“I’ve used the word ‘corrupting’ and I want to be very clear about it. I mean by it not the corruption of individuals but a corruption of a system itself that all of us are forced to participate in against our will: The alliance of money and the interests that it represents, the access that it affords to those who have it at the expense of those who don’t, the agenda that it changes or sets by virtue of its power is steadily silencing the voice of the vast majority of Americans who have a much harder time competing or who can’t compete at all.”
Many Americans fail to recognize the type of corruption Secretary Kerry refers to above because it has been the modus operandi between government elites, big business, and special interests for decades. This is how the political game is played. It is also why average Americans, rightly, believe the system is broken and feel helpless to change it. As a result, many of our fellow citizens have tuned out.
Just in the last month plenty of news stories have illustrated the cozy relationship between money and politics:
- From the Center for Public Integrity—Governor’s groups rely increasingly on ‘dark money’ affiliates;
- On Politico—Tom Steyer Anti-Keystone Billionaire Rattles Democrats;
- On Mother Jones—Democrats are Undermining Wall Street Reform, Too;
- Amgen received a sweet deal during the fiscal cliff negotiations;
- Senator Roy Blunt successfully inserted a rider into H.R. 933, a continuing resolution spending bill, to give protections to Monsanto with whom he has close ties;
- Open Secrets.org—Gun Rights Group has Close Ties to Paul Family;
- Even the Obama Super PAC Organizing for Action is being criticized and closely observed by watch-dog groups.
And the list goes on…Although Republican candidates and lawmakers have benefitted more from this glut of money, especially following the Citizens United ruling in 2010, Democrats too are firmly ensconced in this system of money peddling and influence. It’s difficult for candidates and elected officials to take the high road and refuse outside money because if they don’t play within the system, their candidacy or re-election bid doesn’t stand a chance. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer provides the perfect example of someone who tried to rise above the muck, foregoing big money contributions during the 2012 presidential campaign. As a result, his candidacy was short-lived.
Lawrence Lessig gave a TED Talk in February about this very topic. He compares the United States to the fictional Lesterland where funders’ interests are placed above those of the people because the legislators are dependent on the funders, so they work to keep the funders happy. Lessig also offers some solutions.
Lessig’s On the Record Project is designed with the goal of holding elected officials accountable and getting them on record: Do they believe the “unending chase for money” has corrupted politics? Then using what they say to either help them act to reform the system or hold them accountable should they be satisfied with the status quo. There are myriad organizations working to effect this type of change.
Senator Russ Feingold’s Progressives United organization was founded to stand up to the exploding corporate influence in our political system. This is a 501(c)(4) organization, but the difference between this one and others I’ve railed against is that Progressives United discloses 100% of its income; there is no secrecy.
OpenSecrets.org‘s mission is to track money in politics and how it effects elections and public policy.
The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization whose mission is “to enhance democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of trust by powerful public and private institutions.”
Common Cause —Money and politics is only one of the many issues for which they advocate change.
Reform will be difficult and take time, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted. As long as politicians give priority to the interests of those who supply huge sums of money to their campaigns or threaten to support a legislator’s opponent, elected officials will never be free to serve the interests of average Americans.
If any of the organizations listed above appeal to you, get involved or make a donation. Remember, this is your country too.
Cross-posted at The Feisty Liberal
Related articles by Deborah Ludwig
- Money and Politics – a Growing Threat to Democracy (evergreeninstitute.wordpress.com)
- Money, Money Everywhere (evergreeninstitute.wordpress.com)