His answer is for local governments to simply ignore Big Brother’s rules and write their own. All across America, town by town, regardless of who is president or who big money controls. It’s called Civil Disobedience.
History is full with examples of people refusing to abide by laws they consider unjust or immoral. In Billionaires and Bagmen, Bourhis explores the possibility of a whole town doing just that. This entertaining political thriller, described by the Midwest Book Review as “deftly crafted and compelling,” also a blueprint of how it could be done.
Sean Cogan, a funny, prickly, charismatic economist turned venture capitalist, is convinced that our system is no longer “of, by and for the people,” that all three branches of government are bought and paid for, and that reform efforts are a complete joke. He believes that no matter who happens to be President, we have become a nation held in a vice grip by powerful billionaires, corrupt multinational corporations and their bagmen: the politicians and lobbyists who carry out their agendas.
Billionaires and Bagmen - What Happens When a Small Town Takes Them OnHe gathers up a few old high school friends in their small town and decides to shake things up. Sean convinces them that if something dramatic doesn’t happen now, the very concept of self-government will become obsolete.
He heads to town hall, plunks down $250 and registers an initiative to be put on the November ballot for his hometown of Fairview to declare its independence from everybody. Jen Renton, a gorgeous, burned-out corporate lawyer who has morphed into a Tibetan Buddhist massage therapist; Ollie Waterson, Sean’s political opposite, with an “Don’t Tread On Me!” bumper sticker on his HumVee and a couple other friends become part of his team.
From a savvy newspaper reporter to a secretive former CIA agent who knows how the game is played to the idiot alcoholic mayor of the town who tries to sabotage the initiative to a controversial talk show host with an agenda, things start to spin out of control. Particularly when the powers that be in Washington become concerned that this independence movement could take on a life of its own.
Cogan and his gang plow ahead in spite of the collusion of spies, lobbyists, a controversial talk show host and a whole boatload of other unsavory characters. It’s an exciting, scary and dangerous ride.
Bourhis has been at the forefront of the battle against greed and excessive power for most of his life.
Bourhis grew up in the tough neighborhood of Elmhurst in Queens, New York. He credits an attempt by local street gang members to throw him, at the age of twelve, into a blazing bonfire with helping him develop the survival skills needed to spend his legal career taking on insurance companies.
Bourhis got his BA at Ohio State University. In his senior year, he created the University’s first mascot in eighty-five years with his then girlfriend, Sally Lanyon. Ray and Sally launched the mascot, unannounced, onto the football field in the middle of the marching band’s homecoming half-time show. When he waddled off the field, 82,000 fans chanted, “We want the mascot! We want the mascot!” and the OSU icon, now known as Brutus Buckeye, was born. .
After graduating from Ohio State, he took a job teaching in a rural high school in Appalachia, where he got fired for putting together a pilot project with Senator Robert Kennedy for students to work on Indian Reservations during the summer. Bourhis became one of Kennedy’s key staffers, working with the Senator on his presidential campaign.
Later Bourhis joined the Domestic Peace Corps (VISTA) and was sent to California as a community organizer with the farm workers. His passion for fighting for the underdog ultimately led him to the UC Berkeley School of Law. He decided on law as a career because he wanted to make a difference. Bourhis was inspired by the giants then serving on the Supreme Court, judges who bore little resemblance to those serving on the court today. While at Berkeley he founded a student-funded public interest law firm that was promptly vetoed by the University Board of Regents. The firm later became known as CalPirg (California Public Interest Research Group).
Since law school Bourhis has specialized in representing policyholders in cases involving the wrongful denial of long-term disability (LTD) insurance claims. His firm has set legal precedents and obtained record verdicts and settlements in that field. Again, this reflects his passion for fighting for the underdog.
Bourhis’ Billionaires and Bagmen reflects a lifetime of disdain for what he considers the hijacking of America by an increasingly pro-business Supreme Court that has consistently ruled against “the people” and in favor of multi-national corporations. He believes and hopes that what happens with Sean Cogan and his friends in Fairview may well turn fiction into fact.
In addition to Billionaires and Bagmen, Bourhis is the author of the nonfiction book Insult to Injury and the soon to be released Preemption: A License to Steal Your Medical/ LTD Benefits. He also co-authored The Autobiography of Brutus Buckeye: As Told to His Parents Sally Lanyon and Ray Bourhis, published in 2015 to honor Brutus’ 50th birthday.
Bourhis lives in San Francisco and Montecito, CA.