No embarrassment

By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator


JUNE 12, 2015 -- Now we know that soccer is a lot like politics - both are controlled by money.

The President and Congress (both Republicans and Democrats) are bought and paid for by Wall Street, the Big Banks and Corporate America who want to keep the China profits flowing. They contribute to President Obama and Congress to do nothing to irritate China - no enforcement of laws against China's closed market; subsidization of its manufacture; predatory practices and devaluing its currency. The President and Congress do nothing. The U.S. public shows no embarrassment at the force of money in politics.

Money once embarrassed us politicians. In 1968, Maurice Stans, the Financial Manager for Nixon for President, operated on a "cash and carry" basis. Stories of Stans' conduct caused us embarrassment. As a result, we limited spending in campaigns by a bipartisan vote in 1971. There was a flaw in the '71 law, so again in 1973 we limited or controlled spending in federal elections. President Nixon signed the law. The Supreme Court reversed the law in Buckley vs. Valeo by equating spending with speech in political campaigns. Hiring a consultant is spending, not speech. Taking a poll is spending, not speech. Walk into a TV station and tell them you want your free speech and you'll soon find yourself out on the sidewalk.

In Congress, it pays for the Republicans and Democrats to get along, be friends. You never know when you'll need a vote from the other side. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966, several Republican and Democrat Senators met every Wednesday night at one of our homes, coats and ties off, drinks and giving each other hell. We became fast friends. I never had better friends than Republican Senators Howard Baker, Mark Hatfield, Bill Saxby and Ted Stevens. We traveled together, partied together. No Senator would think of raising money against a fellow Senator. But when Buckley removed the limit on spending, Senators stepped up their fundraising; the Republican and Democrat Senate Campaign Committees took over the fundraising and partisanship set in.

In 1993, President Clinton submitted an energy tax but Senators David Boren and Tom Daschle killed it. Senators were left on the Floor with Gene Sperling cobbling together an increase of all taxes - even Social Security. Vice President Gore broke the tie and we Democrats cut spending $250 billion and raised taxes $250 billion. Congressman Gingrich prohibited a Republican vote in either the House or Senate to support our initiative. We gave President George W. Bush a balanced budget in 2001. But he cut taxes, started wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated and bailed out - all without paying for them. When I tried to get Democrats to pay for the wars, prescription drugs, etc., Democrats said Republicans wouldn't give us a vote in 1993 and they weren't about to give Republicans a vote to balance the budget.


The U.S. paid for all its wars, depressions, recessions and it took over two hundred years for the United States to incur a $1 trillion debt in 1981. President Bush increased the debt $5 trillion in eight years and now President Obama increases the debt $7 trillion in six years. The richest country is borrowing more than $400 billion each year to keep the government doors open. But there is no embarrassment. No one mentions it.

Lobbyists with money from special interests have taken control of Congress. That's why you can't get a vote on immigration, gun control, budget, etc. They even tell the Speaker or Leader when to call for a vote.

No embarrassment.

Congress has tried for thirty years with McCain-Feingold, public financing, etc. to get around the Supreme Court. But Congress will have to amend the Constitution: "To empower Congress to limit or control spending in federal elections." In my last years in the U.S. Senate, Republicans had control and wanted to amend the Constitution to prevent flag burning and they asked me to withhold my spending limit amendment. I refused and no Constitutional Amendment was considered in the Senate in 2002, 2003 or 2004. The Senators want to keep their advantage for six years of fundraising.

When money is limited by a Constitutional Amendment, a later Congress can determine how to limit or control spending. When money is limited, fundraising by Congress is limited; partisanship is limited; gridlock broken! Lobbyists lose control of Congress and the buying of politicians in ended.

The voters continue to complain about the do nothing Congress in Washington. Corporate America can make more profit offshoring its production and jobs so it pays the President and Congress to do nothing. The voters show no embarrassment about Congress being bought to do nothing.

Senator Fritz 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 Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).

© 2015, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

About Fritz Hollings

Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives. Today, Hollings continues to be influential in public affairs and offers this website as a compendium of current and past positions on public issues. Learn more about Fritz Hollings.

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