Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Insidious Influence of Money in Politics or is there really no substantive difference between Bernie and Hillary?

An excerpt from Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, first edition, 2007,

The Road to St. Andrews
The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. -- historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle
The New York Times editorial writer Dorothy Samuels summarized the thinking of most of us in the aftermath of learning that Congressman Tom DeLay, former leader of the House Republicans, had accepted a trip to the legendary St. Andrews golf course in Scotland with Jack Abramoff [this CBS/60 Minutes interview is not available for embedding], the corrupt lobbyist-turned-informer in the congressional corruption scandal that ensued. "I've been writing about the foibles of powerful public officials for more years than I care to reveal without a subpoena," she wrote, "and I still don't get it: why would someone risk his or her reputation and career for a lobbyist-bestowed freebie like a vacation at a deluxe resort?"

Dissonance theory gives us the answer: one step at a time. Although there are plenty of unashamedly corrupt politicians who sell their votes to the largest campaign contributor, most politicians, thanks to their blind spots, believe they are incorruptible. When they first enter politics, they accept lunch with a lobbyist, because, after all, that's how politics works and it's an efficient way to get information about a pending bill, isn't it? "Besides," the politician says, "lobbyists , like any other citizens, are exercising their right to free speech. I only have to listen; I'll decide how to vote on the basis of whether my party and constituents support this bill and on whether it is the right thing to do for the American people."

Once you accept the first small inducement and justify it that way, however, you have started your slide down the pyramid. If you had lunch with a lobbyist to talk about that pending legislation, why not talk things over on the local golf course? What's the difference? It's a nicer place to have a conversation. And if you talked things over on the local course, why not accept a friendly offer to go to a better course to play golf with him or her -- say, to St. Andrews, in Scotland? What's wrong with that? By the time the politician is at the bottom of the pyramid, having accepted and justified ever-larger inducements, the public is screaming, "What's wrong with that? Are you kidding?" At one level, the politician is not kidding. Dorothy Samuels is right: Who would jeopardize a career and reputation for a trip to Scotland? The answer is: no one, if that were the first offer he got; but many of us would if it were an offer preceded by many smaller ones that we had accepted. Pride, followed by self-justification, paves the road to Scotland.

Conflict of interest and politics are synonymous, and everyone understands the cozy collaborations that politicians forge to preserve their own power at the expense of the common welfare. It's harder to see that exactly the same process affects judges, scientists, and physicians, professionals who pride themselves on their ability to be intellectually independent for the sake of justice, scientific advancement, or public health.... [end of excerpt]


Ultimately, a broader concept than corruption, which was used by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision to narrowly define a quid pro quo transaction, ingratiation can be accomplished by subtle or obvious means. That often includes more ambiguous means of bribery than explicitly declaring what the briber expects from the elected official, political candidate or judicial officer.

For example, the notorious tactic Jack Abramoff describes in interviews, including the video above, is that as soon as he offered a Congressional staffer a future job, he "owned" that person.

So, ask people who want to suggest that Hillary is not owned by Wall Street (or other major corporate Special Interests) to explain how that could possibly be the case, when she's literally made more than a hundred million dollars since she and her husband left the White House.

Oh, and by the way, on that #ReleaseTheTranscripts problem she has, it appears she has come up with an answer. If you believe a President of the United States owes voters the truth about her relationship with those Special Interests, you're not going to like her answer.

Can you look me in the eye and tell me truthfully that Hillary is not owned by Wall Street or any other corporate Special Interest? Better yet, look in the mirror before you cast your vote in a caucus or Presidential Preference (primary) Election this year and answer it to yourself.

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