It’s The Money, Stupid!: Over $1 Billion Raised for Prez Race!

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“Politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated.”

— Will Rogers

Back in the late 50s, I was an aide-de-camp to the Hon. Michael J. “Iron Mike” McHale, 6th District City Councilman in Baltimore City. Around that time, there was a hotly contested citywide municipal election going on. McHale, now deceased, went to a meeting with the then leader of his South Baltimore organization, Julian “Fats” Carrick. They met in a downtown office, with Philip H. Goodman–one of the key political bosses in town, who later served as a mayor of Baltimore (1962-3). According to McHale, Goodman tossed a stack of twenty dollar bills on the table. “This is your ‘walk around money’ for your organization’s support,” Goodman cracked. [1] Carrick, now deceased, nodded his approval and scooped up the cash. On the ride back home, Mr. Carrick told Councilman McHale: “Without these greenbacks, Thomas Jefferson couldn’t get elected today!!”

Fast forward to the bitterly fought 2008 presidential election. Candidates for the White House office, for first time since the creation of the Republic, have raised over $1 billion! I said: one billion dollars! [2] What would the austere Founding Fathers think of all of that money being generated to influence an election in a Republic, where, theoretically, all power rest with the people? I’m sure this spectacle has them turning over in their graves, especially James Madison, a prime architect of the Constitution. It is worthy of a chapter from Edward Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” The Moneyarchy has arrived in an America now reeling from nearly eight years of rapid excess and lawlessness orchestrated by the notorious Bush-Cheney Gang.

Leading the pack in the money acquisition business are the Duopoly candidates, a/ka the “DemRepublicrats.” The Dems’ Barack Obama, who declined to accept any public financing, has racked in an amazing $639 million, while the GOP’s John McCain has taken in $358 million, of which $84 million came from matching federal funds. [2] What do the folks who give those really big bucks to the candidates expect in return? More than just a photo op at the White House with the winner, that’s for sure. I mean even the sleazy lobbyist and convicted felon, Jack Abramoff, got his share of photo ops with Dubya at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and much more. [3] Can it be honestly said, as the patriot Francis Scott Key wrote, that we are the “land of the free,” if it is the big bucks that decide who our next president will be?

Talking about the high cost of our “Democracy,” consider this: It took about $1.3 million to finance and win a race, in 2006, for just a seat in the House of Representatives! That’s right. You want to go to Congress, like Jimmy Stewart did in the 1939 movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” then start digging deep into your pocket, mister, plus the pockets of everyone else near you. For the U.S. Senate, again in 2006, it cost $8.8 million! [4] And, these are simply average numbers.

In the 2000 election, Sen. Hillary R. Clinton, for example, spent a staggering $29.9 to capture her Senate seat in the Empire State, while in that same election, across the Hudson River, John S. Corzine, (now New Jersey’s Governor), shelled out a truly mind-boggling $63.2 to gain a U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey. Is there any end in sight to this insidious corruption by money of the life force that is the well spring of our freedoms?

When the subject of money is raised in relation to Washington, D.C., some of the tales that come out of one particular egregious Capitol Hill scandal are, indeed, very instructive. In the late 70s, the FBI set up a sting operation, in which agents posed as Middle East business men looking to obtain illegal favors for cash from elected officials. The sting, known as “Abscam,” resulted in five members of the House being convicted on corruption charges and also one U.S. Senator. One of the Congressmen nabbed in the operation was Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA). He was heard on an FBI tape boasting, after accepting a $50,000 bribe: “[In Washington] money talks and bull s… walks!” Rep. Meyers was later expelled from the House for his conduct and sentenced to three years in a federal slammer. [5]

Getting back to the 2008 presidential campaign. Bringing up the rear, in amassing the greenbacks, were the Third Party candidates for president. Ralph Nader, running under the Independent label, has raised $4 million for his nationwide campaign effort. Next, in line is Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party. The former Republican Congressman from Georgia, shows $1 million coming into his coffers. Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party is reporting $239,000 in his quest for the White House office, while Cynthia McKinney, running under the Green Party banner, has accumulated only $188,000, in her mostly grass roots centered efforts. She is a ex-Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia. [2]

On Oct. 29, 2008 another money-related precedent was set. Sen. Obama purchased one half hour of national TV time, at $5 million! He used it to make a “Closing Argument” styled talk to the American electorate on seven networks. It reached a bigger audience, percentage wise, than a similar stunt, in 1996, by Third Party candidate and maverick politico, Ross Perot. Obama’s infomercial came off as a very polished production. It cut into his “live” campaign rally in Florida, and was probably worth the cost. Although, a few critics have panned it as a “gloom and doom” show and mostly “ineffective.” Some conceded, too, there is always a chance you can turn voters off by engaging in a “paid” media assault, especially on the same night that an important World Series baseball game was being televised from Philadelphia.

The big money influence, however, rolls on and on. One of the wheeler-dealers close to Sen. Obama is reportedly Robert Rubin. He has been acting as one of the senator’s “economic advisers,” and also helping to raise megabucks for his campaign. [6] Rubin served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Treasury. Guess what firm he was previously associated with on Wall Street? If you said Goldman Sachs, you would be correct. Since 1989, Goldman Sachs has contributed close to $30 million to various Duopoly candidates. [7] The records also show that this same firm has donated over $874,000 to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. [8] Citigroup, Inc., a firm that Mr. Rubin is presently associated with as Chairman, has contributed over $581,000 to Sen. Obama. [8] Isn’t this all so cozy, coming so close after the $700 billion bailout by the taxpayers of the Wall Street parasites? [9] Doesn’t it all make you want to throw-up?

The gravy train doesn’t stop after these politicos leave office. “Bubba Bill” and Hillary Clinton have accumulated over $109 million in income after exiting the White House. [10] Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister, and Dubya’s “poodle” in the launching of the illegal and immoral Iraq War, has seen his wealth increase by £12 million. And, he only left the 10 Downing Street office in June, 2007! Blair can make as much as $250,000 for one single, bloody, 90 minute speech that he gives to an audience of Fat Cats. [11] Can you believe all of this? What a damnable racket! Who really pays for all of this chicanery?

If the learned British historian Gibbon was right in claiming that a lack of “civic virtue” helped to bring down Rome, then I think it will follow, that unless checked, money’s domination of our political process, will be the death knell of our once grand Republic. I say: Get money out of our electoral process before it is too late!

Notes:

[1]. “‘Walk around money” was a term used to describe the cash that was once given out, in Baltimore, MD, by the political bosses of the different groups and organizations on election day to pay the precinct workers and Ward leaders for “volunteering.” Usually, it was doled out the “day before” the election in order to avoid the strict application of the state’s election law.

[2]. http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/
index.php

[3]. http://thinkprogress.org/abramoff/
#abramoff and
http://www.madcowprod.com/06202005.html

[4]. http://www.cfinst.org/data/pdf/
VitalStats_t1.pdf and http://www.cfinst.org/

[5]. http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/abscam.htm

[6]. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-scheer
/the-battle-for-obamas-eco_b_136757.html
and
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/
timestopics/people/r/robert_e_rubin/
index.html?inline=nyt-per

[7]. http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/index.php

[8]. http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/
contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00009638

[9]. http://www.thenation.com/doc/2008
1110/greider2
and http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/17
/ex_asst_treasury_sec_paul_craig

[10]. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/
2008/04/clinton_releases_tax_returns.html

[11]. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/
news/politics/article5034235.ece

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