Posts Tagged ‘Corruption’

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Pilitical Monday: The Poetry of How Things Got This Far

May 7, 2012

My last Political Monday post (click here to read) dealt with the two-party system in place in the United States.  While the political positions of the two parties have changed over time, the names remain the same: Democratic and Republican Parties.  Their transformation is nothing short of amazing.  Still, even with their opposing politics, there is the specter of special interests, with all their money, that truly have a stranglehold on both parties.

You may be thinking “stranglehold” is too strong a word, here is why I think it fits:  According to the non-partisan website, OpenSecrets.org, here are the top donor industries for the 2011-2012 political giving year[i]:

OpenSecrets.org data on Top Political Donations by Industry

A quick look at the total amount given shows the extent of the problem, there is too much money given to political candidates and it creates a sense of obligation to the ones giving.  Look at it like this, a Senator is more likely to take a meeting with a company that gave him/her a pile of money rather than taking a meeting from either you or me.  That is not a typo either, the top 13 gave over a billion dollars almost equally split between the two political parties.

Note:  You may notice the percentages do not add up to 100%.  That is due to excluding data that is not directly attributable to either part but reported as given.  I also simply divided the amounts given by the percentage to allocate the dollars to each party. 

Remember, this is just the top 13 industries.  OpenSecrets.org reports $4.16 billion given overall for the 2011-2012 years[ii], and the data is current to April 30.  That averages out to $ 7,761,194 per elected federal official in just over a one-year period.

As long as such lobbying efforts distribute such huge amounts of money into our political system, they will maintain control over it.  The fact that giving is about equal between the parties just illustrates the desire to maintain access, and thus control, over our elected officials.  Such huge amounts of money require any politician that wishes to continue to serve to pander to these groups to be competitive.  The very size of the money involved creates an atmosphere of entitlement for the donors and an atmosphere of obligation to the receivers.  It corrupts politics in America.

From time to time, my blog posting cross topic lines, this is one such topic, as I have several poems of a political nature, this one is pretty much on topic:

Details, Details, Details

The devil is in the details
at least that’s what they say
For in the details live the snares
that catch us on our way

With surgeon skill they craft the tone
within the plan they seek
but shades of gray is what they weave
and havoc they will wreak

In fog-veiled words and turn of phrase
pirates steal this land
proclaiming all gave approval
using their sleight of hand

Slick deception is the standard
that got us to this place
Be it party over nation
or simply lack of grace

No, we cannot trust to others
to do what things are best
so we need to keep our guard up
and put them to the test

When intent lacks understanding
before the task is done
the result will cause true damage
to freedoms we have won

Influence is bought and traded
like some stock on the floor
but congress owes us better –
let’s kick them out the door!

Then open up the processes
on all they say and do
and force them to leave the lobby
that hides and turns their screw

To hell with will all the details!
let’s simplify the day
And to hell with both the parties
they stand in freedom’s way!


[i] “Interest Groups.” OpenSecrets.org: Money in Politics. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php>.

[ii] “Interest Groups.” OpenSecrets.org: Money in Politics. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php>.

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Leadership – In Washington It Means More than You Think

January 13, 2010

Ever heard of a Leadership PAC?  They don’t receive a lot of media attention and as far as Political Action Committees (PAC) go, they deal with relatively small amounts of money.  Nonetheless, the have great influence, not only with who each fund gives to, but with who controls the fund by those that give to it.

Each election cycle we hear the term “PAC” in news reports.  While most of us have an idea of what they are, few understand the power a PAC can hold.  Federal law limits the amount of money an individual or group gives to a candidate.  A Political Action Committee raises funds from individuals, cooperation, or other PACs.  In turn, the PAC gives to candidates and other PACs, to the limit allowed by law.

For example, Representative X is from your district and you like her work so far because she brought the widget factory there.  You can give her up to $2,400 for the primary and another $2,400 for the general election.  A local PAC is formed called “Keep Widgets Local” and they plan to support any candidate that supported the widget industry.  You can give them up to $5,000 per year.  The PAC in turn contributes up to $5,000 to your representative.  There are limits for earmarks but that is basically how they work.  The details of PACs in general are for another article.  This means you can give to a candidate and a PAC that supports that candidate too.

This is where Leadership PACs come in.  Each member of congress can have a one.  In the 2008 election cycle, members controlled 361 Leadership PACs.  Just what is a Leadership PAC?  They are PACs where the member directly controls the funds.  They can contribute to other member’s campaigns up to $5,000 per member, per year.  They contribute to each other more than voters can.  Then the member they gave to can turn around and give $5,000 back.  In effect, they can take $50,000 (or more) from their PAC; give it to ten other members’ campaign fund with each of them doing the same for the group.  The result being their fund gains the $50,000.  If businesses engage in this type of activity, we call it money laundering.  By giving to other members, they gain influence and committee appointments have instant support.

This money may be used for almost any purpose other than supporting the members own campaign, everything from fancy meals to paying a spouse for a “do-nothing” job.  In 2008, over $36,000,000 in Leadership PAC funds found their way into congressional election coffers.  Laws requiring reporting on Leadership PACs are vague and obtuse, allowing for little oversight.

In the end, Leadership PACs are dressed up slush funds at the candidate’s disposal.  The funds come from  individuals and industries the member has some sort of controlling interest in, such as being on a transportation committee and the fund supported by an airline.  What they really are is a legalized form of bribery.  In other words – Washington “leadership” at is best!

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