A new study finds that saying that you represent a group of active campaign donors is five times as likely to result in a meeting with a member of congress or their chief of staff than if you say you are representing a group of interested ‘local constituents’. While the researchers were not surprised by the difference, they did not expect it to be so large.
The results: Only 2.4 percent of the offices made the member of Congress or chief of staff available when they believed those attending were just constituents, but 12.5 percent did when they were told the attendees were political donors.
Also, nearly one in five of the donor groups got access to a senior staffer, while just 5.5 percent of the constituent groups did. That means the donors had more than three times the access to top staffers than the constituents.
Broockman said he was surprised by the size of the difference, and noted that the study may actually underestimate the access of political donors, since none of the offices were told ahead of time the identities of the contributors, how much they had given – or even whether they had donated to that member of Congress.
But what was interesting is that they were testing a particular hypothesis based on a controversial US Supreme Court ruling.
That was done to address a question raised in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which argued that lawmakers are not influenced by political money that does not go directly to their campaigns.
“That was a really key piece,” Broockman said. “It gets very far away from the quid pro quos that the court suggested are the only ways influence operates.”
Access results in influence. You don’t need direct bribery to get your way in Congress.
As a bonus “Well, duh” item, it seems that regulators are now asking if there is something wrong with bank culture.
Money laundering, market rigging, tax dodging, selling faulty financial products, trampling homeowner rights and rampant risk-taking — these are some of the sins that big banks have committed in recent years.
Now, some government authorities are publicly questioning whether such misdeeds are not just the work of a few bad actors, but rather a flaw that runs through the fabric of the banking industry.
One interesting point is that one of the people making the criticism that “There is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions” is William Dudley, current head of the New York Federal Reserve and one of those fingered by Neil Barofsky as being part of the problem, of people going through the revolving door between the Treasury Department and the big banks, and thus subverting the public interest in favor of the banks.
Dudley used to be a partner at Goldman Sachs. For him to have ‘got religion’ on the problems posed by the big banks is a sign of how bad things must be.