Friday, September 26, 2014

POLITICS - The Domination of Money in U.S. System

aka Let the little guy be damned.

"Are billionaires dictating American political debate?" PBS NewsHour 9/25/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  How has big money come to dominate politics?  And who is writing the checks?  It can be hard to tell.

For instance, The New York Times discovered a glitch in the website run by the tax-exempt wing of the Republican Governors Association that revealed the names of prominent corporate donors.  Large political contributions are perfectly legal, and both parties solicit them.  But corporate donors’ identities are usually kept secret.

In this book conversation, Jeffrey Brown looks at a group of very rich donors who’s names are already well-known.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  The numbers keep growing and the dollars keep flowing.  This midterm election has already seen more spending by outside interest groups than any in history, some $230 million and counting, more, in fact, than any election, other than the last one for the presidency in 2012.

Under campaign finance laws, much of this funding is not required to be disclosed, but a lot of it comes from a relatively small number of the very wealthiest Americans.

Darrell West, the director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, writes of their influence on politics in his new book, “Billionaires:  Reflections on the Upper Crust.”

And welcome to you.

DARRELL WEST, Brookings Institution:  Thank you.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The argument first is that billionaires and their money are big players in politics, right?  How big and how much influence?

DARRELL WEST:  Very big.

The Koch brothers are estimated to be spending $125 million just on this election year, much of it focused on those key Senate races, but then liberal and moderate billionaires also are amping up their resources.  Michael Bloomberg has put $50 million into fighting the NRA and gun violence.  Tom Steyer is very concerned about climate change.  He’s spending $50 million of his own money.

So, 2014 is shaping up as the battle of the billionaires.
DARRELL WEST:  Well, this is certainly not the first time wealthy interests have been influential.  When you think about the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the other barons of 100 years ago, they were very influential and in some cases dictated public policy.

But, after Watergate, we made a serious effort to clean up the political process.  There were caps on spending.  People had to disclose the sources of their contributions, but over the last 30 years, there have been gaping loopholes in these rules.

And so now we have essentially returned to the pre-Watergate era of big money and great secrecy.  And this is also taking place at a time when the news media are much weaker.  And so the oversight organizations are having a difficult time keeping track of all the money.

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