Political money...Cause for concern | Eastern North Carolina Now | The best government money can buy

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There is a serious problem in funding our political system.  Both houses of the Federal Government and most State Legislatures are running fund raising schemes that allow them to perpetuate themselves.  Simply put, they collect money and use it to elect legislators who keep the leadership in power.

Here is how the game works. The use the words “House and Senate” apply to any State House or Senate and the Federal House and Senate.   The House or Senate has a political PAC (Political Action Committee) to raise funds to help elect their members.  This started innocently.  It cost a lot of money to run for any of these offices.  Why not help a brother? 

Soon, big donors realized they had a lot of leverage.  They could give millions to these PACs.

If they gave enough money they could request special legislation and favorable laws for their businesses.  The leaders of these PACs, in most cases the Speaker of the House and the Senate leader, soon realized they could make or break a politician because they had enough money to determine who the winner would be in a lot of elections.  They feathered their nest by only supporting candidates who would vote for them to continue as the House or Senate leader.  

At one time leadership was joyfully shared, passed around.

A recent example of PAC abuse was the Alabama Senate Race.  Mitch McConnell, leader of the US Senate, thru his PAC is reputed to have put more than 8 million dollars in the Alabama primary elections to see that Judge Roy Moore was defeated.  Why, because Roy Moore, a strong conservative, would have supported someone other than Mitch McConnell for Leader of the US Senate.  The campaign shenanigans in the Alabama Senate races was puzzling to me until I realized the issue was not the best candidate, or the conservative candidate, it was about cementing in McConnell’s power.  The same thing has happened over and over in House and Senate races. 

We have machine politics based on big corporate donations to House and Senate PACs.  It is virtually impossible for anyone to independently hold any House or Senate office without feeling the strong heat from the leadership.  This is a major factor in the polarizing of our political parties.  Anyone who breaks away and pretends to think for himself can be punished by a fully funded primary opponent.

This PAC system has concentrated power into the hands of the leaders of the House and Senate.  No longer do we see groups of Representatives and Senators who band together in order to take positions on issues.  In the old days these issue oriented groups were bipartisan.  Not any more. 

Big money has corrupted our government and almost all of our problems are caused by the power of the “wrong” PAC.

Ballotpedia reports:  In the 2018 midterm elections, 378 U.S. House incumbents and 30 U.S. Senate incumbents ran for re-election—representing 87.1 percent of the seats up for re-election. Thirty-nine incumbents—two Democratic House incumbents, four Democratic senators, 32 Republican House incumbents, and one Republican senator—lost their re-election bids.

HIGHLIGHTS of the 2018 elections

  • This was the lowest number of U.S. House incumbents seeking re-election since 1992.
  • This was the highest number of U.S. Senate incumbents seeking re-election since 2008.
  • Seventeen percent of U.S. Senate incumbents seeking re-election were defeated, including four Democrats. This was the highest percentage since the 2014 midterm election when 21 percent of U.S. Senate incumbents were defeated, including five Democrats.
  • Thirty-four U.S. House incumbents—or 9 percent—were defeated in 2018. This was the highest percentage of incumbents defeated since 2012, when 10.2 percent were not re-elected.

The point is:  Not many Congressmen or Senators get defeated.  Big Money makes a difference.

I have always wanted to believe the best of everything “American.”  That includes our businesses, our great and powerful corporationsAmerican corporations have led the world in producing goods and services at low cost, inventing products, machines, medicines and services that have made our lives easier, healthy, productive, comfortable, safe and prosperous.

I have been very reluctant to admit big money could be as bad as I now realize it is.  My epiphany came about when some friends were saying that big companies controlled the government.  They referred to the bad behavior of medical companies in particular.  I became defensive.

During that same conversation I explained to them about the power of the PACs.  Suddenly, I realized the same corporations they were complaining about were the same corporations who funded these PACs. 

Originally, campaign reform and the creation of fund-raising laws, was intended to bring clarity to the money situation in politics.  Campaign reform has done that.  It also opened the door for this seemingly legal and sophisticated system of corruption. 

No publicly elected political body in the United States should be allowed to raise money to perpetuate itself.   There is no way every dollar of that money does not influence legislation.

We need campaign reform.  It is not reasonable to expect the leaders of the House and Senate to slap their own hands and stop the very profitable business of selling legislation.

There is no need for this system to exist.  There are plenty of other PACs that do the same thing as the House and Senate PACs very much more honorably.  Every person running for these offices has a campaign fund.  Why not donate to that fund directly?  The reason is that there are limits in the amount of money that anyone can give any candidate.  There are no limits on the amount that can be donated to a PAC.  PACs have fewer restrictions on the use of their money than candidates. That is how big money controls elections.

I have long felt that campaign contributions should be used only for campaign expenses by the designated candidate and not laundered through a leadership PAC.  Some officials funnel hundreds of dollars to friends and relatives from their “campaign.”  That ought not to be allowed.

I hope one of the independent PACs (like Judicial Watch) or maybe several band together to bring the necessary lawsuits to stop this form of corruption.  There is a problem with this approach however.  Citizen United v. FEC  effectively blocked reform of PACs.  We are a damaged nation and we will continue to be a damaged nation as long as elected officials cannot vote without fear of political reprisal based on Big Money.

Another possibility for cleaning up this problem is a constitutional amendment(s).  The current movement to call a Convention of States is another way to get around the Congress blocking amendments.  Their proposal is term limits.  That is one way to do it.  The N. C. House has passed a resolution calling for a Convention but it is bottled up in the N. C. Senate…no doubt because the leadership does not want to lose their hold on power.

Whether you favor term limits or campaign finance reform, you have to agree that something needs to be done to eliminate this “best government money can buy.”


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Comment

( June 28th, 2022 @ 10:30 am )
 
There is unquestionally too much power in the hands of the RINO leadership in the NC legislature. The core cause is not the money, it is the ability of the Speaker to succeed himself in the House, and the end of divided power in the Senate. Prior to 1989, Senate powers were divided between the Lieutenant Governor and the Senate President, so that power could not be concentrated either place. Most of the Lt. Governor's powers came through Senate rules and when Republican Jim Gardner was elected to that office in 1988, the Democrats stripped his powers and concentrated them in the Senate President. The power arrangement you describe is the Basnight system, which was created by that concentration of power

In the House, the brake on concentration of power was the very longstanding tradition of one term speakers which began in the 19th century. That tradition was broken by Carl Stewart running for a second term in 1979 because he wanted to run for statewide office as incumbent House Speaker in 1980. His successor, Liston Ramsey decided he wanted to be Speaker for life.

Regretably, Republican leaders in both house of the legislature picked up the bad power habits of the Democrats.

The solution is simply, but probably difficult to obtain. Amend the state Constitution to require one term Speakers and restore the split of power in the Senate. The old system worked great, but based on legislative rules and on tradition was too easy to overturn.



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