Ray Bourhis Discusses Billionaires and Bagmen, Civil Disobedience, and Big Money in Politics
Q. How did your book come about?
I was frustrated by what seemed to me to be an obvious problem, that our country has become controlled by multi-national corporations and the super-rich and that no one knows what they can do about it. Since the “bagmen,” the politicians and lobbyists, simply do what they are told, I wanted to give the people the idea that there’s more they CAN do about the situation than they might think.
Q. What led you to write Billionaires and Bagmen?
When I was younger, I believed the way to change the world was to go to law school. Back then there was a very different legal world and a very different Supreme Court. Giants like Warren and Marshall instead of the midgets who dominate the court today. The former were judges who believed in Justice. That’s why I became a lawyer. But this isn’t true anymore. Big money and the Chamber of Commerce practically run the Supreme Court. Corporate lobbyists run all of Washington. If I had it to do over again I’d go to film school, not law school. Now in order to spur change you have to use the media. So I wrote this novel to reach the widest audience possible.
Q. What do you think about the role of civil disobedience in our lives?
Civil disobedience produces change. Thoreau, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, the labor movement, the women’s movement, the gay movement. History is filled with examples of people who organized to ignore conventional wisdom, ignore the rules and ignore court pronouncements. And that’s what Fairview decides to do: To ignore the “powers that be” and make its own decisions.
Q. Can any town really do what the town in your book does?
Absolutely. If people blindly followed the law we’d still have segregated schools, buses and lunch counters. And although ignoring the law is not legal, submitting a ballot initiative to the voters – as shown in my book – IS legal.
Q. What changes are needed?
The biggest thing to be done is to get the money out of government. As a political consultant once told me: Payoffs used to be illegal. So they legalized them! And that has not only been done, it has been approved and written into law by the Supreme Court.
Q. How does your background research relate to what happens in the book?
A. Reality is the best teacher. It’s not difficult to know the arguments on both sides. I use our legal framework to create the setting for the story. I exercised writers’ discretion to tell a story about what happens with government interference in people’s lives. There are parallels occurring in our country right now and the outcome of the battles we see may be similar and may be different.
Q. Where do your characters come from?
A. They are fictitious composites of real people both famous and not. Some I have met and worked with, others are straight out of the news.
And I do have a bit in common with Sean Cogan.