Tag Archive for money and politics

Change: It comes from the bottom up

The deaths in Connecticut brought back the pain many of us have experienced after the death of a child. How much more is that pain when not only your child died but also the children of many of your friends and friends of your children? Those of us who have lost more than one relative to gun violence are sensitized to these violent events.

The responses to this and similar events have raised broader issues.

 

We the PeopleShould large corporations, organizations and people with large amounts of money be able to have more influence than individuals? Should partisan efforts be allowed to limit which U.S. citizens can actually vote? Can we get to the point where people with differing views stop talking past each other? Even within groups of largely like-minded individuals, there is too often disrespect for opposite views on specific issues.

The various responses to mass killings tell a lot about our society. I understand why many people want to own guns. The NRA’s callous response and the repetition of trite slogans have not helped at all. The NRA once supported a ban on assault weapons. Comments about not arming mental health patients, while appropriate, will not be effective. In Connecticut and New York, the weapons were bought by other people. There seems to be a fear that banning assault weapons or large magazines will be a step to ban all firearms. This is an unrealistic concern. The Arizona sheriff recruiting 500 armed volunteers to patrol around schools is much different from having trained and seasoned law enforcement officers, who have even recently killed bystanders. An effective solution requires listening to all positions.

As discussed in the Jan. 2 guest opinion by Gordon Pedrow, big money institutions have the ability to frequently negatively impact all of us, with practical impunity for those running these companies.

Several years ago the CEOs of the largest tobacco companies and large petroleum companies clearly lied to Congress. (Congress does, however, pursue athletes for lying.) Listen to the ads from the American Petroleum Institute and the natural gas industry. When they do not lie, they omit important information.

The banks and mortgage companies allowed home loans to be made that were guaranteed to fail then passed the cost on to others and eventually the taxpayers. Several banks have just agreed to pay billions of dollars for closing on homes that they did not hold the mortgage on or whose owners were not behind on payments.

Wall Street and insurance companies created risky investments whose risks were not always identified. Individual investors and taxpayers paid the cost. A few banks aided the drug cartels by laundering their illegally obtained money and indirectly supported numerous murders. No individuals or banks were charged with criminal behavior.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, large corporations, including those controlled from other countries including China, can now try to buy elections. Large corporations with lots of money, as well as very wealthy individuals, have entirely too much influence in Congress. It is hard to believe that votes that go against the interest of the residents of this country are not directly or indirectly influenced by big money interests.

How you steal and how much you steal is important. If you steal enough money you can afford the very best legal representation. As Mr. Pedrow so aptly pointed out, the very largest companies and their CEOs/board of directors cannot be punished enough to discourage bad behavior.

Try not fully paying your employees (an all-too-common practice) and you will not face any serious consequence other than paying the employee what they are owed, with a small penalty. However, the odds greatly favor that the result will be that the employee and her family will never see all or even any of what they worked for. (By the way, they will not be able to spend that missing money at local businesses including sales tax.)

These endemic problems are all too obvious. The solution is not. There are some things we can do. We can look at where candidates are getting their support from. We can learn who makes direct sizable donations and who is contributing to their PACs — oops, we cannot do that. Too bad. We can look at the behavior of the large banks and other companies to choose where we do business. If they have paid a fine, they are probably still behaving badly.

Collectively we can promote change.

$$$: How to win an election without really trying

The following is the complete version of a Letter to the Editor in Longmont Times-Call on July 14, 2010. The italicized portions were omitted by the Times-Call.

Everything has a price - but should it?

“Money. It doesn’t grow on trees, can’t buy you love, and the love of it is the root of all kinds of evil, filthy lucre, so why is there so much of it in our local elections? I should think that everyone wants their candidates to be transparent in each and everything they do, especially when it comes to who, how, and where they receive their money from.” So says a writer in a recent article on Free Range Longmont, Longmont’s “progressively better news” source.

Recent letters to the editor have commented on several articles at www.freerangelongmont.com on the subject of money in Longmont’s last mayoral and council campaigns, articles that should have been written by Longmont’s local paper-if it had any interest in investigative, analytical reporting. For when financial rocks are turned over in Longmont, what lies underneath is never pretty.

Compare those who spent the most and who had the most spent on their behalf with those who won the office, and the connection between money and politics becomes vividly apparent.

Those who won the election and their supporters spent $82,519. Those who lost spent $21,454, a ratio of 4 to 1. In order to gain their votes, the winning candidates and the groups who supported them spent $2.33 per vote compared to $1.03 per vote by the alternative candidates.

When the well-funded candidates (and those secretly-funded through 501c4 organizations) claimed their majority, something interesting occurred. Three lawsuits brought by their endorsers were settled–for a total of $182,000. That’s not a bad return on an electoral investment. And it gives a whole new meaning to publicly-financed campaigns.

If you have a special interest before the city, spend enough money, conceal your contribution and identity, the collective “you” can effectively buy an election and the results you seek.