October 29, 2011

Institutionalized Corruption

Here is information made available by the Center for Responsive Politics regarding the connection between political contributions and campaign success.  In each case the numbers reflect the percentage of winning candidates who also raised and spent the most money during their campaigns.

·        In 2004
o   98% of House seats (were won by the candidates spending the most money)
o   88% of Senate seats

·        In 2006
o   94% of House seats
o   73% of Senate seats

·        In 2008
o   93% of House seats
o   86% of Senate seats

·        In 2010
o   85% of House seats
o   83% of Senate seats

The correlation between campaign funding and election success is indisputable—the more money that is raised, the more likely a candidate will be elected.  People like Rush Limbaugh claim this isn’t a problem because money, they say, reflects the popularity of candidates.  However, ever since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, money can be sourced from deep corporate pockets that are controlled by a small number of individuals who have interests that run counter to that of mainstream Americans. 

There are so many reasons why this is problematic.  Retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens was—and continues to be—critical of the ruling that gave corporations the same freedom of speech granted to individuals and therefore lifted restrictions on the amount of campaign contributions they can make.  As part of his dissenting opinion he said, “The decision is at war with the views of generations of Americans.”  He has since argued that the ruling could afford protection to acts similar to those of Tokyo Rose and the Watergate burglars. 

However, the bigger problem as I see it is that it violates the premise that a person has a single vote.  When corporations are allowed to fund PACs without restriction, it gives powerful CEOs and Board Chairmen the ability to influence a disproportionately large number of votes in a way that could likely run counter to the interests of their employees.  This can result in what many have called institutionalized corruption.  As Fareed Zakaria has recently said:

Special interests pay politicians vast amounts of cash for their campaigns, and in return they get favorable exemptions or credits in the tax code.  In other countries, this sort of bribery takes place underneath bridges and with cash in brown envelopes.  In America it is institutionalized and legal, but it is the same—cash for politicians in return for favorable treatment from the government.  The U.S. tax system is not simply corrupt; it is corrupt in a deceptive manner that has degraded the entire system of American government.  Congress is able to funnel vast sums of money to its favored funders through the tax code without anyone realizing it. 

Please, Tea Party Christians, realize that what your favorite officials are doing to protect corporations is not only bad for America, but reflects the worst kind of corruption.  In light of the recent CBO report on the growing wealth inequality among us, it’s clear that their actions will only line the pockets of the rich and force the middleclass to pay for corporate mistakes.  It will protect the behavior of the CEO of Whirlpool, who acquired a primary competitor, only to close many of its plants and cancel the pension benefits of the people who’d worked there. 

Is that the behavior you want to protect?

No comments: