Are big campaign contributions nothing more than bribery?
I would think they often are. I mean would anyone think that big donors are just exercising some form of altruistic public duty, promoting democracy? I mean don’t most of them expect something for the dough they are shelling out? Seems like a silly question to me.
But I can’t forget that in a class on state government I took at Chico State University (California) the instructor posited that it could simply be that money buys access, not necessarily votes on legislation — I don’t mean that was his actual position, he was just saying what one argument is. Same difference to me anyway. I mean the politician won’t even listen without the offer of money. The regular guy has no chance.
And just what does “buying access” amount to? Does the politician simply sit there and listen with an open mind and with the 50/50 chance that he will agree or not agree with the donor? Please. That is not to say that in some instances the politician does not reluctantly have to go against the donor’s wishes because of some overriding political concerns and conditions.
But I think the late Charles Keating Jr. of the infamous Savings and Loan Scandal had it right when he said this:
(From the LA Times)
In 1989, Keating addressed the intentions behind his massive political donations to the senators, delivering one of his trademark outrageous comments:
“One question, among many raised in recent weeks, had to do with whether my financial support in any way influenced several political figures to take up my cause,” he said. “I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so.”
At least he was honest about that. (Keating died last spring at the age of 90.)
But I would not say that politicians should not be able to accept large donations from individuals or even corporations. If those are the people they want to represent and if money talks, let them be seen for who they are. Let’s just hope a free press informs us of and reminds us about all that.
Maybe because we don’t have strong party politics, supported by local precincts — it’s more individual politicians chasing down high rollers — the broad mass of the electorate is all but frozen out in influence over who runs, who gets into office.
The common people by and large do not involve themselves in politics, the majority don’t even register to vote.
And we wonder why our leaders do not represent us.
I don’t have any real proposal for leveling the playing field, except for keeping informed and voting and sometimes even writing to your representatives. It’s pretty easy to do nowadays with computers. I think they have to pay some attention to their mail (to include email) because I think they still have to get the most votes to get into office.
Sure, your individual crank correspondence all by itself won’t likely carry much weight and may not even reach the pol him or herself, but concerns expressed in a reasonable manner may often coincide with the sentiments with others — and there can be power in numbers.