We the People
November 6, 2009
A growing number of Americans and researchers suggest that many corporations in the U.S. contribute to both Democrats and Republicans, so that no matter who wins the election, corporations can still exert their influence in Washington. But, does this line of thought have any merit? As they say, let’s simply “follow the money”.
The following firms are ranked in order of their total contributions for 2008. But, the chart below illustrates their total contributions over the last 20 years. Every firm on this list is defined as “on the fence”, meaning they have leaned neither Republican, nor Democrat and have largely donated to both parties. This information was compiled from http://www.opensecrets.org/.
(The asterisk [*] denotes companies who have recently made equal contributions, despite their 20 year history of a party preference. Contact the Federal Election Committee or opensecret.org for more information.)
A blogger at albatross.org correctly stated in 1994, “The problem in America isn’t that the Republican party has sold its soul to corporate wealth, Christian fundamentalism and plutarchs. The problem with America is that Democrats have, too. The problem with America is that the Republicans and the Democrats are units of the same organization, an organization that has consolidated its control over the American political process to the exclusion of all others.” (http://albatross.org/journal/archives/000789.html)
Wanna start to see how? Keep reading.
In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) – the statute that governs the financing of federal elections. The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections. (http://www.fec.gov/info/mssion.shtml)
Dr. Marc A Triebwasser, a Political Science Professor at Central Connecticut University tells us that “in 1971 the Federal Elections Campaign Act was passed, banning corporate campaign contributions. That was followed by the Watergate scandal. As a result of that scandal, major amendments to that act were passed in 1974.” He goes on to say, “The 1974 Amendment tried to limit campaign contributions and campaign spending.”
“However,” he states, “it is very difficult to reform campaign financing. If you try to bar corporate campaign contributions, then the members of the board will contribute personally. If members of the board are not allowed to contribute, their wives will contribute, and so on. There are always loopholes that corporations will try to find. And, since they are well connected and have a lot of high paid lawyers on their side, they will find loopholes. It’s very difficult to control this. We have been trying to control corporate contributions for the last 100 years now–without much success!” (http://www.polisci.ccsu.edu/trieb/InfluGov.html)
There are undoubtedly all kinds off issues at play here, far too numerous to list in this article. However, the purpose of this writing is to introduce this concept those to who still think that there really is a “left” and a “right”.
The real issue here runs far deeper than corporations hoping to get face time with a Representative or Senator. In reality, this distortion that “Left/Democrat vs. Right/Republican” is a REAL debate is widely used as a means of social control.
Noam Chomsky says, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” In short, we are taught to think in terms of “A and B”. Therefore, if “C” is presented, we either discount it as impossible or our peers remind us that only “A and B” are possible to keep us in line.
Here is a video clip of Congressman Ron Paul, stating about American foreign policy that which is also applicable to our whole political process:
Quite frankly, this view is accurate and sums up politics in America today.
Now, this article will not get into how and which specific individuals have exerted control over both parties. That will be saved for a future post. However, we will look (in a general sense) at how the system is structured to award corporations influence over the government without respect to (and oftentimes without control of) either party.
Dr. Triebwasser, talks about a book written by Mark V. Nadel (possibly “Corporations and Political Accountability”). One would guess, that his post cited here is for a class of his. But, being that it is available on the world wide web, it can be assumed that an additional audience is, well, us. On this site, Dr. Triebwasser lists ways that corporations influence politicians in Washington, irrespective of party affiliation. This account provides a legal foundation for what amounts to a corporate hi-jacking of our Republic. His post is as follows in red.
7 Ways Corporations Influence Washington
1. Access – Through campaign contributions and other methods, corporations are able to gain access to public officials more often than the average citizen. This means that corporations at least have a better chance of having their case heard.
2. Advisory Committees to Government Agencies – The fact is that the government does not have fact gathering apparati in a number of fields. And so, government agencies appoint committees to provide information and advice. Often, these committees contain many people from the industry involved. The information they provide are used in making public policy. Now, obviously, if the information that government agencies are getting is from the industry involved, then the perspective from which they get the information is likely to be one-sided. For example, if the government needs information on nuclear power, it most likely will call upon nuclear engineers for advice. However, these engineers come from the industry involved. The government does not usually consider the opinion of the private citizen, although the concerns that pregnant women have who live near Three Mile Island or other nuclear power facilities might well need to be taken into account. So the advice the government gets is often stacked in favor of the corporation.
3. The Revolving Door Effect – Many times individuals are employed in an industry, then get called upon to work as the head of an agency or on a regulatory commission, and then return to the industry in question. These people are going to be returning to work in the same industry they may be regulating. How independent can the thinking of these people be? Are they going to make a decision against the interest of that industry if they are eventually going to have to get another job in that industry?
4. Former House and Senate Members Serving as Lobbyists – Many times, when people retire from the House or Senate, they become lobbyists for major corporations. Now, first of all, these people know a great deal about the laws that have been passed relating to their new employer’s industry, and they know the inside dealings that went into making these laws. What’s more, former representatives and senators maintain the privilege of going on to the floor of their old chambers. That means that during a vote on a bill, they can go on the floor and lobby current senators or representatives as the case may be. No other lobbyists can do this. So these former legislators have a greater ability to influence the process than someone who doesn’t have the privilege of the floor, or the other connections they do.
5. Lobbying Itself
6. There is the symbiotic relationship between lobbyists, members of congressional committees and executive agency personnel. In other words, the Washington triangles or iron triangles.
7. Court Action – The fact is that corporations can pay a lot more for legal work than the government. Many times corporate lawyers don not aim at winning a case, but simply at delaying government action. Let’s say a corporation has an advertisement on television that the Federal Trade Commission feels is misleading to the general public. The FTC may issue a ruling for the corporation to withdraw that advertisement from the air. The corporation then gets its lawyers to seek a temporary injunction against that ruling until a hearing on the ruling can be held. In the meantime, the advertisement remains on television. Then, the corporation’s lawyers use various legal tactics to keep delaying the date of the hearing. There are lots of ways lawyers can do this. Let’s say the hearing finally comes up a year later. Before the hearing actually begins, the corporate lawyers announce that they are going to withdraw their objections and that the corporation will follow the FTC’s ruling and withdraw the ad. They know they don’t have a leg to stand on in court. Has the corporation lost? No. While all this has been going on, the advertisement has been on television for a whole extra year. So even though the corporation is eventually going to lose the case, it winds up winning by delaying things.
The idea that party affiliation has anything to do with how our government is actually run is laughable, once see (as you read above) that the system itself is set up for wealthy businesses and wealthy business owners to have a disproportionate influence over the happenings in Washington D.C. Have you ever wondered why the wealthiest 5% of our nation controls 95% of everything? Well, now you know how.
Now, if have read this far, you can probably stand to watch this video of Noam Chomsky, explaining the truth about our “Democracy”.
The chart listing corporate donations is below. Please take another look at the chart. Beneath it, you will find listed some information about each company found on opensecret.org. Please take a look again and just…think.
JP Morgan Chase [and] Co.
JP Morgan Chase [and] Co. is one of the nation’s leading financial services firms, offering commercial and consumer banking and credit services, securities brokerage and financial consulting. Like the rest of the finance sector, the company hit hard financial times in 2008 and received billions of dollars in taxpayer money to re-gain its footing. In 2002, federal investigators launched a probe into the firm’s relationship with former energy giant Enron. Prior to the energy firm’s collapse, JP Morgan Chase had been one of the company’s largest financial backers.
AT [and] T, Inc.
After being broken up in the mid-1980s in a landmark antitrust case, this telecommunications icon re-formed in 2005, and became the nation’s largest phone company when SBC Communications bought AT&T Corp. for $16 billion. As SBC, the company led the fight to allow the Baby Bells to enter the long-distance market, where they hope to offer profitable broadband Internet services. Cable and telecom companies have been fighting over the issue for several years and recent legislation in the House would allow national cable franchises to be awarded to the telecoms. The cable industry complains this would allow telecoms to unfairly cherry-pick rich suburbs.
[efoods]National Association of Realtors
The National Association of Realtors represents the nation’s real estate industry. While the bulk of its issues tend to deal with property management and control, the group also lobbies members of Congress and the administration on virtually every issue facing business, including health care reform, bankruptcy legislation and tax cuts. It supports Democrats and Republicans almost equally.
Morgan Stanley is one of the world’s top investment banks, offering its clients everything from stock portfolio management to credit services. Like others in the securities industry, however, it lobbied for money from the federal government in 2008 and 2009 when the industry—along with the economy—was floundering. The company, which splits its contributions evenly between Democrats and Republicans, has been a major proponent of privatizing Social Security. Morgan Stanley also has lobbied in favor of proposals to deregulate the securities industry, so that investment firms can further extend their reach into financial services.
American Bankers Association
The American Bankers Association represents banks of all types and sizes, including regional banks, holding companies and savings associations. One of the most powerful lobbying groups on Capitol Hill, the association regularly presses Congress for regulatory relief and industry tax breaks.
Bank of America
Bank of America was already an enormous U.S. bank, and the company grew even more when it acquired investment giant Merrill Lynch in 2008. Together, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch received billions of taxpayer dollars from a bill passed that year to bail out struggling financial companies.
Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch when Merrill was on the verge of collapse in 2008. Over the years, the company had been a dominant voice in efforts to deregulate the financial services industry, which is now blamed for causing the economic meltdown.
Shortly after accounting giant Arthur Andersen got caught up in the Enron scandal in January 2001, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the other big accounting firms swung into action to prevent additional federal regulation of the accounting industry. They were successful—until WorldCom’s accounting troubles came to light five months later.
Lockheed Martin is the nation’s top defense contractor, the brains behind such high-tech military hardware as the F-16 jet fighter and a variety of land and sea missiles. Considering that access is the name of the game when securing such lucrative contracts, it’s no surprise that Lockheed splits its campaign money equally between Democrats and Republicans. All told, NASA and the Defense Department account for roughly 80 percent of the company’s annual sales.
Formed in 2000 when Bell Atlantic bought GTE, Verizon is among the nation’s top phone companies and is the No. 2 wireless provider, after Cingular. One of the “Baby Bells” that control the local phone market, Verizon has spent the last several years fighting to allow the Bells to enter the long-distance market, where it would expand its profitable broadband Internet services. Verizon has been lobbying to secure legislation that the telecommunications companies believe will drive down rates and add hundreds of channel choices by allowing states to issue all television licenses.
Credit Union National Association
The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is a trade association representing credit unions nationwide. After years of near dormancy, CUNA quickly became one of the most powerful trade groups in Washington after the Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that corporate credit unions could not accept outside members. In response, the group mobilized its members and launched an ultimately successful campaign for legislation that essentially overturned the ruling. In the process, they more than doubled their campaign contributions to the federal parties and members of Congress and continue to be a powerful force in Washington.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
Deloitte Touche is one of the remaining Big Four accounting firms and once offered its clients one-stop shopping for accounting, consulting and other financial services. But the collapse of Enron and its resulting fallout for the accounting industry forced the firm to rethink its business strategy. Like other firms, however, the company has continued to lobby against bills that would strengthen oversight of the industry and further restrict the auditing/consulting relationship between firms and their clients. In September 2002, federal investigators began to probe Deloitte & Touche for its role in a bookkeeping scandal at Adelphia Communications, one of the firm’s biggest clients.
Ernst [and] Young
Ernst [and] Young is one of the world’s largest accounting firms, offering its clients everything from auditing services to tax advice. Over the years, the firm has successfully led efforts to block increased federal oversight of the accounting industry. Yet the collapse of Enron and the corporate scandals that followed have largely put the company on the defensive.
Boeing is the world’s top manufacturer of commercial airplanes, including the 767 and the 747. The company is also a leading military supplier, making fighter bombers, transport planes and the Apache helicopter. The company regularly lobbies Congress to increase defense spending and to win military contracts, although it lost the $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter contract to rival Lockheed Martin in 2001.
Credit Suisse Group
Credit Suisse First Boston is one of the world’s largest securities firms. It advises and invests in virtually every industry affected by federal legislation, including oil and gas, telecommunications, electric utilities and media companies. Credit Suisse has been one of the leading proponents of privatizing Social Security, as well as deregulating the securities industry, a move that would allow investment firms to offer up services usually available only at banks. In August 2002, after a succession of corporate scandals rocked Wall Street and Washington, congressional investigators launched a probe into alleged conflicts of interest in the firm’s dealings with Enron and Global Crossing.
Blue Cross/Blue Shield
Through its 45 local chapters, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association provides health care coverage to more than 80 million people. Blue Cross/Blue Shield also has a contract with the federal government to review and process Medicare claims. The association is lobbying Congress to make it harder for the government to penalize companies if their employees defraud the Medicare program and process false claims. Local Blue Cross chapters have paid about $340 million to the federal government to settle Medicare fraud charges since 1993.
American Hospital Assn
The American Hospital Association represents 37,000 individual members at more than 5,000 hospitals and health care systems. With one-third of the nation’s hospitals in the red, the association’s primary focus is lobbying against any reductions in Medicare payments. The association also supports tort reform that would limit medical malpractice lawsuits, and is pressing Congress for job programs to train nurses.
American Dental Assn
The American Dental Association has more than 140,000 members nationwide. The association lobbies Congress on expanded dental care for uninsured children and for reforms in Medicare. The association has also spent much of its time defending its profession against lawsuits that charge the mercury used in fillings causes health problems.
General Dynamics is one of the nation’s top defense contractors, assembling virtually every piece of military machinery engaged in modern combat. The company builds warships, nuclear submarines, tanks and combat jets, not to mention the command and control systems that link it all together. One of the company’s biggest lobbying issues has been to encourage lawmakers to step up appropriations for the Navy, one of the company’s biggest clients. Furthermore, the company has fought legislative attempts to shrink the nation’s fleet of submarines and warships—a move that has blocked Defense Department attempts to shift that money to other facets of the nation’s land and air defenses.
American Medical Assn
The American Medical Association (AMA) represents medical doctors across the country, promotes standards in care, and publishes a number of medical journals. The association has traditionally supported Republican candidates, agreeing with the GOP on such issues as medical malpractice reform. But over the last few years, the AMA has also begun to shift support to the Democrats, favoring their attempts to pass patients’ rights legislation and expand Medicare payments.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) represents private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric utilities. In Washington, the group often goes toe to toe with large investor-owned electric utilities, especially on the issue of electricity restructuring. While investor-owned utilities push for relaxed federal regulations to promote competition, rural cooperatives emphasize the importance of consumer protection and preventing market abuses. The downfall of energy giant Enron gave this argument a significant boost.