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The Danger of Money in Politics

Updated on April 17, 2015

America’s political two-party system needs reforming. Many Americans, including every voter I've spoken to regarding politics, steadfastly believe politicians care more about maintaining power than devising and passing policies geared in ameliorating Americans' lives, accounting for Congress’s deplorable ratings. Most voters, again, passionately contend the most serious problem with politicians is their penchant to intentionally divide American classes, meaning the rich and poor, Wall Street and Main Street. I do, however, agree that politicians use divisive language to obfuscate, even deflect scrutiny from certain policies that help one particular group-mostly the wealthy ( I have to add that dividing classes wouldn't be so efficacious if middle-class men, particularly white men, weren't inclined to vote against their economic interests). I, on other hand, don't think this is the most serious issue, really. The most pressing and, to be candid, dangerous problem is money in politics, which, in a nutshell, enables the 1% to influence politics in ways the average Joe, like me, couldn't even imagine.

Citizens Untied v. FEC

The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 the ban restricting corporations from funding electioneering communications, widely known as infomercials, was indeed unconstitutional, essentially eviscerating, if not dismantling, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, often referred to as the McCain-Feingold Act, a law despised by corporations. What was monumental-as well as problematic- about this ruling was the ushering political action committees, popularly known PACs. PACs, however, aren’t required to disclose their donors, but the donations are limited- 5,000 annually, providing cover to donors. Super PACs, on the other hand, are much more enticing to the wealthy desiring to influence policy. Super PACs aren’t, at least for now, bound by any donation limitation, though donors have to be disclosed by law. For instance, Jeffrey Katzenberg donated $2million to a super PAC supporting Obama, and Sheldon Adelson donated millions to a Super PAC backing Newt Gingrich. Super PACs are one avenue the wealthy employ to influence policymaking. Citizens United gave wealthy donors unprecedented power. The Koch Brothers were, owners of Koch Industries, reported in Washington Post, planning on building a network of wealthy donors to raise over $800million. The Koch brothers, I mind you, are vehemently outspoken against regulation, especially environmental rules, that would impact their businesses, not the interest of average citizens.

Lobby

Lobbies, moreover, have tremendous influence in politics today. Corporations spend billions to lobby Congress. The Pharmaceutical, oil and gas, insurance, and Education industries spend astronomical amounts of money for lobbying firms to sway legislators and government officials-both at the state and national levels, to pass policies favorable to their narrow business interests. For instance, Lobbyists provided gifts and money to Attorneys General in states to pursue specific cases in order to provide their clients an advantage over their competitors or, in some instances, decline cases potentially damaging to their clients' bottom lines. It doesn’t take a genius, I think, to see power of lobbies. After winning control of the House and Senate, Republicans' first line of business was passing legislation authorizing the Keystone Pipeline. Why? The oil and gas lobby is intensely active in politics, contributing $70million to federal candidates, 90% of which went to Republican campaigns.

Republicans, instead of passing legislation repairing and improving America's infrastructure or addressing workers' stagnated wages by increasing the federal minimum wage, which would, as economists argue, put more needed money in workers' pockets to spend and meliorate the economy, were more interested in pleasing their bosses. The majority of Americans favor a minimum wage increase, but politicians' bosses, the wealthy, repudiated the idea, and politicians were forced to ignore most Americans' needs. American workers, ordinary people unable to donate millions to federal campaigns, were ignored. According to MotherJones.com, Citibank, via its lobbyists, wrote the Republican budget allowing risk taking, backed by American taxpayers. Insane, isn't it? Wouldn't it be pleasant if we had to write rules we had to obey? Picture the New York Knicks rewriting rules to ensure they get the calls they want. The team would have a stark advantage in games. Well, that what Citibank and other Wall Street firms do; they write their own rules or pay for them to be passed. They're the bosses.


Foreign Policy

Lobbyists are even influencing foreign policy. Republicans, as well as some Democrats, are aggressively opposing the Iran deal. Many argue, neither eloquently nor cogently I think, that this deal, which is months from being completed, only encourages Iran to build Nuclear weapons. However, as reported by the New York Times, Senator Cotton of Arkansas, lead author of the controversial letter to Iran condemning many of the contents of the incomplete deal with the Obama Administration, received significant campaign contributions from pro-Isreal lobbyists. Many GOP politicians, especially the most critical of the deal, as it turns out, were giving millions from pro-Isreal lobbyists. The deal, if is passed intact by Congress, will be historic, is crucial to peace between America and Iran and equal pivotal to peace in the region. If the deal is derailed, then the possibility of war is more likely, leading to the deaths of thousands, if not millions of people. Soldiers, many of whom are from middle-class or poor communities, will pay the price, not the lobbyists or wealthy donors.

Conclusion

The most pressing and salient problem with the American political system is that the wealthy had bought it. The Supreme Court, arguably the most pro-business Court I've seen, gave corporations more power and sway. The wealthy have lobbies to gain influence, power regular Americans will never have. Wall Street is writing legislation, and of course, the rules will only give them advantages. Consumers have no power, no voice. This is the actual problem. Some members of the 1% don't give a dam about the average person. This explains why wage stagnation, which is a strain on the economy, is being virtually ignored. College students are now modern-day indentured servants, many of whom are thousands of dollars in debt on graduation day, rendering college a financial albatross for struggling families. Why don't students get relief? Simple, they don't have lobbyists writing budgets as Citibank. Follow the money. The wealthy writes the rules, not us. Democrats and Republicans have the same bosses, and, guess what, we're obviously not them. We need a party or parties, not depending on Wall Street or "big business"-willing to vigorously speak and fight for regular Americans. This nation is slowly but surely becoming a banana republic.



https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E01


http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/spending-bill-992-derivatives-citigroup-lobbyists


http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-network-aims-to-spend-nearly-1-billion-on-2016-elections/2015/01/26/77a44654-a513-11e4-a06b-9df2002b86a0_story.html


http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/us/politics/gops-israel-support-deepens-as-political-contributions-shift.html?_r=0

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