Thursday, September 15, 2005
What is Wrong with Our Nation Part Three: Special Interests
How could I not, dear reader, look at the many ideological problems facing our nation and not include a section on special interest? What is funny is that with every damn campaign for any level of government—this issue comes up over and over again and yet, nothing is done to change circumstance of special interests and the terrifically huge role they play in government. I considered doing a historical account of the growing power of Special Interests but find that my long posts almost never get read—only clicked through (it is the curse and the blessing of Blog Explosion). So, let me just state that special interests have been around since the start of this country. In fact it is not unique to the United States. For example, I just read an interesting article on Napoleon the 3rd where it becomes very apparent that his government was most definitely in the back pockets of many different interest groups and powerful people. As a general rule, whenever you are in need of the help of powerful people or organizations to get you into office—you have special interests. In the United States, control of special interests and big corporations over governmental rule took a sharp increase sometime during the Nixon Administration and just grew and grew into the monster that it is today. A combination of environmental disasters (dumping of waste) prompted congress (because of the outrage of the public) to establish some very tough protection regulations. These regulations were protested by several different corporations as being unreasonable and impossible and, ultimately, would make the cost of their product so expensive that no one would buy them. Money changed hands, deals were made and soon corporations were spending a crap load of money hiring lobbyists and lawyers and other professionals to lobby Washington especially during election campaigns (of course this also happens just as much on the local government circuit). A vicious cycle started to occur where big business would finance campaigns so that their interests would be represented. Other people running for office, and who rejected special interest and help from corporations, found that they could not win an election because they did not have the money to compete with corporation sponsored campaigns. Thus, everyone got on the bandwagon. Today, we have a situation where it costs almost twice as much for a small campaign then what that person might earn while in office. What this means is that unless you are filthy rich or unless you accept large donations from corporations and individuals---you cannot run for office. It is truly, once again, an elitist operation. A movie I was watching that was made in the late 80s or early 90s suggested that it costs approximately $600 a day to run a small campaign and this is only if you are already expected to win. For more difficult campaigns, it can cost up to $1200 a day. If that was back in early 90s, can you imagine what it would be today? If you would like to take a look at campaign finance and contributions check out “Open Secrets.org” where they actually list financial disclosers of elected politicians. Here you will also see an account of their personal finances. Do the math. Here are Tom Delay’s numbers -- and His personal accounts – notice that his salary is not listed here for 2003 . . . hum? We all have talked about special interest in conjunction with the War in Iraq, but what about rebuilding after Katrina? Here we are seeing it again. Regardless of Bush taking some of the blame (almost fell over and pooped my pants when I head it), it is oblivious that big business’ interest is being put above the interests of the people. For example, the fact that the administration will allow companies active in rebuilding the areas devastated to lower workers wages below the norm, effectively rescinding the Davis-Bacon Act. Read—Pelosi: Bush Administration Undermines Workers Rights for Livable Wages in Hurricane Stricken Areas. It is not like companies who will be active in the rebuilding will have a terrifically hard time of it . . . again think of how much government and tax money will be given to these contractors! This has special interests written all over it. Next, how about several members of our congress objecting to delaying the new bankrupt laws for a year to help those victims effected by Katrina – again, special interests. If you wish to read more, go to “Whitehouse for sale.org.” Also see Judy Sarasohn's column on lobbying and its influence on government, runs Thursdays on The Washington Post's Federal Page. Rebecca aka Harpowoman Well it wasn't a short post was it. Hum.