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The Corrupting Influence is YOU!

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In recent campaign appearances all of the presidential candidates, most especially Barack Obama, have made an issue of their independence from the undue influence of lobbyists and their evil, corrupting money. Obama makes much of his high percentage of individual contributions while taking millions from megabanks and trying to weasel out of his promise to run a publicly funded campaign. McCain has built a reputation as a campaign finance reformer but he also wants to renege on his promise to limit spending as well. Meanwhile Clinton says very little while collecting a record $35 million from trial lawyers and unions.

When creating our government, the founding fathers had this idea firmly in mind. They believed that those who have more money have more at risk from the actions of government and ought to have more of a voice in the policies which impact them. They even understood that the way for the average person to have the kind of influence that a wealthy individual might was to work collectively to pool resources for increased effectiveness.

Political parties are a crude representation of this idea, but there are too few parties and they represent too broad a spectrum of issues. However there are many other ways that your political interests can get well represented in Washington, through the efforts of lobbyists who often have more of a voice than any individual elected representatives. And although you may not realize it, you probably have several lobbyists working for you already.

Your union, your employer, groups you donate to or even consider supporting all speak for you and your interests through lobbyists and PACs and direct donations to politicians. Your money and the choices you make about how to spend your valuable time and effort speak for you much more clearly and specifically than your paltry single vote. It is through their efforts that you receive your most substantial and meaningful representation in government.

Our supposedly corrupt system actually represents us better in many ways than pure democracy stripped of all the financial interest ever would. The teacher earning $35,000 a year has far more influence on government through the NEA, the choices she makes for the investments in her 401k, and the $5 a week she gives to the NRDC or NARAL than she would ever have with a single vote.

These organizations deal in the aggregation of voting power and of money, and those aggregates of money and power can have much more impact in an election than a single lone voice ever could. By combining resources and efforts with those who are like-minded anyone can become politically influential beyond anything they imagined as a mere voter.

And a lot of these organizations are basically democratic. Corporations allow stockholders to vote on leadership and policies. Unions theoretically do so as well. Issue groups like the NRA or NEA are constantly polling their membership for guidance and soliciting input to help with setting policy. Most people ignore the opportunities they have to influence these groups, but that makes the efforts of those who choose to attend stockholder meetings and who campaign to influence union votes or special interest group policies that much more effective. These groups are listening, and if you're the loudest voice in their constituency they will respond and pass your message on to our leaders with money and political pressure behind it.

So rather than whining about the corrupting influence of money and lobbying and special interests, you might want to pause a moment to think about how those forces of political influence work and who they represent, because if their role is to corrupt, that corruption is in your service and ultimately to your benefit. Before you go pointing fingers at politicians and lobbyists, you might want to look in the mirror first, because ultimately the source of corruption and undue influence is you and people like you. And ultimately that corruption which you think is so evil is just a different, more effective way for people to get their voices heard in government.

About Dave Nalle

  • Pablo

    Dave
    Interesting

    STM
    You are being ignored, I am in Phuket glad your not joining me.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “Clavos,
    You deserve no comment,”

    But … you … just …

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “Its funny how you don’t even take the time to check something out, as you sit there so sure of yourself. He directed several big hits in Hollywood among them “24 Hours” with Eddie Murphy.”

    Pablo, congrats on winning this week’s “pot calling the kettle ‘black’” award. You are on the net. Click over to IMDB.com because he wasn’t as successful as you think. Also, while I see they were in a relationship, I don’t see that he was ever married to Midler.

    But don’t worry, Dave’s response is faulty as well through error and omission.

    “towards the end of his life he stopped directing films”

    The guy directed one film, “Rude Awakenings,” before his documentary. It was completed in 1989 unless who have evidence Alan Smithee took over some projects. Russo did produce a few movies, which is a completely different job.

  • Baronius

    Dave, great article. Indisputable. I don’t even know where the “opinion” part is.

    Without lobbying groups, I have no say in the election of 98% of the Senate and a larger percentage of the House. I have no leverage against them. And that’d be fine if they had limited authority over me (as the Founding Fathers intended). But we citizens are in a constant battle against the federal government.

    McCain took away one of our best defenses against government, the right to organized political speech in the days before an election. Now politicians want to remove our money from the system. I say, we make them sit up and beg for our campaign dollars. If our lobbyists tell you to do the cha cha, you do the cha cha.

    Have you noticed that politicians have no complaints about the money we have to give them? But it’s the donations that are a “corrupting influence”.

  • Clavos

    “STM
    You are being ignored”

    See #53…

  • http://jetfireone.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    How rude Pablo, how very very rude…

  • Pablo

    Jet,

    If you had seen some of STM’s previous comments to me in other posts perhaps you would not be so quick to judge. I act in accordance to how I am treated, don’t you?

    El Bicho,
    Your name fits you to a tee, I am so ashamed of my ignorance concerning Mr. Russo’s film career, kudos to you.

  • http://jetfireone.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    (Groan) I see I’m going to have to go back to labeling my jokes so people know when to laugh

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Pretending that all lobbying activity is identical, and therefore equally good [or bad], is where this argument breaks down.

    Lobbyists who simply make sound arguments effectively [or what they believe to be sound arguments] are a lot different from lobbyists who take politicians on high-priced golf excursions.

    There are also plenty of lobbyists who have obscured their agenda. Not all are so out-front in their aims as, say, the NRA. Abramoff, for example, was helping Tom DeLay and others support sweat shops in US Territories that were not states so they could carry a “Made in USA” label. How was that a good thing?

    In addition, the allegedly protected political speech of these groups should be regularly checked for bullshit and lies. Their distortions have the power to get in the way of real issues discussions during [and between] elections. Pretending that the regulation of this anti-democratic [small "d"] attack rhetoric is unconstitutional is one of the right’s lamest arguments.

    Dave’s article, like many of his articles, is almost a textbook case of disingenuous fake reasoning.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Handy, how are lobbyists inherently any more good or evil than anyone else? They represent all sorts of groups and the only thing they have in common is that they promote the interests of those groups by whatever means they can. None of them are above reproach and all of them would stoop to taking people to play golf or threatening them with adverse publicity. There’s NO DIFFERENCE.

    You can argue that some of them represent good causes and some represent bad causes, but that’s largely subjective, and you could just as easily argue that some voters vote for good reasons and some vote for bad reasons.

    This is not a case of fake reasoning or being disingenous, it’s a case of honesty which you’re too timid to accept.

    Dave

  • STM

    Pablo’s in Phuket.

    Glad I spent the weekend in Melbourne.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Baronius: Dave, great article. Indisputable. I don’t even know where the “opinion” part is.

    Handyguy: Dave’s article, like many of his articles, is almost a textbook case of disingenuous fake reasoning.

    I think I’ve achieved a perfect yin-yang kind of balance in getting these two responses.

    Dave

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Stan: Pablo must really get your goat if you’re actually glad you spent the weekend in Melbourne rather than Phuket…

  • STM

    Mate, Melbourne’s a great place. The problem is it’s full of Victorians, or Mexicans as we call ‘em round these parts :)

    I went down for the F1 Grand Prix. I think I saw part of a sporting event but I’m not sure.

    It’s not spectator friendly, and the noise. Fair dinkum, it’s literally ear-shattering. There were kids there who were crying because of the noise.

    On Melbourne: it has its good points. The trams for one. I reckon Melbourne has the best public transport network on the planet.

    My daughter and I were sitting at a beachfront cafe in St Kilda eating our dinner on Saturday night, and the tram stop was across the road.

    There was a tram going back to the city about every five minutes, and it’s only a 15-minute trip back to town.

    Pretty damn good, and you can get them just about anywhere around the city and suburbs.

    If Sydney is like a big west coast city in America, Melbourne is like a European city … totally different.

    The women dress exquistely too. It’s a pretty stylish town. I don’t think I could live there though, but it’s still a pretty good joint.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Ah yes, the Grand Prix. Our boy Lewis Hamilton, who should win the F1 title at a canter this time around after narrowly missing out in his rookie season last year, took the prize, I see.

    Not surprised it upset some folks, though. The race takes place partly on the city streets, doesn’t it?

    I did like Melbourne – not as much as I thought I would, though, and it doesn’t hold a candle to Sydney.

    My favourite part was the weather. Bright, sunny and warm one minute; pelting down with rain and/or hail the next. Quite reminded me of home. I love rain.

  • STM

    Doc: The weather issue is big down there. It’s freezing in winter. People joke about Melbourne experiencing four seasons in a day, and they’re only half joking.

    Even though it’s only an hour’s plane flight from Sydney, the difference is palpable. Sydney is a warm South Pacific city, and much of the weather is a result of weather patterns generated in the south pacific and by north-easterly airstreams off tropical Queensland – while Melbourne sits on the southern tip of mainland Australia, which means it’s exposed to the cold prevailing winter winds from the Southern Ocean – which as everyone knows, are generated off the ice floes of the Antarctic. While they’ve warmed up a bit by the time they hit the great southern continent, they are still bloody cold.

    The only city colder in winter in Australia is Hobart, which suffers from being near the southern tip of Tasmania. It is the most beautiful city in Oz though.

    However, I prefer my winter beaches with warm water and sand, rather than snow, which is why I haven’t moved there.

    You should come back for another visit one day Doc and call in while you’re here.

  • Baronius

    Dave, the distinction you have to make is between good lobbying and bad lobbying. Sweat shops are bad. So are nuclear power, the Irish, and flouridation. If you have any questions, I’ve got a master list of good and bad things.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Yes, Baronius, I make value judgments. So, I suspect, do you. Your point being?

  • Baronius

    Sorry if this is a double-post:

    Handy, my point is that lobbying is protected by the First Amendment. Not just “good” lobbying. If anything, we need to be more protective of “bad” lobbying, because it’s so easy to oppose the unpopular and controversial.

  • bliffle

    How so?

    ” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Bliff, it’s free speech. It’s just citizens talking to their legislators. What could be more appropriate?

    Dave

  • bliffle

    “It’s just citizens talking to their legislators.”

    No it’s not.

    The people doing the talking are paid to express those views. They are NOT advocating for themselves. They are NOT expressing their personal views. And they are hired based on their ability to get close to the decision makers, because of their personal familiarity. This is commonly known as “influence peddling”.

    And they are offering bribes, in the form of campaign contributions. Offering bribes is not constitutionally protected free speech.

  • troll

    It’s just citizens talking to their legislators.

    …lobbyists are not necessarily citizens nor do they necessarily advocate for the interests of citizens

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The people doing the talking are paid to express those views. They are NOT advocating for themselves. They are NOT expressing their personal views.

    So if I’m a journalist paid to write editorials I lose my free speech rights? Same thing if I’m a speechwriter? Both I and the guy I write speeches for no longer have full rights to express ourselves? You can’t limit free speech based on your subjective perception of the motivation of the speaker.

    And they are hired based on their ability to get close to the decision makers, because of their personal familiarity. This is commonly known as “influence peddling”.

    Many forms of influence peddling are illegal. Arrest them if they cross that line.

    And they are offering bribes, in the form of campaign contributions. Offering bribes is not constitutionally protected free speech.

    True, and it’s already illegal. If they violate anti bribery laws, arrest them.

    …lobbyists are not necessarily citizens nor do they necessarily advocate for the interests of citizens

    Last I checked we allowed free speech even for foreign nationals, what with it being an inalienable right of humanity and all.

    Dave

  • troll

    Last I checked we allowed free speech even for foreign nationals, what with it being an inalienable right of humanity and all.

    nonresponsive