Buying Government: Are Corporate Campaign Contributions An Inalienable Right?
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Buying Government: Are Corporate Campaign Contributions An Inalienable Right?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008By Richard Alexander

Trust-busting president Teddy Roosevelt railed against the fat cats of his time.  So did Louisiana Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Long, as flawed as he was. We need people like that in office today, because the fat cats are still fat and getting fatter - often at the expense of the handicapped, the mentally retarded, children and others who are dispossessed.Our campaign system is skewed toward the wealthy. Corporate money flows into the election coffers of politicians, like wine into a wino. They're drunk on it. And while they insist it doesn't affect their decisions, it does buy a donor access. And that can often lead to incredible government subsidies for their interests.

A public official always will meet with someone who kept his or her political career alive. It's unfair to the rest of us.

When was the last time you heard of a working class mother holding a gala fundraiser for a candidate? Right. Never. Corporations that get huge tax breaks from their Capitol Hill contacts could care less about her.

They count on infusions of money, the life blood of politics. And they return the favor 10-fold or more with subsidies for corporations. That is not a fair society. That is a recipe for upheaval.

It's government for sale. Step right up and write a check. Californians made a damaging, self-defeating mistake in 2006 when they voted down Proposition 86.

On May 18, 2008, Brian Riedl wrote in a scathing San Jose Mercury News opinion piece that the latest farm bill would force Americans to pay billions of dollars in subsidies to millionaire agribusinesses. As he said, farm subsidies have long been America's largest corporate welfare program.

These subsidies aren't for the dying breed of small mom-and-pop farmers, the hardworking people who get up at dawn to milk the cows, plow the fields and then go home weary only to rise again.

Richard Holober, Executive director of the Consumer Federation of California, writes that since 2004, Chevron gave $3 million in political contributions in California. "For a company that made a record $14 billion in profits last year,'' he wrote, "it was money well spent." Despite public indignation, big oil crushed a proposed state tax on windfall oil profits."

The timeworn adage is that "money is the mother's milk of politics." And so it is. But whose money? And to what end?

Politicians need money to get their messages out. But from whom? Campaign finance reform is long overdue. Let the money be from us, not from corporations. Let our elected representatives be beholden to the people, and the people only.

We made a big mistake in the U.S. treating corporations as citizens, with the rights of people. The Founders of this country never intended that. Corporations do not have inalienable rights.

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