Money cancer in politics
By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator
2010 -- Money, a growing cancer in politics, needs to be excised. In my
seventh election to the United States Senate in 1998, I had to raise $8.5
million. $8.5 million factors to $30,000 a week, each week, every week,
for six years. It's not just raising campaign funds the year ahead of
the election any more. In order to raise this sum, you have to travel
the country and still depend on Washington assistance. To get that assistance
you have to raise money for other Senators who are up during the six years
in order to get their assistance when you're up. Thus, the beginning of
Washington influence on local elections. Tip O'Neill's rule that: "All
politics is local," has changed to "most politics is national."
The national media and pundits have taken over campaigns.
and 1973 Congress limited spending in federal campaigns. The vote was
bi-partisan and President Richard Nixon signed both measures into law.
The Congressional intent was to prohibit the buying of the office. But
the Supreme Court in Buckley vs. Valeo, set aside the '73 Act and
now requires candidates for office to veritably buy the seat. The Court
limited the freedom of speech with money, amending Madison's first amendment
to the Constitution. Now, we have Corzine in New Jersey spending $60 million
of his own money to be elected to the United States Senate; Bloomberg
spending $109 million to be Mayor of New York, and Meg Whitman spending
$118 million in the California Governor's primary and the election is
not until November. In Citizens United the Supreme Court now has permitted
Corporate America to secretly buy the office. All a corporation has to
do is to contribute to a 501(c)(4) group and the State has lost its ability
to elect its own Congressman or Senator. Last minute out-of-state money
elected Brown to the U. S. Senate in Massachusetts; Miller in the Republican
primary in Alaska; O'Connell in the Republican primary in Delaware. In
"The Secret Election" The New York Times (9/19/10) editorializes
against corporate takeovers: "
the advocacy committees that
are sucking in many millions of anonymous corporate dollars, making this
the most secretive election cycle since the Watergate years."
With committee meetings and floor debates, there is little time left to see constituents, only contributors. Senators of one party seldom work with Senators of the opposite party. It used to be different -- but when Republican Senators on my Commerce Committee had a fund raiser against me in Washington and all except Ted Stevens attended, I had the feeling that, if they wanted to get rid of me, I wanted to get rid of them. This explains the partisanship.
is full of pollster politicians. The first rule of the pollster is: "Never
divide the voters. Comment on both sides of an issue and answer you're
'concerned,' you're 'troubled.'" You're taught not to lead -- do
nothing, just vote the poll and raise money. The real needs of a country,
like a Marshall Plan, are never found in a political poll. This allows
the Washington lobbyists with the money to run Congress. For example,
Grover Norquist of the Americans for Tax Reform obtains a commitment against
taxes long before a senator can be elected. Any senator wanting to pay
the bill for government is talking to a fixed jury. The cover of a recent
issue of Time (7/12/10) headlines: "The Best Laws Money Can
Buy. $3.5 billion was spent on lobbyist last year. Why that's the biggest
bargain in town." And rather than covering the issues, the media
covers the ups and downs of the parties by covering the money. The headline
in USA Today (9/24/10) was "Big cash edge for GOP in state
"government of the people, by the people, for the people" to
become "government of the special interests, by the special interests,
for the special interests." I used to think a Constitutional amendment
returning to the intent of Congress in '71 and '73 limiting spending in
federal elections was the better approach. But now with "super PACs,"
a Constitutional amendment to limit or control spending is absolutely
necessary to return the people's government back to the people. Otherwise,
the Golden Rule will pertain: "Those with the gold will rule."
Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of the recently published book, Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).
© 2010, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.
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