) not much difference between her and Caroline Kennedy other than Maloney's electoral career. That said, however, I think she (CM) would probably be Paterson's safest (non-CKS) choice, and probably will be.

Don't know if Rep. Maloney "does Utica" either....

OCSteve, the formula Clinton sought to change would have been a net loss for the state. New York State is responsible for care for HIV patients in the city or anywhere. Certainly, the basis of her argument is that urban areas deserve a bigger share of the pie, but the state as a whole reaped the benefit. The same goes for money for Homeland Security, it is less money the state has to pony up to meet federal standards. I have no idea why she thought she could singlehandedly as a senator bring that number of jobs to the state. It certainly seems like a case of overpromising to me. However, a net loss of jobs in a state in this economy is not necessarily a sign of being a bad Senator. Earmarks to SUNYs and military bases are a net gain for a state whether they brought jobs or not. Clinton was very effective in that way, and I suspect Kennedy will also be.

Seems to me that if Caroline Kennedy wanted Hillary's senate seat, it would've been easier for her to "early-endorse" Hillary, who upon winning would have her senate seat become available directly.

Instead, Caroline endorsed the underdog. In which case, in order for the motive for that endorsement to be to obtain Hillary's senate seat, Caroline would have had to know the following in advance:
A. The underdog that she endorsed actually wins.
B. After winning, that underdog offers Sec of State to Hillary.
C. Hillary accepts said offer, thus opening up her senate seat.

The idea that Caroline endorsed Obama to get Hillary's seat is extremely lame when you think about it.

The difference between Clinton and Kennedy is the same as the difference between Clinton and Palin. The former is a policy wonk who's thought and written about her ideas about how to address multiple challenges we face as a nation. The latter is someone with political ambitions, but who hasn't written or spoken about the key issues of the day.

I really thought that Palin was fundamentally a terrible candidate for VP, not only because I disagreed with her about everything, but because she never *thought* about any important issues. But I can't really think why my complaints about Palin in terms of qualifications (not positions) don't also apply to Kennedy.

Since it only happens occasionally, let me say I completely agree with Sebastian's December 17, 2008 at 12:05 PM.

The idea of hereditary politics appalls me (Ed Koch has been reduced to saying he supports her literally because of her "DNA," and that's the only reason he can cite); I think Kirsten Gillibrand has more than earned a shot.

Koch's quote, incidentally:

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch told CBS 2 HD he was won over after she called him and asked to talk about the office.

"When you look at her, and you know what the Kennedy's are capable of and you know the family she comes from … think of the DNA," Koch said.

We should elect someone because of their family genetics? Even as a metaphor, wtf kind of argument is this? It's pathetic, is what it is.

Maybe Caroline Kennedy would be a great Senator; but that doesn't mean she deserves to be a Senator, given her total avoidance of politics until the last year. Her resume of qualifications for the job of Senator is otherwise next to non-existent.

And giving the job to her would be such a slap in the face for everyone who actually has to work at politics, and who has put in their time, and taken their knocks.

If Kennedy wants the job, let her get it the old-fashioned way: run for it in 2010. It's not as if she doesn't have the money and name recognition and support to have a fair chance.

(Of course, to get my support then, she'd have to show she'd do a better job and is more deserving than the incumbent and the other candidates.)

(I don't support Robert Kennedy, Jr., either, and he has a better resume.)

"By lowest common denominator I was responding to the idea that we can't talk about qualifications for a body that has Sen. Thurmond."

Has? He died five years ago.

The list, incidentally, of U.S. political dynasties runs into the hundreds. Dozens of people in Congress have literally inherited their seat; in some cases it's the third or even fourth generation.

If we want to have an hereditary aristocracy, let's do it formally and do it right, and quit pretending that we're not one.

"NY has a long history of Senate carpetbagging. Remember Caroline's uncle, Bobby? And yes, he too used it as a platform to run for president. Moynihan was born in NYC, but had mostly lived and worked in Boston, when he wasn't overseas. So Hillary, and now Caroline (if she's appointed) follow a long tradition."

RFK and HRC both had decades of work and accomplishments at the highest levels of American politics.

Caroline Kennedy has a few months of dabbling.

If we switch names on all three, the first two remain eminently qualified to be elected, or even appointed, Senator.

The third? About as qualified as, well, lots of people we've nevver heard of who also have absolutely no record whatever in politics. Zip qualifications are zip qualifications. (Minus the celebrity factor, and the "DNA" argument, if it can be said to be one, and, yes, the true point that she can raise a lot of money.)

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