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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How campaign contributions actually work and why we need to end them


I post here and on Facebook and everywhere I can, really, about how campaign contributions and all that big money are ruining our country. They're ruining our Democracy, our democracy, our government representatives and so, their---our---legislation, our laws and our government and nation.

Proof of it? Look no further than this article from the online magazine "Cracked":



And it's here, under item number four:


#4. Legal Bribery Happens All the Time


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You probably hear a lot of people complaining about "lobbyists" -- the shady types who go to Washington on behalf of some corporation or special interest and grease the palms of Congress to make sure the vote goes their way. Maybe the most famous/infamous lobbyist of all time is Jack Abramoff, a name you may know from a massive scandal that was in the news a few years ago. He was one of the most successful lobbyists in Washington until, like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun and wound up spending four years in prison. To learn more about the dark side of lobbying, we spoke to someone with inside knowledge of how Abramoff worked. That is, Abramoff himself.
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Some call him the Jack Abramoff of Jack Abramoffs.
Right off, he told us it's not as simple as walking up to a senator with a hundred-dollar bill in your palm and saying, "Soooo ... about these new oil-drilling regulations, could my friend Ben Franklin get you to change your mind?" There are actual laws against that. But don't worry, there are lots of other ways to buy influence:
"You need a quid pro quo for it to be statutory bribery [i.e.: I vote this way, you pay me]. Few in Washington would want to cross that line. Instead, they bribe in a far more palatable and legal way. They provide a stream of benefits over time. They take Congress to ball games, dinner, golf, and concerts. They provide thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. The congressman, in turn, being grateful for all this bounty, lends an ear or hand to the lobbyist when needed. You scratch my back and I scratch yours. Welcome to Washington."
"Once we needed a letter from Majority Leader Harry Reid, opposing the approval of a casino in Louisiana for a tribe that was encroaching our client's market. I had on my staff one of Reid's former staff members, and he served as the conduit to Reid's office. Typically, our requests were matched by Reid's folks with requests for money. As I recall, in this case, they wanted a $50,000 contribution to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, though they never would have been so crass as to be direct about it. They made sure we understood, though. We complied and got our letter. That's how things worked, I am sorry to say."
OK, but ultimately don't all of these people answer to the voters? You can't stay in office supporting unpopular positions, and if you lose your next election you'll have to actually pay money for your Wizards tickets like some kind of asshole. Luckily, lobbyists can take their lobbying right to the public:
"When we had ideological fights and issues linked to our lobbying campaigns -- which was most of the time -- I'd find a think tank scholar or activist who shared our approach and pay them to pen a piece supporting our position. This was just one small part of a multi-million-dollar lobbying effort, and usually only involved small payments, but it was one of those things that I look back on now and blanch."
So, how much cash are we talking about here? Well, the 2012 election was the most expensive political election in history. You probably heard no end of pundits complaining about that. But in the same year, lobbyists spent $6.7 billion bribing their way through D.C. -- $500 million more than Romney, Obama, and all their PACs spent combined. And it gets worse ...

And then it goes on:

#3. Lobbyists Are Everywhere, Operating Without Rules


I write this because first, Americans need to know what's happening in Washington and our government and then second, so we know what we need to do.

I think, deep down, and maybe even not that deeply, we know the money needs to get out of our government. Certainly we can all agree on that. The only thing that's left after that is how we do it.

And the truth is, the only way it can be done is to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision to begin and then follow that up with fighting to end campaign contributions entirely.

It can be done.

It's huge, it will take time and demand a huge fight from the people but it can be done. And it will have to come from us, from the people.

The fact is, the UK made their campaigns for government office only one month long and they did it years ago. We can do that same thing, surely.

It's the only way we'll end the big money that's buying our government. We have to get the money out.

And we have to get started.



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