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The Triangle of Influence and How it Affects our Democracy

Updated on October 1, 2016
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Mike has a keen interest in the effects of politics in our culture. He has a unique way of simplifying complex concepts.

Trump is Right, the System is Rigged

The system is rigged, but not for the reasons he says. It is rigged by the 535 people who are in recess right now. You are angry about the government and want change and you have a fear that your country is not great. Trump wants to make your country great again, so he plays into your fears, by saying, "I'm going to make our country great again." Trump supporters will vote for him because there is nothing worse than Hillary Clinton. Hillary supporters will vote for her because they say Trump is unfit to be president.

They both pledge the moon, but the elephant in the room that no one is focused on is congress. We are all focused on the candidates and what they can do for this country, but they won't be able to do anything without congresses' approval. Trump's surrogates say that Hillary is a professional politician and they want the change that Trump pledges to bring, but if he gets elected and the congress is biased to the left, he won't be able to do anything without their approval. They won't even fund his wall.

By the same token if Hillary gets elected and she wants to get her programs passed, if congress is biased towards the right, they will block her every move, jut like they did Obama's for eight years.

I don't believe in conspiracy theory, but I believe the republican congress conspired to malign Hillary with all the investigations about Benghazi and her email. Because she is a threat to them getting re-elected. They are very successful because they have created a voting bloc of people who not only fear her, but think she is evil.

Our democracy is in jeopardy because it is no longer representation by the people. it has become representation by corporations and big moneyed interest. This is because congressmen are on a perpetual campaign to get re-elected. Our congress is bicameral and is made up of both the senate and the house of representatives.


Each state, regardless of population, has two senators; since there are fifty states, there are one hundred senators, each serving six-year terms. The terms are staggered, so every two years, approximately one-third of the Senate is up for election. Most incumbents seek re-election, and their historical likelihood of winning subsequent elections exceeds 90%.

House of Representatives

The house of representatives has 435 members with each member representing a district within his or her state. House seats are allocated among the states by population. Each representative serves a two-year term.

Therefore, every two years, there is a large sum of congressman who are up for re-election. Studies show that a large percentage of congressman spend 30 to 70% of their time finding donors and raising money for their next campaign. There is a constant interaction between lobbyist, congressman, corporations and big moneyed interest that influences the decision making, our laws, and the outcomes in Washington. This constant intraction can be thought of as a Triangle of Influence:

The Triangle of Influence

The Triangle of Infulence
The Triangle of Infulence | Source

In general, here is how it works. Corporations and big moneyed interest pay a handsome salary to lobbyist. The lobbyists in turn provide contributions and perks to congressman to support the lobbyists. Congressman do favors for the lobbyist. Congressman cut deals with the corporations and big money interests, who then provide funding for campaign contributions. There are other forms of interaction, but this diagram is presented to give you an overview of how congress is being influenced by the dependency for campaign funding.

What's wrong with this picture?... It's missing you and me.

The Disconnect

The Big Disconnect
The Big Disconnect | Source

The Great Distraction

The Great Distraction
The Great Distraction | Source

We get congressman elected based on what they pledge they are going to do for us. However, they are so pre-occupied and distracted with raising money for their perpetual campaigns, our issues are ignored, because congressmen are beholden to their funders in one form or another and become dependent upon them to get re-elected. You noticed, I have not mentioned any political parties because, this applies to all of them.

Revolving Door

There is also a revolving door that exists between congressman and lobbyists that influences the thinking of the congressmen. The average salary for a congressman is about $160,000. a year. Lobbyists can make three to ten times that amount, so there is a strong incentive for congressmen to focus on what the lobbyist want. Some could become lobbyists as well and someday earn that dream salary.

Applying the Triangle of Influence

Up until this point, I have been speaking in generalities. But now, let's apply this triangle of influence to specifics. To do this, replace Big Corporations and Moneyed Interests with actual entities and issues. Below are the ones I'm going to cover:

  • Banks and investments companies
  • Health insurance and pharmaceuticals
  • Tax reform
  • Candidates not yet elected to office

Banks and Investment Companies

In 1999, the banks and investment companies lobbied heavily to have the Glass-Stegal Act removed. This act provided regulations preventing banks and investment companies from commingling their assets. Meaning that banks could act as investment companies and investment companies could act as banks. commingling of assets opened the door for all kinds of creative financing that led to our financial meltdown.

Health Insurance and Pharmaceuticals

The health insurance companies and big Pharma, lobbied to get the Medicare Prescription Drug Act passed which became Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program. It turns out it was a $49.3 billion gift to big Pharma that was never funded by congress. Health care reform was a $250 billion gift to the insurance industry. All of this was possible because of the mutual financial dependency between members of congress and the lobbyists.

Tax Reform

We all hear abut tax reform, but does anything ever get done? The right does not want to raise taxes period. The left wants to raise taxes on the wealthy. If you go behind the scenes, it's actually congress who uses this game as leverage to get more campaign cash. Changes on the left get stopped because lobbyists representing powerful private interest use their leverage to block changes to the status-quo. Change on the right gets blocked because of strong, powerful public interests. Therefore, congress works to block any change that would weaken their fund- raising machine.

Candidates not Yet Elected

The Super PAC is a direct result of the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United. You can tell a Super PAC ad because it does not state: "I am (politician's name) and I approve this ad." Thanks to the Supreme Court, they do not have to disclose source or amount of funding. At the end of this hub, I have provided a link to another hubbers hub about Citizens United that does an excellent job on explaining it.

Reality Check

We have heard from 17 republican candidates and two democratic candidates as to how in their first days in office they are going to do all kinds of wondrous things.

However, we are not paying attention to the elephant in the room. That elephant is congress. None of those things can be accomplished without congress’ approval. In the last eight years, congress has successful blocked almost every one of Obama’s initiatives.


I hope this has given you some insight as to what goes on behind the scenes. The public needs to be informed as to how the real system works. There is power in information and the more people who know about this, the more power we will have to bring about change. Bernie Sanders is right, there have to be grass roots movements to bring about real change. Vote for not only who you want as president, but do the research and vote for the congress person who you think will bring about the change that you want.

Here is the link to Citizens United by Jillian Barclay. She does an excellent job explaining it. Be sure to watch the cartoon, it also is excellent.

© 2012 Mike Russo


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