7th Nov 2022

Is It Time to "Get Out the Vote", again or are Both of America's Political Parties Too Corrupt to Support?

The Corporate Value of (Corrupt) Lobbying: Americans can see that elected officials favor the interests of large contributors to their own campaign war-chests. The spending of Super PACs in this year’s election cycle has given rise to a large, bipartisan consensus that such outsized spending is dangerous for our democracy.

The total spending on lobbying in the United States skyrocketed from $1.56 billion in 2000 to $3.53 billion last year, according to Senate Office of Public Records data compiled by non-profit OpenSecrets.org.

Amazon and Facebook are among the top 10 lobbying entities in the United States by spending, according to OpenSecrets.

Studies have shown that lobbying does have an impact on policy—in terms of carving out tax loopholes it offers a huge return on investment. READ MORE: Amazon Paid $0 In Federal Income Taxes (Forbes) READ MORE: Trump has named more ex-lobbyists to Cabinet in 3 years than Obama, Bush did in full terms: report (TheHill)

Elected Officials Favor the Interests of Super PAC Donors over the Public Interest

TheGuardian: Many Americans say that they are less likely to vote because big donors to Super PACs have so much more sway than average Americans.

Americans know that the new rules that allow individuals, corporations, and unions to donate unlimited amounts to Super PACs has led to corruption. This is true for both Republicans and Democrats.

Obviously, average voters do not have the same access to candidates (and influence on candidates) as big donors to Super PACs.

Americans have seen that members of Congress will favor the interests of those who donate to Super PACs over those who do not — and that Super PAC donors can pressure elected officials to alter their votes.

Bernie Sanders tweeted earlier this year: “One of the most disastrous Supreme Court decisions in my lifetime. In essence, this ruling handed millionaires and billionaires – who have already rigged our economy – unlimited influence in our elections.”

This is a reference to a 2010 ruling by the supreme court that removed many existing limitations on outside groups spending money to influence elections. It enabled the creation Super Political Action Committees, or Super Pacs, organizations independent of the candidates’ campaigns which, unlike the campaigns, may raise unlimited amounts of money from individual donors. 

TheDailyBeast: Los Angeles-area real estate magnate Mark Handel was once able to get state legislation specially drafted to suit his developments, persuade the city council to give his projects an interest-free six-figure loan, and to cultivate ties with men who would later represent the region in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. READ MORE: Real Estate Tycoon Exposed as ‘Boogeyman of Porn’ (The Daily Beast)

Super PACs Have Excessive Influence over Government 

On January 3, 2006, the prominent Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing government officials in exchange for favorable decisions made on issues related to his clients’ interests. Described as the “biggest public corruption scandal in a generation,” (“Case bringing new scrutiny to a system and a profession,” The Washington Post, January 4, 2006).

Lobbying is a significantly more effective way of generating political influence than corruption, and electoral rules are a key mediating political institution. 

Organized special interest groups crucially affect how economic policies are designed, agreed upon and implemented. 

If one interprets these resources not as campaign contributions but as bribes, one could argue that this is not a model of lobbying but a model of corruption.

Voters have few alternatives, making it relatively difficult for them to punish politicians who are influenced by lobbyists.

As described by Forbes in 2009, “con men, swindlers and cheaters pay bribes. Sophisticates hire lobbyists because lobbyists get better, more lasting results while only rarely landing in the slammer.”

Lobbying is an integral part of the US political system. 

Lobbying in the US is clearly a major source of corruption. Indeed, economists who study corruption often have trouble coming up with a sound definition of “corruption” that doesn’t end up including lobbying, despite the fact that lobbying is quite legal. Bribery means giving politicians money to get them to do things for you. Lobbying means giving politicians money and asking them to do things. In the letter of the law, that makes all the difference.

One thing that does make a difference is that lobbyists are required to register who they are and record their campaign contributions (unless of course they launder—I mean reallocate—them through a Super PAC of course). Many corporate lobbyists claim that it’s not that they go around trying to find politicians to influence, but rather politicians who call them up demanding money.

America’s Political System Thrives On Corruption  

By Bruce Berlin, Contributor

Big Money has a stranglehold on our country’s political system that is destroying our democracy. Today in Washington, and in our state capitals, too often Big Money calls the shots. Moreover, this problem is not a partisan issue. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as well as presidential administrations of both parties are frequently guilty of unduly favoring the desires of their Big Money donors over the needs of their constituents. The truth is, we have a system that thrives on corruption, and it’s getting worse all the time.

In 2002 Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Republican from Louisiana and then Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, drafted the Medicare prescription drug bill, which created Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. In his final Congressional election for Congress that same year, Tauzin received close to $300,000 in campaign contributions from health professionals, drug makers and other health products companies. The bill Tauzin drafted in 2003 followed the industry’s desires. It steered clear of price controls and forbade our government, the largest purchaser of prescription drugs, from negotiating with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries, which is why today we still pay the highest prices in the world for our prescription medicines.

But, that’s not all. The year after Tauzin drafted the Medicare drug benefit act, he left Congress and went through the revolving door between government and K Street, where a great many lobbyists work, and was hired by the drug industry. PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying arm, rewarded Tauzin for writing the drug bill to its liking by hiring him as its president with a salary of approximately $2 million a year.

Tauzin’s payoff would be unbelievable except for the fact that that is the way Washington actually functions. Retiring from Congress and becoming a lobbyist for a much heftier salary is a fairly common practice. According to one study, 42 percent of House members and 50 percent of senators become lobbyists when they leave office. Not only do they make a lot more money when they “retire,” so to speak, but also they automatically have built-in access to members of Congress, having worked with many of them when they themselves were in office. You might say many of our representatives, with the help of corporate America, have made corrupting their public service standard operating procedure.

A few years later, the Great Recession of 2008 struck our nation. Millions of innocent people lost their homes and/or jobs when the economy crashed. Though the economic disaster was mostly due to the unscrupulous and fraudulent practices of Wall Street’s big banks, the Obama administration allowed practically all of those bankers to get off scot-free. Could the facts that some of Obama’s biggest donors during his 2008 campaign were Wall Street banks, and that he appointed a number of Goldman Sachs people, like Larry Summers, Gene Sperling and Rahm Emanuel, to important positions in his administration have had something to do with his failure to hold the bankers accountable?

In addition, despite the fact that the TARP legislation (Troubled Asset Relief Program) included instructions to use a portion of the funds to prevent the foreclosure of people’s homes, President Obama not only used little or none of it to assist those distressed homeowners, but he also refused to extract foreclosure relief measures from our nation’s biggest banks in return for the huge bailout they received. Was neither prosecuting the big bankers nor extracting foreclosure relief from them Obama’s way of paying back Wall Street for their helping him win the White House?

One of the greatest ironies of the 2016 presidential election is that it took a billionaire to turn the dominance of money in politics inside out. Many of Trump’s supporters say part of his appeal is that, as they see it, he is his own man and not a typical politician beholden to donors who give millions and expect policy favors in return.

As for Trump himself, it’s all about the money. He was offered up to a 19 percent stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, in return for his lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia by Pres. Obama. Subsequently, a similar portion of Rosneft was sold to a mysterious partnership partly owned by a shadowy company in the Cayman Islands, the ownership of which is unknown, according to Reuters. And then the sanctions were, in fact, relaxed.

Moreover, the Chinese government granted President Trump and his business valuable trademark protection for the use of the Trump name in the construction industry, something he had been seeking for more than a decade. While Trump had fought unsuccessfully in Chinese courts for years for control of the trademark, in November, soon after the election, China awarded the trademark to the Trump Organization.

And, yet another example of Trump’s corruption of the presidency is his pay-to-play scheme at his private, Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach resort. Soon after he became president, Trump doubled its initiation fee to $200,000. For Trump, the presidency is all about using it for his personal gain. The question is: How long will the American people put up with all this corruption? READ MORE: Mark Esper, former Raytheon weapons lobbyist, is in charge of the Pentagon (Citizens for Ethics) The man in charge of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, spent years as Raytheon’s top lobbyist before joining the Trump administration.

CNBC: In June of this year, President Joe Biden revoked and replaced three executive orders issued by then-President Donald Trump that sought to ban transactions with ByteDance’s TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat by American businesses.

A spokesperson for Tencent acknowledged that the company hired three lobbying firms to deal with the proposed WeChat ban.

According to OpenSecrets, Tencent Holdings and Tencent America paid a combined $910,000 to those three firms in 2020. Tencent was unable to immediately confirm that figure for CNBC.

ByteDance paid a total of $2.6 million to lobbyists last year, according to OpenSecrets, up from $270,000 the year before.

From Coalition for American Veterans: On January 22nd, Lloyd Austin assumed office as the 28th Secretary of Defense of the United States. “Lloyd Austin had pledged to liquidate his Raytheon holdings ‘as soon as practicable but not later than 90 days after my confirmation,’” according to Big League Politics. But by February, Austin was not yet divested, and Raytheon scored a big contract from the Pentagon. Big League noted, “A new $49 million contract was awarded to Raytheon last week, just weeks after the company’s former board member Lloyd Austin was confirmed as the new Secretary of Defense.

We all know lobbying is corrupt. What can we do about it?

PatrickJuli: I am convinced that Citizens United will never stand, that other decisions by the courts will never stand. How long it takes to overcome them, I don’t know, but we have never seen the public so angry about the way money is used to rig Washington as they are today. People know it’s a fixed system.

One possibility would be to eliminate campaign contributions entirely, which we could do by establishing a law that nobody can ever give money or in-kind favors to politicians ever under any circumstances.

Then all elections would have to be completely publicly financed. This is a radical solution, but it would most certainly work. 

Also establish term limits for Congress, which seems pretty reasonable to me. If we’re going to have term limits for the Executive branch, why not the other branches as well? They could be longer, but if term limits are necessary at all we should use them consistently.

And, once you work for Congress, you can never work for a lobbying organization for the rest of your life, and vice versa.

Taken to its logical extreme, this policy would mean that once the government ever truly acts in the public interest, all campaign contributions are henceforth forever banned. 

It’s simple to do, and we had it before and it seemed to work.

NOTE: This is a totally free article, no subscriptions or pay walls, no ads or pop ups, no donation buttons or anything to join or buy. No spam! I do not profit from any of this. I am not running for any political office, nor do I endorse any candidates or political parties.

Do yourself a favor. Think for yourself. Be your own person. Question everything. Stand for principle. Champion individual liberty and self-ownership where you can. Develop a strong moral code. Be kind to others. Do no harm, unless that harm is warranted. Pretty obvious stuff...but people who hold these things in their hearts seem to be disappearing from the earth at an accelerated rate. Stay safe, my friends. Thanks for being here.


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