(Excerpts from Public Campaign)
They take money from powerful corporate interests like Big Oil and Wall Street. They introduce, debate and pass legislation that boosts the bottom lines of these companies. And they expect us to believe that the campaign cash has nothing to do with how they vote.
Out in the real world, no one believes that Exxon and Bank of America give millions of dollars to members of Congress out of sheer corporate kindness. Giant corporations spend money on politics because they get something in return.
And we’re not talking about small amounts of money here, either.
Earlier this year, the Senate voted on whether to extend billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil. The 48 senators who supported subsidies each got an average of over $370,000 in campaign contributions from the industry. The 52 senators who opposed subsides each got only about $72,000. (Source)
I don’t think so. It’s just business as usual in our nation’s capital—another corporate handout by politicians in exchange for campaign contributions.
This institutionalized corruption is degrading our democracy, and the American people are losing faith in our government. They understand that real change requires limiting corporate money, and they overwhelmingly support public funding of federal elections and overturning the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United v. FEC ruling.
Unfortunately, 48 U.S. senators selling their votes to Big Oil is only one example of the massive corruption that characterizes politics in Washington today.
And the oil and gas industry is not even the biggest spender in Congress.
In the 2010 elections, financial services companies contributed $305 million to federal candidates and political parties and spent another $471 million on lobbying.
That’s right—three quarters of a billion dollars was spent by Wall Street, insurance and real estate companies to make sure members of Congress did what these special interests wanted. And they got what they paid for.
Senators who supported Wall Street’s position on the two most important financial service bills of the last two sessions of Congress—the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the 2010 financial reform bill—got an average of $879,803 from this special-interest group. Senators who opposed Wall Street got $63,569 each—a difference of nearly 14 to 1.
But corporate America’s influence-peddling didn’t stop with the passage of this legislation. The Big Banks are working day and night to block or undermine regulations that implement the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Public Citizen has launched a project to analyze and expose lobbying activities of Wall Street and other business interests determined to slow down the implementation of Wall Street reform and other legislation.
Their first report—“Wall Street’s Two Cents”—examined the reform bill’s requirement for publicly traded companies to reveal how much their CEOs make compared to the salary of their average employee.
Corporations are fighting this simple disclosure requirement tooth and nail, for all the obvious reasons. In our report, we analyzed four business groups with extensive lobbying operations and found they spent more than $4.5 million lobbying on financial regulation and other issues. They deployed 46 individuals—37 of whom are former government employees—to lobby on financial regulation, and made $660,180 in political contributions.
Corporate money doesn’t just influence what gets passed in Congress, or how regulators implement the laws Congress passes. Maybe the most far-reaching impact of all the corporate money sloshing around the Capitol is how it shapes what even gets discussed in the first place.
Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, solicited input from 150 trade associations on which regulations that protect the health and safety of the American people they’d like to see eliminated. Over his House career, Issa has received $17.4 million in campaign contributions—nearly $1.5 million from communications, electronics, finance, insurance, real estate and health services businesses.