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It’s Not Bribery, But Systemic Corruption? Absolutely!

When the institution that functions as society’s eyes can’t see the most obvious of truths, it’s no wonder the population’s trust in mainstream media suffers at an abysmal 6%. The American public has already arrived at a conclusion the media refuses to accept; politics is built on corruption.

Accuse Secretary Hillary Clinton of corruption and people in her camp, along with the talking heads in the corporate media, lose their minds.  “How dare you besmirch the Secretary’s reputation! Just because she raised millions from the oil industry, private prisons, Wall Street, miscellaneous corporate lobbyist, foreign governments, and is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI – it does NOT mean that she can’t be trusted to tax and regulate those industries, earnestly tackle campaign finance reform, legally interact with those foreign governments; and it certainly doesn’t mean she’s going to prison!” The rebuttal sounds absolutely ridiculous. Yet, the Hillary campaign and the media emphatically implore us; “Who you gonna believe!? Us or your lying eyes!?”

Well, I’m not buying it. And considering congress’ job approval rating rest at an embarrassing 11%, neither is the American public. Across the political spectrum, 85% of Americans believe money has too much influence in politics.  The truth of the matter is they’re right! Politicians pander to their donors for ridiculous sums of money, who in turn pass legislation to give them a favorable return on investment via regulatory rules, trade policies, or blunt sums of cash in the form of billions in tax breaks.  For example, Obama ran his 2008 campaign as a wide eyed liberal. He raised nearly a billion dollars in that first presidential campaign. Contrary to how he ran in 2008 and contrary to public opinion, as president, he made 94% of the Bush tax cuts permanent; costing America trillions of dollars in missed revenue, while giving a return on investment to Wall Street and his corporate donors totaling in the billions.  

To be fair to Secretary Clinton, the corruption is probably not as vulgar as stuffing millions of dollars directly into her pocket, but certainly, that’s not the only standard for corruption. The crux of the problem is the political system floats on a river of money. In the 2008 Congressional elections, 93% of the House races went to the candidate that raised the most money. 94% of the senate races followed suit. It wasn’t party. It wasn’t ideas. It was cash. If you know that 94% of the time, the person who raises the most cash wins; who are you beholden to!? Our political system has completely untethered the politician from the voter.  Replacing that tether instead to their funders.  A recent Princeton study bears this out, indicating that the needs and wants of 99% of the population amounts to statistical noise when compared to the legislation passed by Congress. What does show a correlation, are the wishes of the donors.

To put a finer point on it, Hillary consistently invokes Obama to shield herself from accusations that money incentivizes certain behavior. The problem is Obama himself, at least before becoming president, agreed with the assessment that money does influence behavior.  In an honest moment of introspection, in the Audacity of Hope, as noted by The Intercept,  Obama says,

I can’t assume that the money chase didn’t alter me in some ways. …Still, I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population — that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve.

It makes perfect sense to assume that one’s worldview would be shaped by the people writing checks, particularly when those checks are necessary to get and keep said politician in office, and particularly when those check writers are the only people in the room whispering in the candidate’s ear.

On the other side of the aisle, in an interview with 60 Minutes, Rep. David Jolly(R-FL) noted he was told on the first day of the job as an elected official, that he was to raise $18,000 a day.  Rep Jolly says,

It is a cult-like boiler room on Capitol Hill where sitting members of Congress, frankly I believe, are compromising the dignity of the office they hold by sitting in these sweatshop phone booths calling people asking them for money,… And their only goal is to get $500 or $1,000 or $2,000 out of the person on the other end of the line. It’s shameful. It’s beneath the dignity of the office that our voters in our communities entrust us to serve.

To make matters worse, the 2012 Supreme Court decision, Citizen’s United ripped the spigot off of political spending. Outside groups are now allowed to create Super PACs with the aim of spending unlimited sums of money providing there is no coordination with the politician. This is farcical!  For one, the candidate knows who’s giving to their PAC. Second, the PACs are often started by people affiliated with the campaign. Third, they take cues from the candidates themselves in speeches and news appearances.

Rep Jolly is absolutely right. This system is shameful. It boils down to whether you believe money influences the decisions of the candidate. When Hillary sold fracking to the world from the state department, did it have anything to do with oil lobbyist dumping mounds of cash into PACs supporting her? Is there any impropriety in the Hillary led State Department approving and expediting a weapons deal that was originally held up in red tape to Saudi Arabia after the Saudi government made a substantial donation to the Clinton Foundation? What about the corporate giveaway, the Trans Pacific Partnership; a treaty that gives away U.S. sovereignty to multinational corporations? The only people clamoring for it are the people that stand to make billions off it’s passage – does Hillary’s support have anything to do with the 3 billion dollars her and her husband has raised from corporate America, Wall Street, and foreign governments?  

It’s one or the other. Either Clinton and politicians in general are molding policy around ideas that they know will garner tens of millions of dollars for their races. Or Clinton and other office holders posses the rare mutant gene that allows them to resist that temptation and set policy instead based on the needs of the population. This would also mean by logical extension that Wall Street, corporations, the uber rich, and foreign governments are giving year after year with no interest whatsoever in a return on that investment. Based on what you know of people and government; which is more likely?