Votes Bought: Corporate Campaign Contributions
money – the unlimited contributions from wealthy special interests to political parties – has become the favorite
tool of those seeking special favors from Congress. In 1990 there were virtually no soft money contributions. By the 1999-2000
election cycle, many powerful industries made more than half of their total campaign contributions in soft money, as they
practically drove a Brinks’ truck full of huge contributions through the soft money loophole in our campaign finance
law. These special interests increasingly prefer to contribute unlimited soft money to Republican and Democratic party committees
because the committees are controlled by Congressional leaders and the president. It’s these leaders who help determine
the final content of key bills and whether or not a bill is even considered for a vote.
the following industries and special interests – which gave $77.5 million in soft money in 1999 and 2000
– the increasing percentage of their contributions in soft money, and the favors they’ve been winning from Congress
and the Clinton administration.
Soft Money Contributions as a Percentage of Total Contributions
Oil and Gas
Forestry and Forestry Products
Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org) data analyzed by
Data lags about two months behind current date.
- The gambling industry won a $316 million tax break in 1998, thanks largely to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
(R-Miss.), who slipped a pro-casino provision into an IRS Reform bill. Last year, Republican and Democratic leaders also blocked
legislation that would have banned gambling on college sports. (Gambling industry soft money 1999-2000: $6.4 million)
- In 1999, the airline industry, despite a record number of consumer complaints (delays rose 58 percent and canceled
flights grew by 68 percent from 1995 to 1999 according to theTransportation Department’s inspector general), stymied
a seemingly popular passenger bill of rights proposed by members of Congress. Instead, the airlines persuaded Congress to
allow the industry to write its own voluntary guidelines for improved service. (Airline industry soft money 1999-2000:
- In June 1998, Lott and National Republican Senatorial Committee head Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) organized the votes to
kill Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) tobacco control bill, which would have increased public health funds, enhanced the government’s
authority to regulate nicotine and reduced youth smoking. McCain attributed the bill’s defeat in part to contributions
the tobacco industry used as "protection" money. (Tobacco industry soft money 1999-2000: $5.0 million)
- Last year the drug industry stopped Democratic proposals to provide prescription drug coverage through Medicare
and persuaded GOP leaders to push a pro-industry bill that subsidizes insurance companies to offer drug benefits. (Drug
industry soft money 1999-2000: $10.9 million)
- AT&T contributed more
soft money ($3.2 million) than any other company in the last election. Ma Bell – which has moved into cable TV in hopes
of dominating the high-speed Internet market – wanted Congress to relax federal rules on cable TV ownership so it could
hold onto cable monopolies it acquired. AT&T nearly succeeded in getting its legislative favors slipped into spending
bills. But a blast of adverse publicity caused GOP House and Senate leaders to drop their stealth maneuvers late last year.
(Telephone utilities soft money 1999-2000: $11.6 million)
- Computer and Internet companies
got three of their main wishes from Congress in 1999 and 2000: limited liability for Y2K defects, increased immigration visas
for foreign high-tech workers, and normalized trade relations with China. (Computer and Internet industry soft money 1999-2000:
- The oil and gas industry has convinced Majority Leader Lott, other GOP leaders and President George W. Bush
that the best way to slow rising gas prices would be to allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Congressional allies of the industry pushed for access to the ANWR last year, but were stopped by the Clinton administration.
(Oil and gas industry soft money 1999-2000: $13.5 million)
- In the last two years, the National Rifle Association and several smaller gun rights groups have thwarted marching
moms and congressional proposals requiring safety locks on handguns and mandatory background checks for guns sold at gun shows.
(NRA/gun rights groups soft money 1999-2000: $1.6 million)
- In the last two years, HMOs and managed care companies have stalled a patients’ bill of rights
that enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the House because the bill would allow patients to sue HMOs for denying them needed
care. (HMO and managed care soft money 1999-2000: $2.8 million)
- Timber companies have enjoyed
a massive government subsidy. The U.S. Forest Service sells timber from national forests at bargain prices and has built 440,000
miles of logging roads in public forests to benefit private companies. (Federal auditors say the Forest Service lost $2 billion
on timber sales between 1992 and 1997.) Last year, bills to reduce the federal subsidy were narrowly defeated in the House
and the Senate. (Timber industry soft money 1999-2000: $3.5 million)
How the System
Works (or doesn't work) and What to Do About It
- Of the world's 100 largest economic entities,
51 are now corporations and 49 are countries. (see chart)
- The world's top 200 corporations account
for over a quarter of economic activity on the globe while employing less than one percent of its workforce. (source)
- The richest 1 percent of Americans own 40
percent of the nation's household wealth (as of 1997). (source)
- The assets of the world's 358 billionaires
exceed the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people. (source)
- The average CEO in the U.S.
made 42 times the average workers pay in 1980, 85 times in 1990 and 531 times in 2000. (source)
- The courts have given corporations
the basic Constitutional rights of persons, but workers lose those rights on entering the workplace.
- The corporate share of taxes paid
has fallen from 33 percent in the 1940's to 15 percent in the 1990's. Individuals' share of taxes has risen from 44 to 73
- The World Trade Organization effectively
gives corporations veto power over our U.S. environmental
and labor laws, weakening your right to protect ourselves and our land by our legislation.
can't cast a ballot, but they do vote with their wallets. In the 1995-96 election cycle, corporations and corporate PACs contributed
$147 million to candidates running for federal office. The United States is one of the few democracies
where such donations are legal. The Supreme Court affirmed the
right of corporations to pay for electoral campaigns in the 1978 case First National Bank v. Bellotti. Writing for the majority,
Justice Lewis Powell explained that giving cash to influence the outcome of an election "is the type of speech indispensable
to decision making in a democracy, and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation rather than an individual."
From Public Citizen, Congress Watch
at http://www.citizen.org/congress/campaign/issues/constitution/, a website worth many visits.
Odd that money is considered free
speech. Every ruling has its verbal justifications—even when they must
tread upon meaning and logic. For the reconstruction of the plain meaning of
the Bill of Rights. Corporations simply aren’t people.
There is also a violation of the
conflict of interest principle. The purpose of government is to maximize the
well being of the people. Funds are donated to influence actions. To allow a group to far surpass others in the total amount of donations is to produce legislation favoring
that group. Big business is buying policy, and the rewards per investment have
been substantial. If this was permissible in courts, then it would be okay to
give a judge who is deciding a case to accept “donations.” The legislators
and president sit as judges of corporate actions, and yet it is permissible for corporations to make donations.
More so than for most other fields of law, campaign finance law is subject to close review by the
courts for constitutionality. Ever since the landmark 1976 Buckley decision, which in essence defined campaign money
as "free speech," legislative and regulatory efforts to curtail the importance of money in politics routinely draw court challenges
alleging infringement of First Amendment rights. Thus, it is critical for proponents of reform to be aware of the constitutional
issues and recent court decisions involving money in politics when it comes to proposing campaign finance legislation and
The landmark decision of Buckley v. Valeo [424 U.S. 1 (1976)] has largely set the tone for
judicial review of campaign finance laws, though subsequent decisions – including the pending case of McConnell v.
FEC – have modified some of the constitutional constructs of the early decision. In order to grasp the court’s
constitutional interpretations applicable to campaign finance law, it is necessary to begin with understanding the Buckley
Congress approved a significant federal campaign finance law in 1971, known as the Federal Election
Campaign Act, which was subsequently amended in 1972 and 1974 into an even stronger law, complete with spending ceilings and
public financing. At the time, Senator James Buckley (R-NY) had joined with former Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) and General
Motors heir Stewart Mott to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. Secretary of Senate Francis Valeo joined with
Common Cause and the League of Women Voters as defendants of the law. In the end, the court struck down several key elements
of the law.
The central question addressed by the court was
posed by Justice Potter Stewart: Is money speech and speech money? In other words, does money form the basis for candidates
and committees to convey their ideas to the public? A majority of the court ruled that money as an expenditure is in
essence free speech. Thus, the court opined that it is unconstitutional for the government to mandate limits on political
expenditures. Candidates, committees, special interest groups and individuals have the constitutional right to spend all the
money they wish for campaign advertisements.
However, the court added several important caveats.
First, and most importantly, while money as an expenditure is tantamount to free speech and not subject to mandated
limits, money as a contribution to others is equivalent to proxy speech—that is, money in the latter case simply
serves to help enable someone else to speak on your behalf. As proxy speech, contributions are not entitled to the same constitutional
protections as expenditures. The "quantity of the communication by the contributor does not increase perceptibly with the
size of the contribution." In this instance, First Amendment considerations are outweighed by the potential for corruption
or perceived corruption caused by large contributions. Thus, governments may mandate limits on contributions to candidates
A second important caveat in the Buckley decision is that while governments cannot mandate
limits on candidate expenditures, governments may offer incentives to encourage candidates voluntarily to limit their
expenditures. Under the FECA, for example, the federal government could offer public funds to candidates in a contractual
exchange for the candidates to voluntarily limit spending. Finally, the court also upheld the disclosure provisions of the
FECA, ruling that governments may require candidates and committees to publicly disclose their contributions and expenditures
as a means to increase public confidence in the electoral process.
Immediately following the ruling, Congress went back to the drawing board and attempted to rewrite
the Federal Election Campaign Act to accommodate the court’s objections. The FECA of 1976 proved to be a substantially
weaker version of its 1974 counterpart. Spending ceilings became voluntary, and only applicable to those presidential candidates
who accepted public financing. Special interest groups, committees and wealthy individuals could make unlimited "independent
expenditures" for or against candidates. Subsequent amendments loosened the Act even further, allowing party committees, for
example, to accept and spend unregulated funds for "party-building" activities. Known as the "soft money" loophole, this amendment
was eventually expanded by Federal Election Commission regulations to allow wealthy individuals and groups and even corporations
and labor unions to make unlimited contributions to party committees, thereby circumventing contribution source limits of
the Tillman and Hatch Acts.
It took until the year 2002 for Congress to revisit the issue of campaign finance once again in
a serious fashion. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) was the result, which reaffirmed the prohibition against
soft money and redefined what constitutes a campaign advertisement subject to regulation.
Before the law ever took effect, 88 plaintiffs – ranging from the national and state political
parties to the NRA to Sen. Mitch McConnell – filed lawsuits against BCRA on First Amendment grounds. The case is now
pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
If there lips are moving they are lying.
The one thing you can be sure that they stand for, is to get elected.
If there lips are moving they are lying (said of politician)
To understand developments in our political system
(both parties) one must understand the role of neoliberalism. Any analysis which
misses this connection is grossly inadequate. (Neocons follow neoliberalism economic
We have an evil, evil system. Words such as imperialism, greed, corporate greed, neoliberalism, neoconservate, globalism, bought politicians,
control of media are descriptive. There are reasons why the labor movement
has collapsed. It is the politics of neoliberalism, an out growth of corporate
greed. Given how it opposes the public weal, we have devoted a section to expose
just what neoliberalism is—a thing that the five corporations which own broadcasting will not do.
THE BRINK OF ECONOMIC COLLAPSE
Things have gotten worse, the hole the neocons has dug
is much deeper. The economic stats are worse than bad: the trend is toward greater disparity of wealth and on top of that the U.S. is loaded with debt and imbalance of trade. The debt can through fiscal austerity can be paid off (as some of it was under Clinton), but the
trade imbalance will only grow due to the dismantling of are industrial base and the setting up of free trade agreements such
as NAFTA. The current foreign debt
is equaled to over 70% of GDP, a ratio unmatched by far among industrialized nations.
To find out what economics is called the dismal science and the role of neoliberalism.