Why Politicians Get Bribed For So Little

by: Ian Welsh

Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 01:15


I've long thought that the problem with politicians isn't just that they're constantly passing bills they've been bribed to pass, but that they sell out so cheaply.

I mean, the ROI on lobbying is astronomical. For example the American Jobs Creation act earned corporations 82 billion.  The cost in lobbying?  283 million.  Return on investment?  22,000%

It's safe to say that even drug dealing doesn't return that sort of money, which is why I believe that any corporation large enough to buy politicians which isn't doing so is clearly failing in its fiduciary duty.

But it's the cheapness which used to puzzle me.  No more though.  My friend Eli pointed out what should have been obvious to me.

(They sell out cheap) because it's not their money.  It's like selling your neighbor's car for twenty bucks.

America's politicians: cheap and crooked.

Ian Welsh :: Why Politicians Get Bribed For So Little

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One thing I've been wondering about... (4.00 / 1)
Since politicians can be bought so cheaply, why is it only the big corporations that play the game?  Why don't progressive groups, say, tell America that, if every American were to chip in $1, they could have more bargaining power than all of the big corporations? ($300 million > $283 million)

I know the big unions do it too, but why not more?  Why are all the progressive fundraising outlets seemingly focused on giving money to politicians' election campaings with few, if any, strings attached?

Am I just missing something here?


Act Blue DESPERATELY need s lobbying arm.... (4.00 / 3)
...especially since so many of our candidates are turning their backs on us!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
That's true (0.00 / 0)
actually, and a good point.  Money needs to go in through the entire season.

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I don't know (0.00 / 0)
it seems like we just can't raise enough money.  And I don't know why.

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Maybe because the people that get the (4.00 / 1)
money keep turning their backs on us

I use to donate to candidates, but I don't anymore.  In 04, I gave Dean a lot.  In 06, I gave to "more Democrats" on progressive blogs and then found out, after the fact I might ad, that they were all a bunch of conservatives who did turn backs on us after they took the money.    

Now, I am getting ready to quit donating money to causes.  It seems that MoveOn and others are quite willing to capitulate and take any compromise they can get so why fund them?

I think progressives killed their own fund raising abilities by either not being clear or honest; and I am beginning to wonder which.  They are also so splintered and competitive with one another.   Instead of joining forces, making and prioritizing a list, and then going after their causes one by one, they all chirp like a bunch of little birds wanting to be fed.   No one can possibly donate that much money or send that many emails.  


[ Parent ]
So, someone (4.00 / 2)
you can trust?

I'm going to put a post up on this for later today, I think it's an interesting question.


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Basically, yes. (0.00 / 0)
If it doesn't further progressive causes, there's really no point.  We can get bad or half assed legislation for free. I'll come back and look at your post.  

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the reason (0.00 / 0)
The reason they sell out is that those who don't sell out quickly become former politicians. A few like Bernie Sanders can survive, but most liberals become quickly demonized, marginalized, and sidelined.

Tribal politics (4.00 / 2)
I would say that the root of the American political problem is the tribalism that for example allows the GOP to continue to exist as a political party, and that allows Democrats to sell out to their corporate paymasters without fear of retribution from their base.

Organizing primary challenges is expensive and requires someone to step up to the plate.  Voting "None of the above" in an election is amusing at best.

One strange thing about US politics is the very short term for representatives, 2 years.  That seems to me to offer a very good opportunity to send a message of protest to Congress, by actively sabotaging (some) Democratic candidates by campaigning in protest for their Republican opponent.  It could be an ad that says, Why not vote for the real Republican, at least you know what you're voting for.

Of course that suggestion will raise tribal protests, but then that's the whole point.

Sitting out an election unfortunately is exactly what the corporate stooges want.  They want an electorate of low-information voters, docile and voting as they're told to by the TV advertisements paid for by their corporate paymasters.  That is how politics is played in the US.  What are you going to do to break the mold?

And I know the Senate is a lost cause, it is accomplishing what it was intended to accomplish: a Patrician firewall against the rule of the mob.  The only way to deal with the Senate is by getting a House of Represenatives that is prepared to go to war against them.

Forget Obama.  He will blow whichever way he feels the wind is blowing.


Obama is powerless (0.00 / 0)
all he can do against Congress is shout. If they choose to be deaf, that's their prerogative.

That said, he certainly could try ratcheting up the shouting a bit (lot) further, if nothing else works...


[ Parent ]
Some Sell Out (4.00 / 1)
because they know they can get a lucrative job with their benefactors when they're no longer in office.
I'm beginning to wonder if Baucus doesn't care if he's re-elected. He can pull a Tom Daschle in a couple of years and have more money than he'll ever need.

The pattern (0.00 / 0)
Candidates are frequently judged on their fund raising.  Certainly in the beginning there are few if any polls, speeches and ideology are ignored.  The quickest way to a respectable take is through the PACS (e.g. corpates and lobbyists).  One of the few big exceptions, Emily's List, has a lousy record of picking candidates.

Once elected, the new congress person is usually desperate for money and judged harshly if scads are not forthcoming.  In 2008, Democrats elected 257 US House members.  CNN's election results show that 199 received 60% or more of the vote (generally safe).  The 58 Democrats who got under 60% were mostly newer representatives with 48 of the 58 having been first elected in 2006 or later (that includes two comebacks, Ciro Rodriguez and Baron Hill).

The other ten, fwiw, are pretty familiar: Paul Kanjorski (52%), John Murtha (58%), Dennis Kucinich (57%), Tim Bishop (58%), Marshall of GA (57%), Lincoln Davis of TN (59%), Chet Edwards (53%), Solomon Ortiz (58%), Dennis Moore (56%) and Leonard Boswell (56%).

The process rewards those who stick around past a few terms.  The fund raisers (e.g., those who suck up to lobbyists) are praised and survive.  Even those who survive but don't raise huge amounts like Carol Shea-Porter, are constantly bashed and denigrated and set up as likely targets by the Republicans.

As an aside, the Republican notion that government was the problem really influences this.  Since all government spending is "wasteful" (with the possible exceptions of the military, prisons, and police), it becomes a trough to reward big funders.  Thanks again, Ronnie.  The buck never stopped at his desk.  Curse, curse.


Selling Other People's cars for $20.... (0.00 / 0)
Excellent observation, but I wonder why you all come to the wrong conclusion.  It seems as if progressives want to give MORE power to Congress - only THEIR Congressmen.  If you realize the ease with which they can be "bought off" by using other people's money (OPM), shouldn't the logical conclusion be to TAKE POWER AWAY from Congress?

Yeah (0.00 / 0)
I wonder about that sometimes. The executive seems to be the only institution with a modicum of competence, and the Administration having more domestic power would lead to positive results, at the moment... but the previous eight years? And you can't very well pass a law stating "the President shall have greater power as long as he or she is a Democrat, excepting the cases in which the year is prior to 1930 or so, in which cases he or she shall have greater power as long as he or she is a Republican".

I also wonder if the corporate interests aren't lobbying Congress merely because it is the easier and more effective target, and wouldn't just switch to lobbying the Administration instead, nearly as effectively, if the circumstances warranted.

(And yes, it's been a popular refrain in leftward thought the past many years that the executive should have less power and Congress should have more, because of the Constitution!, but in other developed countries, after a party wins an election on a popular domestic agenda, they get to implement that agenda -- not wrangle with the Senate to the point of futility.)


[ Parent ]
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