Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

Stop Big Business From Buying Elections


Nearly 70 percent of the world's democracies provide some public financing of political elections - but, unfortunately, the United States is not among them. The standard argument against such financing is that it would waste millions of the tax payer's hard-earned dollars. Yet its lack causes politicians to depend on the campaign contributions of corporations and their lobbyist intermediaries, with the result that even more millions of the tax payer's dollars are wasted on subsidies, preferential and over-generous defense contracts, and legislation that favors corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Dr. Forrest Hill, a candidate for California Secretary of State, describes at the link below how corporate campaign contributions have slanted political decisions in their favor, sometimes with disastrous consequences both to California and the nation at large. For instance, Pacific Gas & Electric and California Edison spent $17 million on lobbyists and political campaigns from 1996 to 2002. This persuaded state decision makers to pass an energy deregulation bill under the false pretense that it would reduce energy costs to the consumer 20 to 30 percent by allowing increased competition to flourish. No such event transpired. The vast proportion of energy resources remained in the hands of a cabal of giants who used deregulation to push prices through the roof.

The pharmaceuticals industry likewise influences California legislators and executives through its campaign contributions and lobbyists. It arranged for the patent to be extended on the important anthrax drug Cipro by contributing over $130,000 to the campaign funds of Anna Eshoo, who authored a bill to effect the extension. Campaign contributions totaling $325,000 between 2004 and 2005 similarly induced Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto a bill that would have helped improve the availability of less expensive drugs from Canada.

Perhaps worst of all are the campaign contributions of defense contractors - what we might call in a more honest world "war profiteers". For instance, Bechtel Group Inc. made $1.3 million in contributions between 2001 and 2002, and got in return over $2.4 billion in contracts in Iraq. The fourteen companies with the biggest contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan have made altogether more than $23 million in contributions to politicians, including both Republicans and Democrats.

Only by seizing public control of political campaign funding can the United States rid itself of this system of implicit corporate bribery that keeps bad leaders in office, and obliges politicians to siphon money away from health, education and other worthy causes into the pockets of rich wheelers and dealers.

"Public Financing of Elections: Putting an end to 'Pay to Play' Politics" from the California Chronicle

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