Money that corrupts

Philip J. Purcell, chairman of Morgan Stanley, a Wall Street firm under investigation by New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, for deceiving investors, visited Congress recently to peddle an amendment that Spitzer called “incredible”. It would stop all state attorneys generals and state securities regulators from enforcing their securities laws against any company subject to the jurisdiction of the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Is this breathtaking audacity, arrogance or what other words can be used to describe pushing to take the state cops off the securities industry’s beat? Trillions of dollars are looted, defrauded or lost through stock broker and investment banking deceptions, conflicts of interest and outright lying, while enriching the bosses through self-dealing, and the Wall Street lobbyists want to escape even more from any law and order that means business to protect innocent investors.

If you wonder how any Senator or Representative, knowing about what Business Week magazine called the current “corporate crime wave,” can even tentatively entertain supporting Mr. Purcell’s pre-emption of state authority, consider what was going on during the evening of June 19th at Washington, D.C.’s Convention Center. There, a large wealthy crowd of 6400 Republicans and lobbyists paid $2500 each to dine and be entertained with President George W. Bush. They raised over $30 million for the Party. Soon the Democrats will have their big bash with many of the same influence-peddlers buying the same tables.

Masticating herb tenderloin, washed down with merlot/cabernet and topped off with miniature raspberry paves, many Republican members o fCongress chortled with the monetized minds of many corporate and industry representatives. Included among them was Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Ernst & Young, the Bond Market Association, Fidelity Investments, and, of course, the powerful Securities Industry Association.

Corrupt money controlling politicians is the antithesis of deciding issues on the merits in a democracy. But corrupt money is the narcotic of most politicians, while public funding of public elections is their fumigator.

The most craven of politicians, like Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), say that the American people really don’t care about campaign finance reform because the polls show this abstract-phrased topic way down on their list of concerns. The same polls show people worrying about social security, prescription drug prices, living wages, environment, and health insurance. Well, dirty money in politics endangers all these concerns and many more. It steals the government from its people, demoralizes citizens who feel more powerless and discourages good candidates from running for elective office.

So when the New York Times reports that proposals to go after these corporate crimes and prevent future depletions of pensions and investor equities are stalled in Congress by the crooks lobby, chalk up a lot of their success to the checks they write for the legislators’ campaigns.

About eighty percent of the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into Congressional campaigns and their occasional formidable opponents come from business interests.

Imagine the decay of our Congress. While the mainstream press is headlining daily the large and deep patterns of corporate crime, fraud and abuse, the Congress has done nothing yet except fiddle, faddle or often move bills in the House that weaken existing legal protections, not strengthen them.

What of President George W. Bush. He has contented himself with a ten point list of prudent business practices and responsibilities that he sent up to Congress earlier this year. He has not provided even modestly regular attention and muscle by the White House even with his own Republicans.

If you want to see the rising of workers and other citizens mobilizing to make Congress pay attention and join with them, check with www.CitizenWorks.org.

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