Nuanced view of corruption: money doesn't buy elections, it buys influence


(Barbara Kruger)


Why is this guy being listened too? If it were Koch’s son would we care?

Also IIRC, in Freakonomics I think they showed that money doesn’t buy elections per se, but people tend to invest in the winner. It’s been too long since I read that to get more detailed than that.

Why should he not be listened to? If a Koch scion wrote an article, his family name wouldn’t preclude it from being insightful or interesting, even if it were arguing for unlimited anonymous campaign funding.


From what I’ve read, having lots of money doesn’t do too much to help you win an election, Not having lots money is a good way to lose one though, especially if the other side does have lots of money.


I think he agrees with all of us that the enormous amount of money in politics is a problem, but he thinks there’s a different way of dealing with it. It’s certainly a better argument than we get now, which boils down to ‘duck season!’ ‘wabbit season!’


Having lots of money is more or less a requirement if you even want issues that matter to you to be UP FOR election.

Elections are hardly ever about issues that effect poor people anymore. It’s about selecting the candidate who will pander to Billionaire Group A versus Billionaire Group B. The only reason the FCC gives a damn about Net Neutrality is because there are major corporations like Netflix and Google who want to push back against corporations like Comcast.


Money vets candidates at the primary level, before elections. And how much the media is willing to cover them, not just for political advertisements, of course, but in general that’s how they gauge a candidates viability and allots time to cover them.

Commercial media will not look too deeply into campaign funding because they are on the beneficiary end of the money flow, so they have a vested interest in ignoring it


If you’re not rich, it looks as if rich folk get their way all the time. If you are rich, then you’re not competing with the less wealthy, you’re competing with other rich people. From their perspective, it’s still a dog eat dog world, the being eaten part is a little more figurative is all.

Same dynamic going on with elections… you can’t get your way simply by spending a lot of money, there are still things that you can be out-bid on. By other rich people. But if all you’ve got to spend is a vote, your interests will lose out, that’s nearly certain. If you want to stop losing, you’ve got to venture beyond electoral politics.


I’m surprised we’re even having this conversation. There’s a way to take away power from the people with power, I wonder if they’re going to let us do it? What if we make a big damn petition? Then I’ll bet they’ll stop buying the Congress.

My guess is (not being a historian) reforms only happen after massive corruption scandals. But billions of dollars in cash simply “got lost” in Iraq, and nobody said a word. How much more is it going to take? A lot.

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I think your quote is misleading:

(as Barney Frank quipped, “[Congress are not] the only people in the history of the world who, on a regular basis, took money from perfect strangers and made sure it had no effect on them.”

It implies that Congresscreatures, as well as some other people in the history of the world, remained uninfluenced by bribes.

Frank’s (and Sotoros’) meanings would be more accurately stated by saying that Congresscreatures, just like everyone else who accepts money, are sure to be influenced by it. I leave it to better minds to capture that with a quotation or a paraphrase.

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Select members of the House of Representatives through a local system similar to jury pools. You’re selected, you serve a 2 year term with a salary and “government housing” (I’m thinking a block of condos). With no campaign, there’s no need for campaign contributions. Leave the Senate for the professional politicians, but by taking elections out of the House you’ve at least lessened the effect of money.

Of course radio, tv, and newsprint would hate it because they’re the ones who benefit from all that advertising revenue.


“Jonathan Soros, son of George Soros and heavy donor to campaigns to get money out of politics” - Gotta admit, that caused a massive amount of cognitive dissonance.

But yeah, maybe the real question is “Why the hell don’t we reclaim some of the absolute power that has slowly been greedily clawed away from us by our elected officials?”

So many people seem to think that large, overwhelming govt is always a force of good, but we’re seeing time and time again that it is not the case.

I never met anybody who thinks that, but I know quite a few who trust civil servants more than they trust corporate executives. Corrupt elected officials and “big government” have almost no relation; it’s not the GS-9 civil servants who are buying Congress, not even if you think there’s too many of them and they’re shiftless.


How about reclaiming all that power for all people instead?

I’m in favour of putting all heirarchical power structures in the waste incinerator of history, whether it is statist, capitalist, monarchist or theocractic.


The problem is that if you do that without taking the money out of politics then you just shift where all that influence is being spent.

Case in point: many states, including California, address many of their legislative issues through ballot measures. But voters are usually even less informed on complex issues than elected officials, so most of them base their decisions on three-second media soundbytes (“this initiative will raise TAXES!”) rather than a more nuanced understanding of the proposal (“this initiative will change the tax code to shift a more proportionate tax burden to the wealthiest citizens, while reducing the tax burden for others”).

If one group has the resources to directly or indirectly steer mass media then they’ll control the conversation and influence the voters just as surely as they could influence the elected officials.


The Supreme Court has decided the principle of Free Speech is paramount, with little to no constraints, thus asserting positive rights within a ‘rational man’ model. It’s a bit depressing to dwell on but we’re stuck with the outcome of ‘Citizens United’ and ‘McKutcheon’. In light of this, it might be worthwhile to create more positive rights that enhance the voices—and votes—of the average citizen.

Public financing can create positive incentives. Rep. John Sarbanes “Government by the People Act” H.R. 20 is a good start. But this issue is so broad, we need to encourage more innovative ideas.

Active citizens from all strata is the goal; a more representative democracy the result. Is it too radical to declare polling day a national holiday? Or require citizens to vote, as they do in Australia?

Certainly full transparency for all political and government spending.

And by transparency I mean not only election campaigns and lobbying. Let’s include influence peddling by groups like the Sierra Club and ALEC (not that I personally believe there’s any equivalence between the two!).

And this is a little far out, but requiring all participants to use some “block chain” system might instantly render all spending transparent.

Not always.

The Australian system is bad in all sorts of ways. People are fined for not believing in the system and are forced to rank numerous undesirable politicians in order of preference.

Give me a national holiday and the option of abstaining and/or spoiling my vote.



But that has its problems too. Just look at your juries for reasons that won’t work… You have people playing whatever tricks they can to not get selected; it’s time off from probably-more-lucrative work, so you end up selecting for those not smart enough to get out of it.

The right to reject is one of the rights we’ve been fighting for in India. We finally got it in the form of the NOTA (none of the above) option. In most elections it’s about 1% or less, so the media’s been going crazy claiming that “it doesn’t change anything”, completely missing the point!

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