About seventy years ago, the Oklahoman, humorist Will Rogers,
called Congress “the best money can buy.” On May 13th at the Washington Hilton Hotel, a stream of limousines swept into the driveway to unload corporate lobbyists who poured a record $11 million dollars into Republican Party coffers. Marinated between the representatives of the auto, chemical, drug, tobacco, banking, insurance and other industries were dozens of Senators, Representatives and elders such as Bob Dole.
The fundraising dinner was filet mignon and salmon but the attitude toward the American people could have been Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake.” The leading Republican Senator pressing for campaign finance reform, John McCain (R-AZ) was there, with the usual disclaimer that “I can’t support unilateral disarmament.” This is the “everybody does it” argument so why take the first courageous step.
The $1000 a plate dinner understates the pricey corrupt event. Lobbyists who raised more, including some $250,000 donors, got to sit with the more prominent politicos.
One of the prominent was retired General Colin Powell. As his limo pulled up to the Hotel, a demonstrator called out “corruption, bribery, democracy for sale,” adding that he thought Powell was different, that he wouldn’t attend such a disgraceful event. Powell put his head down in the limo. The demonstrator continued: saying the dinner was the equivalent of legalized bribery. Powell’s head sinks even further down, looking very unhappy.
At least Powell seemed uncomfortable, a sign of a little shame. Other limo passengers were not so restrained in front of the group of peacefully chanting demonstrators. More than a few of the tuxedo oligarchs gave their middle finger to the young Americans who still believe there is some hope in speaking out against such monied nullifications of the voters’ franchise. Remember it was Thomas Jefferson who warned about this, saying that the purpose of representative government was to counteract “the excesses of the monied interests.”
The aristocratic C. Boyden Gray, George Bush’s former White House lawyer, walked by with a smile and a wave. He was probably thinking how he was going to work the politicians inside to further his opposition to the EPA’s proposal to reduce the amount of toxic particulates in the air that find their way into your lungs.
A huge “fat cat” dressed in black and waving heavy bags of money arrived with a sign that said “Loot Gingrich’s Fat Cat.” One payola meister, who walked up with his wife, wanted to get into a fight, swearing and making obscene gestures starting with his anal cavity. His more sensible wife pushed him along.
Motorists passing by responded well to one sign “Honk, if you want to clean up Congress.” But inside the Hilton ballroom, nobody blushed.
And that is the central point. After years of disclosure by the media about both Republican and Democratic politicians selling out to the giant corporations, including the tobacco and other addictive industries, and after the recent scandals involving foreign money and influence peddling, the politicians are not even blushing.
When disclosure, public embarrassment, official investigations and some of their honest colleagues promoting reforms in Congress, the two Parties and the majority of their Congressional politicians are giving the people their backside.
Is there any clearer rationale for voters moving to Third Parties who mean what they say about reform?
In a special election on the same day, May 13th, in the Third Congressional District in New Mexico, the Green Party candidate for Congress, Carol Miller, received over 17% of the vote. The Republican won over the Democrat, who outspent the Republican three to one, by a difference of 43% to 40%. The Greens, becoming stronger every year in New Mexico, cost a “politics as usual” Democrat, who took campaign money from the companies he was regulating as a state official, his seat in this traditionally Democratic District.
Wake up Washington politicians. The people may finally be coming!