The massive corrupting influence of money in US politics

One of the things that this year’s election has laid bare is the dominance of the oligarchy in the process. This has always been the case but before they were acting discreetly, behind the scenes. But now it is out in the open. There are two people responsible for peeling back the veil. One is Donald Trump. By boasting about his wealth and making it one of his main appeals (though there is considerable doubt as to whether he is as wealthy as he claims), he has made other billionaires think that they too can enter electoral contests by flaunting their wealth. I have seen ads for Tom Steyer where he talks about being a real billionaire “with a b” and not a fake billionaire like Trump and how that will enable him to take him on more effectively, as if what we need is some kind of cage fight between two wealthy people.

Now another billionaire Michael Bloomberg has decided that he too could be president and he and Steyer have been doing surprisingly well so far, at least in the polls, aided by massive amounts spent on advertising and gaining endorsements among elected party officials. It is hardly a coincidence that they have been pouring money into Super PACS and thus buying support among the party establishments. The Democratic National Committee even went so far as to change the qualifying rules of the the debates so that Bloomberg now qualifies. They dropped the requirement that each candidate to receives donations from a certain number of people, a threshold that the self-funding Bloomberg could not meet. The DNC did not, however, change the other requirement of meeting a polling threshold when that resulted in excluding candidates like Cory Booker. Marcus Ranum has a detailed breakdown of Bloomberg using his money to buy influence. He has bought the Democratic party establishment.

The right-wing website Drudge Report speculated that Bloomberg might select Hillary Clinton as his vice-president, what to my mind would be the ultimate nightmare ticket. This report was likely just an effort to stir things up and probably has no basis in fact but such a ticket would be like the case of two people who have had a long-standing affair that they managed to keep out of public view thanks to the collusion of the media that benefits from this secrecy. The affair is now out in the open.

The arrival of the Super PACs, enabled by the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, has exposed how much money is flowing into the political system. Public Citizen has found that just 25 people have contributed nearly half of the $3 billion dollars that have gone into Super PACs and has listed them. #2 on the list is Steyer and #3 is Bloomberg. This is a staggering amount and this does not even take into account the other secretive channels that exist and explains why the major parties are so careful to make sure that the candidates they nominate are so careful to not advocate for measures that would harm oligarchic interests and why they hate Bernie Sanders and will fight tooth-and-nail to stop him getting the nomination, even to the extent of supporting Bloomberg.

The nexus between money and the political party establishments and the policies they support is now right out in the open.

As just one example of how all this money can influence specific political issues, #1 on the list is Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, #13 is Robert and Diana Mercer, and #17 is Haim and Cheryl Saban. All three couples have as one of their main goals pretty much unconditional support for the right-wing, anti-Palestinian policies of the Israeli government and have funded attempts to muzzle critical voices, especially the BDS movement. Michael Arria writes that Bloomberg has also taken very extreme anti-Palestinian stances. It is not hard to see why both major party establishments are very careful to toe the Israeli government line, even though the grassroots of the Democratic party and progressive Jewish groups, especially among the young, have grown very critical of Israeli policies.

Of the major candidates, it is Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who have rejected Super PAC money. It is not surprising that they have been the ones who have been most outspoken about the corrupting influence that so much money from so few people has on political discourse, and why very few of the other candidates have followed suit. Sanders and to a lesser extent Warren are also two of the few voices who have been at least somewhat critical of the way that Israel has treated the Palestinians. Warren has said that she will skip this year’s conference of AIPAC on March 1-3, right before the Super Tuesday primaries. AIPAC is the major player in the Israel lobby and that group invites all candidates to speak at its conference only during presidential election years and they usually all attend. Meanwhile Sanders has said that he has ‘no objection’ to attending but that it is not on his schedule. He was also the only presidential candidate who did not attend the 2016 conference either, citing a scheduling conflict.


  1. says

    Bloomberg might select Hillary Clinton as his vice-president, what to my mind would be the ultimate nightmare ticket.

    I’d love to see them both shit-stain their legacies a bit more. But not at our expense.

  2. mnb0 says

    The American elections are easily the most expensive of all democracies. What do you get in return? Election campaigns that last two years, meaning that a president only has two years to actually govern the country ….

  3. mikey says

    Oh, how I WISH they only lasted two years! They never stop, ever. I turned off my radio for good when, days after the 2012 elections, the bobbleheads on NPR were speculating about Romney’s plans for 2016.

  4. KG says

    At this stage, it would surely be more honest simply to auction the Presidency to the highest bidder. Of course, “candidates” would have to prove their ability to back their bids with their own money, so it would at least get rid of Trump.

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