July 6, 2012

Barclays Influence

State legislatures across the country are passing voter suppression laws ostensibly to prevent fraud.  While over thirty states have considered regulations requiring people to present government-issued photo IDs to vote, up to 11% of American citizens lack such identification.  The requirement would make it more difficult for certain people—especially the elderly, blacks, students and people with disabilities—to vote. 

Here is a summary of other similar actions that have been taken:

  • Three states passed laws to require documentary proof of citizenship, though as many as 7 percent of American citizens do not have such proof.
  • Seven states shortened early voting time frames, even though over 30 percent of all votes cast in the 2008 general election were cast before Election Day.
  • Two state legislatures voted to repeal Election Day registration laws, though Election Day registration increases voter turnout by 10-12 percent.
  • Two states passed legislation making it much more difficult for third-party organizations to register voters—so difficult, in fact, that some voter registration organizations are leaving the states altogether.

Proponents of voter suppression legislation have failed to show that fraud is a problem anywhere in the country.  For example, despite the Department of Justice’s 2002 Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative, which promised to vigorously prosecute voter fraud, the federal government obtained only 26 convictions or guilty pleas between 2002 and 2005.  Other studies consistently find that voter fraud appears to be extraordinarily rare.  

At the same time as these steps are being taken, corporations have been given the extraordinary ability to sway votes through unlimited campaign contributions.  One case in point goes beyond the believable into the realm of the surreal.  Barclays, the bank that has acknowledged irregularities among its traders, has been revealed to be the ninth largest bundler of campaign funds to the Romney campaign.  What its traders were apparently doing was to go into cahoots with at least four other banks to manipulate the London Interbank Offering Rate (or LIBOR).  LIBOR is a floating interest rate that $350 trillion of financial contracts, including residential mortgages, reference.  The effect of this manipulation conceivably led to instances in which mortgage borrowers were made to pay too high a rate in order to improve the profit performance of Barclays traders. 

Barclays has been a vocal critic of financial regulation and with its access to corporate profits and a network of well-heeled bankers, is able to influence American voters.  But the thing that is most bizarre about this is that Barclays is a British—not an American—bank.  In other words, a foreign corporation that wants to reduce its regulatory scrutiny despite a spotty ethical track record is bundling millions of dollars to support a candidate who has vowed to dismantle the legal framework built to prevent another financial collapse.   If we don’t recognize something incredibly dangerous in all this, we’re not paying attention.  While it is becoming increasingly difficult for American citizens to cast their votes, even foreign corporations are expanding their influence in our elections.  


Anonymous said...

Voter fraud is a problem.
It's the democrats who tend to cheat.
It's not unreasonable to ask for I.D. Everyone should have one anyway.
(Read Christian Adam's book, Injustice).
Agree, influence of corporate $ must be eliminated.


Anonymous said...

Voter suppression is a problem.
It's the republicans who tend to cheat.
Agreed, influence of corporate $ must be eliminated.



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