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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > PAC Money from Corporate Violators of Law

If you ever want evidence about how corrupting money is in politics, consider this crude and cruel triangle.

Corporations violate health, safety and securities fraud laws. Then they settle with the courts or federal law enforcement agencies for large sums of money. At the same time, these company political action committees are pouring money into Congressional coffers of your legislators. In turn, this cash register politics results in many legislators pressing hard for laws that actually weaken law enforcement and limit or exclude the liability of the culprit corporations in the future.

Our researchers have completed a 41 page report on 380 settlements reported in the Wall Street Journal and the Corporate Crime Reporter.

These violations included: dumping toxic chemicals into waterways and emitting air pollutants; ignoring training, maintenance and safety standards, which led to deaths of workers; denying jobs to qualified applicants due to gender, age or race; falsifying performance documents and overcharging the government for goods and services, making false claims about products, knowingly selling faulty and dangerous products, misrepresenting the company’s financial condition and conspiring to fix prices of products.

For example, National Medical Enterprises, Inc. paid $379 million in fines, damages, penalties, and money for research to settle charges of kickbacks to get patients, unnecessary and prolonged treatment of patients, multiple-billing etc. Exxon, Dow Corning Corp., Baxter International and DuPont settled for hundreds of millions of dollars for either toxic pollution damage or product defects. Two giant accounting firms settled for a total of over $500 million for auditing and accounting failures regarding savings and loan banks.

To grease the legislative wheels, Exxon made $507,600 in PAC contributions during the 1993-94 election cycle. The two accounting firms and their trade association poured more than $2 million in PAC contributions during the same period.

On February 16, 1995, the House Commerce Committee approved legislation that, among other pro-defendant measures, would shield accounting firms from liability for fraud and recklessness by requiring the almost impossible standard of intent or malice to be proved by defrauded investors or savers.

Legislators who pushed for this escape from responsibility were not ashamed to have taken accounting firm contributions. That’s the way the game is played on Capitol Hill. That’s the reason why Americans need a law that would prohibit private money in public elections if candidates choose instead to take a limited amount of public funds. These monies could easily be raised by well promoted voluntary checkoffs on the 1040 Tax return.

Another bill is moving through Speaker Gingrich’s compliant House of Representatives. This one would restrict your rights to hold wrongdoers fully accountable in courts of law when if their dangerous consumer products or industrial chemicals injure or sicken you.

This bill has attracted hundreds of business PAC committees like bees to honey. The massive corporate wrongdoers lobbies are going wild with the prospects of stuffing it to innocent victims and using the proposed law to shield themselves from paying for their misdeeds, criminal negligence or coverups.

A major receiver of this PAC money is Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who floats in this kind of cash. Interesting that only Congress has the authority to make these kinds of payoffs legal. In any other context, they would be criminal bribes.