“Corruption: With a Lot of Help from Their Friends!”

Congresses love of corporate campaign money influences their vote and is eroding our democracy!

For an American citizen to run for elected federal office today requires huge sums of money; well beyond the imaginations of our Founding Fathers. Clearly they didn’t envision this.

Nor did the wise patriots that constructed the Constitution envision ‘professional’ politicians. They anticipated regular citizens becoming politicians to help run the government ‘for the people,’ then returning to private life after fulfilling an honorable and short-term patriotic duty ‘to the people’ of this great country.

Pure and uncorrupted democracy.

We no longer have a pure, uncorrupted form of democracy. It’s been stained by dirty corporate money; a malodorous patina that may take years to expunge.

It’s obvious things have changed in the electoral process and in the makeup of Congress. Not necessarily for the good. Corruption at varying levels permeates the halls of Capitol Hill. American’s are disgusted and outraged at Congress, evidenced by their current approval rating of 18 percent.

The People’ no longer matter in the modern operation of our government.

Why? And at what point did ‘the people’ lose control?

For at least the last 30 years politicians have been on this destructive path. A path of selling their vote to the highest bidders; bidders that include banking, healthcare, insurance, oil, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and a myriad of other large corporations; corporations who care nothing about the welfare of the American people.

It’s as clear as day why our elected officials vote with a corporate bias. The evidence is overwhelming and available for everyone to see at OpenSecrets. Your Senators and Representatives are getting rich on corporate generosity and you, the voter, mean less to them the more pelf they gather.

For years, at least 14 of the last 16, Republicans were given UnGodly sums of money for their campaigns from major corporate benefactors. Democrats, especially over the last four years, have also received sinful amounts of campaign cash. In essence, the corporations buy the congressional seat for particular candidates, usually incumbents. It would be incredibly stupid to believe they didn’t expect something in return.

And what they get is malleable congressional representatives who are sympathetic to their demands. While some are still subtle and better at disguising their votes, many Congressional members have become unashamedly obvious without any repercussions.

Too many vote consistently in favor of corporate interests. And ‘the people’ receive only the crumbs.

Who are the worst of these politicians that would sell-out their hard-working constituents to keep their political jobs?

The leaders of each party are by far the worst. The longer individuals are in office and the more power they attain the more corrupt they become with regard to taking corporate money and being obligated to their benefactor’s influence.

When looking into the fundraising of the obstructionist GOP members of Congress it is easy to see why they’ve become the party of NO! Vocal opposition to recent legislation can be traced directly to corporate money and the underlying pressure.

Two of the worst in the House are John Boehner and Eric Cantor, who are also the most vocal in opposition of everything being proposed by the Majority Party; even things that are good for all Americans.

Boehner has taken in $18 million in campaign contributions since his election in 1990, forty-six percent from PAC’s (Political Action Committees) and a large percentage from individuals employed by his largest corporate donors.

Corporate owned? Absolutely! And the obvious reason for his ‘Hell No!’ diatribe on the floor of the House on the passage of the Healthcare Bill.

Cantor is equally bad, if not worse. Since his election in 2000 he has received over $15 million in campaign funds. A look at the list of donors leaves no doubt why he votes with a corporate bias and against ‘the people’. After another unbelievable Federal Court decision, this one favoring Comcast, a look at Cantor’s 2010 campaign contributions reveals that Comcast is his largest contributor in this election cycle.

Things do not get much better on the other side of the aisle when looking at House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s numbers.

Since her election in 1987, Pelosi has received nearly $11.5 million in contributions. Though exceptionally high, it is still far short of amounts garnered by Boehner and Cantor. Hoyer, elected in 1981, has received almost $20 million$2.3 million already for this campaign cycle.

But the real tragedy in this egregious practice is the obscene amounts of money spent by incumbent politicians to get reelected, even when there is no credible challenger.

Over the last two election cycles the Big Four spent nearly $26 million to get reelected, 26 times what their opponents spent collectively (just over $1 million).

By far the worst of the four leaders of the House is Minority Leader, John Boehner. Not only does he have a phony tan, but such an unbelievable sense of insecurity, that he spent $8,300,000 in the last two elections to his challengers’ $15,425—or 553 times their total expenditures.

What could possibly warrant the excessive spending in such easily won elections? Nepotism? Cronyism? This needs to be thoroughly investigated by the congressional ethics committee.

In the stiffest challenge of the 8 elections, the Leader of the House spent $2,727,000 to defeat political activist and Army mom, Cindy Sheehan, who spent $628,000 in her bid for California’s 8th District.

There are similar stories in districts and states throughout the country, including in my two districts in California, the 40th and the 42nd.

Both Ed Royce (40th District) and Gary Miller (42nd District) take in millions in corporate contributions and vote repeatedly in favor of their corporate contributors and against the interest’s of their constituents.

In the last two election cycles Royce spent $2.4 million. In these elections Royce’s opponents spent $140,000. Representative Miller had a tougher time. He raised $1.29 million for the last two elections but spent only $691,000. His opponent in 2008, Edwin Chau, spent $347,000 a total of $22,000 more than Miller in a losing fight. In the 2006 election Miller spent $365,000 running unopposed. He barely won!

This infusion of corporate capital and lobbyists interfering with every piece of legislation is rampant in both Houses of Congress.

The same malfeasance is prevalent in the Senate. As in the House, the most egregious campaign receipts from corporate donors occur at the top. But, researching the Senate is even more disturbing than the House. Disturbing in that the relationship between corporate largess and the current ineffectiveness of the Senate is flagrant. The Senate’s inability to pass any legislation, let alone weak and compromised bills, is directly related to the campaign funds they receive.

There are clearly some that fight ‘for the people,’ but they are the exception.

The same partisan discourse that was disruptive to the healthcare bill is now pervasive in the financial reform bill. And it can be directly traced to corporate money.

Someone needs to explain how Banking Chairman, Chris Dodd, is going to write greatly needed strong financial reform legislation when he’s received hundreds-of-thousands of dollars from banks and investment firms ($110,000 from Citi and $87,000 from AIG) in this election cycle alone, even though he’s retiring at the end of this term?

He has an opportunity of forging a lasting legacy but, instead, is caving in to the Special Interests that have filled his pockets. His current financial reform proposal, while addressing some important financial issues, misses on most areas in need of the greatest regulation: “Too Big to Fail,” derivatives, and a misdirected CFPA—one that adds unneeded bureaucracy and is ultimately ineffective.

Other financial institutions that have given freely to Senator Dodd during his tenure in office include: bankrupt Bear Stearns ($347,000), Royal Bank of Scotland ($216,000), bankrupt Merrill Lynch ($185,000), Travelers ($267,000), now government owned, AIG ($285,000), and Citigroup ($427,000). Investment firms have given Dodd almost $1.3 million this cycle. This example raises significant questions and exposes the need to change campaign financing.

Others on the banking committee, pushing for compromise on the proposed financial bill, are confronted with equally debilitating conflicts.

The Doctor’s of NO, Senator’s Shelby, McConnell, Corker, McCain, Kyl, Crapo, and Alexander are handsomely subsidized by banks and securities and investment firms. Of the Republicans that were in office in 1999, only Richard Shelby voted against the Gramm/Leach/Bliley Bill—the fulcrum of the financial crisis.

Examples include Mitch McConnell’s $37 million in campaign funds, $1.5 million each from securities and investment, and healthcare donors; Texas Senator John Cornyn’s $30 million payoff since being elected in 2002 (he’s Senator Gramm’s replacement); and the new Republican mouthpiece—Tennessee’s 2nd term Senator, Lamar Alexander, has raised over $39 million, a disproportionate sum from financial firms and healthcare. Both Alexander and the junior Senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker’s predecessors, Fred Thompson and Bill Frist, voted for the Gramm Bill.

It’s true there are some equally disturbing facts of campaign finance largess on the left, Senator Chuck Schumer being one of them. Schumer has received over $56 million in campaign contributions during the last 20 years in office. His 5 major contributors since 1989 have been banks—nearly $1.8 million. He is the Senator from New York where Goldman, Citigroup, Morgan, and JP Morgan are headquartered. Though he will be voting for financial reform, how far can he possibly go after receiving so much from financial institutions, including over $600,000 from failed Bear Stearns, Merrill, and Lehman.

Schumer’s from New York so it is expected that banks would contribute to him. But why would the Big Banks give Senators from small states like Idaho (Senator Mike Crapo) and Tennessee so much money? Unfortunately, because their votes are equal to the Senator’s from New York. Senator Crapo has received nearly half-a-million dollars from securities and investment firms since 1992. He voted for the Gramm Bill!

Senator Dodd raised $48 million in the last 20 years and, as stated earlier, a disproportionate amount from financial institutions. Like most of the sitting Senators in 1999, Schumer and Dodd voted for the Gramm Bill.

Only 8 Senators voted against it. Five of the seven Democratic Senators that voted against the bill are still in Congress: Boxer (CA), Dorgan (ND), Feingold (WI), Harkin (IA), and Mikulski (MD).

Democrats have taken large corporate contributions, but there are glaring disparities between the left and the NO side of the political aisle.

Senator Barbara Boxer has received more than $68 million since 1989. Her list of donors, however, is diametrically opposite of those on the Banking and Finance Committees. Her largest donor over the years has been Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing women to make progressive change. A far more admirable donor than Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, United Healthcare, or Wellpoint.

Majority Leader, Harry Reid, also voted for the Gramm/Leach/Bliley Bill, but compare his $31 million in campaign financing (a large percentage from the gaming industry) over 20 years to Alexander’s $39 million for less than 6 years of service and there’s no contest. The question emerges—who does Senator Alexander owe?

Compare Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont, who consistently votes for ‘hard-working’ Americans and against corporations, to neophyte Bob Corker. Over 20 years of service, ten as a member of the House, Sanders has raised $11.5 million. Corker, on the other hand, has raised over $20 million. He was elected when Bill Frist quit at the end of his term in 2006. Despite the appearance of a more moderate position he consistently votes against the people.

Corker, like Senators Gregg, McConnell, Kyl, Cornyn, McCain, Alexander, Coburn and 23 other Republicans voted for TARP, allowing the culprits who dragged us into this financial swamp to grow even bigger. Senator Sanders voted against Gramm, against TARP, and for the Stimulus bill, which seems to be the only one of the three that may be working.

With the vote on financial regulation looming, all 40 Republican Senators have joined Minority Leader, McConnell, on the NO side of the reform and have further complicated the mixed rhetoric.

Why is it so difficult to get strong bipartisan financial reform when most Americans recognize the need for it and support reform?

We need to dig deeper into the motivations. To do that we must step back to 1999. As stated earlier, Gramm/Leach/Bliley was at the fulcrum of the financial crisis. Senators and Representatives are doing everything possible, including pumping up the rhetoric, to steer attention away from the true cause of the meltdown—deregulation. Especially Congressional Republicans.

With the exception of Shelby, every Republican Senator voted for our financial destruction when they voted for Gramm. It allowed the banks to co-mingle deposits and investments allowing them to grow. They became “Too Big to Fail.” The legislation also allowed financial institutions to continue, without impunity, to create questionable vehicles—parked in a shadow banking system—allowing them to push their toxic products onto investors. Then 31 Republicans, along with 43 Democrats, voted for TARP, saving the very banks that caused the financial crisis, and allowing them to grow even bigger through sweet deals from The Fed, Treasury, and FDIC.

Now the Republicans are screaming that ‘NO’ bank should be “Too Big to Fail,” while pocketing millions in campaign contributions. This position is not only hypocritical, but unethical and morally corrupt after what they’ve done to create the problem.

But, the Republicans are right even though they’re a little late.

If the Dems pass the proposed bill instead of reinstating Glass-Steagall and breaking up the big banks that caused our financial woes—the right thing to do—the new reform bill will create a $50 billion slush fund designed to fund an orderly dismantling of a failed bank; those determined to be a huge risk to the domestic and global financial system. There is a problem with this solution. The past crisis proved that $50 billion would not have been enough to save the system when it began to crumble. Let’s not forget, Paulson asked for $700 billion to prevent the collapse. And, the Treasury disbursed over $400 billion to save the predatory banks.

Today’s rhetoric, expressed by Senator Durbin on The Dylan Ratigan Show, is that they are ‘Too Big to Break up’ and would be left at a disadvantage globally. But there are still some clearer minds in Congress that see the intrinsic value in returning to the safety of Glass-Steagall. Make the banks smaller and they will be more manageable.

A viable solution! Senator Ted Kaufman, Representative Peter DeFazio, and Senator Sherrod Brown believe the right solution is to break them up. Senator Brown has introduced an amendment to do just that. It’s an amendment that, above all things, needs to be part of financial reform., but there’s a good chance it will not be part of the reform.

Republicans ‘now’ see the value in letting banks fail after measuring the populist swell against the big banks. So what was keeping them from stressing that point sooner? Money! Corporate money and pressure from lobbyists. It handcuffs our elected representatives clouding their understanding of who they represent and why they’re there.

This was no more in evidence than on The Kudlow Report yesterday. Representative Mike Pence was allowed to publicly lie to the American people on Kudlow’s show without a single credible challenge from the consenting host.

Most Democratic Senators agree that banks should not be too big to fail. Their approach is different from their colleagues, Senators Kaufman and Brown, but they realize there is no public tolerance for anything resembling a bailout.

Our third President, Thomas Jefferson, warned us about banks in 1802 in a letter to his Secretary of the Treasury. Our Congress should familiarize themselves with his words of wisdom before casting a final vote on such an important issue.

Those that voted for the Gramm/Leach/Bliley Bill, signed into law by Bill Clinton, unleashed the Big Banks to wreak havoc on the U.S. and global economies. Bluntly, their decision in 1999 created the global crisis. Many of them have been or hope to be reelected and are amassing millions in corporate dollars in their campaign funds to achieve that.

Hence, their reluctance to pass legislation that would hurt their ‘cash cows.’ Every corporate check they receive should bring new emotional and moral conflicts.

Big Banks have not shown any contrition despite their having been saved by the taxpayers; the same people they continue to screw. They’ve proven themselves unworthy of any considerations from Congress with high fees and big bonuses, yet they continue to award lawmakers for their complicity with taxpayer money. As long as there are big motivations for delay or weakness in any bill, Congress will continue to vote with a bias and corporations will continue to reward members of Congress.

The Senate is bought and sold and we, ‘the people,’ have allowed it to happen through our complacency. The House is bought and sold and we, ‘the people,’ have allowed it to happen through our complacency. We’ve elected the government we deserve.

Isn’t it time we hold these incompetent corporate stooges accountable?

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2 Responses to ““Corruption: With a Lot of Help from Their Friends!””

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