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United States

Pay to Play the U.S. Way 844

Thu Anon Coward writes "There's an article on CNN.com that finally shows proof that corporations actually demand access to politicians for contributing $$$. And that political parties promise access based on how much the corporations "donate". Microsoft donated money on the condition that they be seated next to "Sen. (Paul) Coverdell or leadership, Commerce Committee or Judiciary Committee," according to a GOP memo. The memo added Microsoft did not want to sit with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a major critic." How can we fight this? Write letters to the companies saying we won't buy their products because of their undue influence? You think the politicians will actually listen if we write them instead?" The campaign finance debate is probably the most important political issue in the U.S. right now. You should pay attention, even if you hate politics.
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Pay to Play the U.S. Way

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:20PM (#4838660)
    Can I donate money to my local politician to guarantee that I get a seat at a DMCA meeting next to Ellen Feiss? If she's not available, how about Natalie Portman at an MPAA meeting?
  • In canada... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kypper ( 446750 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:22PM (#4838670)
    a friend of mine just started a new political party, The Patriot Party of Canada, and the biggest thing going for it is that it does not accept donations from corporations or special interest groups. Only time will tell whether he can succeed with it or not, but it shows that many people are getting the message. The response so far has not been negative, either.
    • Green Party. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Irvu ( 248207 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:33PM (#4838753)
      We have a similar thing here in the U.S. The Green Party [greenpartyus.org]. Many people would argue that they are a "special interest" group. I would argue that any group can be labeled a "special Interest" the question is really what special interests are on my side?

    • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:45PM (#4838854)
      The occasional individual candidate here in the States has made similar virtuous pledges to deny themselves corporate fundings. It's almost always a sure road to anonymity. If voters have never heard of you or your party, they won't vote for you.

    • Re:In canada... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Papineau ( 527159 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @07:06PM (#4840321) Homepage

      You can also check how it's done in various provinces. Coming from Québec, I can tell you that only individuals are allowed to contribute to political parties here: corporations, lobbies, etc. are not (but members of those obviously can). So Microsoft (or Disney) couldn't give money to any party, but Bill, Steve and whoever is the CEO of Disney can. I think the yearly limit (for provincial contributions) is CAN$3000 by party.

      For those saying "But then how do you advertise?", the answer comes in three parts. First, if you score a minimum at the polls (I don't remember exactly, maybe 20%), part of your expenses are refunded by the government. Second, the TV stations are mandated to give free air-time (during political campaigns) to each official parties (no single candidates have TV spots because TV is not local enough, and no office is directly elected as the president of the governors). Third, I'm pretty sure there's a cap (by candidate, or by party) for the expenses during the whole political campaign.

      BTW, here in Canada federal parties usually have a weaker link to provincial parties than in the States. For exemple, the Liberal Party of Canada has no link (other than the name and some concepts) to the Liberal Party of Québec, to the point that the current leader of that party comes from the Progressive-Conservative Party of Canada, which was (it's really weak ATM) the other national party. So you need to redo all your "shopping" in the provinces as well.

  • Limits? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by roseblood ( 631824 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:22PM (#4838675)
    Are there not limits set that a single person can donate to any single canidate? It was always my understanding that corperations were treated as if they were their own person. If there are indeed limts to contributions that an individual can make to any party/canidate/measure/whatnot, why should a corperate entity be allowed to make huge contributions (read:bribes) while individual citizens are limited in their ability to contribute?
    • Re:Limits? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tyler Eaves ( 344284 )
      Two Words: Soft money.
    • Re:Limits? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smokin_juan ( 469699 )
      Corporations have MORE rights than individual citizens.
    • Re:Limits? (Score:3, Insightful)

      If only corporations were considered fake persons in all respects. Then, when a corporation broke criminal laws, it could be disincorporated (sentenced to death), as opposed to acting as a shield to keep the people who orchestrated these crimes from being justly punished.
    • Re:Limits? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:30PM (#4838743)
      There are limits on what individuals or Political Action Committees(PACS) can give to candidates directly. Firthermore, Unions and Corporations are expressly FORBIDDEN from direct donations. However, until recently, there was a loophole. Corporations, unions, and individuals were able to give unlimited donations of so-called 'Soft Money' by channeling the money through donations to Political Parties instead of directly to candidates. As of election day, a new law is in effect, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (better known to many as McCain-Feingold or Shays-Meehan) which BANS soft money contributions at the federal level. However, many critics have observed, correctly, that the money is now being funneled to the states as the parties search for new loopholes. Furthermore, over the summer the FEC (Federal Election Comission) In the rulemaking process for the new law, Gutted many of the restrictions originally present. The law is a shell of what it could have been. There is also the standing court challenge against the BCRA that is currently in Federal appeals court. It WILL go to the supreme court as soon as this formality is through. More information on this and more can be found at http://www.commoncause.org http://www.opensecrets.org http://www.democracy21.org and http://www.publiccampaign.org
      • Re:Limits? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kableh ( 155146 )
        Its great to see that McCain still is fighting for campaign finance reform. If only he had gotten the GOP nomination... I would have voted for him in a heartbeat, and he would have "beat Gore like a drum" as he once said. Sadly, I think the man had too many ideals of his own, and that isn't what the GOP was looking for. Rather, they were looking for a Bush.
      • Re:Limits? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lunenburg ( 37393 )
        The law is a shell of what it could have been. There is also the standing court challenge against the BCRA that is currently in Federal appeals court. It WILL go to the supreme court as soon as this formality is through.

        It's pretty telling that the only time Congress cares about the Bill of Rights is when their paychecks are in jeopardy.
    • Re:Limits? (Score:5, Informative)

      by roseblood ( 631824 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:34PM (#4838765)
      Indeed a quick google of contribution limits lead me to the following info:

      Individual Citizens may contribute the following per year (at maximum)
      1) $1,000 to any Canidate or Canidate comittee
      2) $20,000 to any National Party
      3) $5,000 to any other political comitee
      4) A cap of $25,000 per year between all combined contributions.

      So, while you and I can "Buy" $25,000 of senator, Microsoft is not limited in it's ability to buy shares of a political-whore?

      Not only do they have an effective monopoly on operating systems, they (along with other corporations) have been able to make the $25,000 shares of your average citizen look like pennies that get discarded on the city street because they're not worth the effort to pick up after they fall from your pocket.

    • Re:Limits? (Score:5, Informative)

      by rodgerd ( 402 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @04:29PM (#4839188) Homepage
      Even in New Zealand, where we don't generally have this problem, corruption of the process is creeping in. The local rich peoples' part, called ACT, regularly gets the most money (despite having generally poor electoral results: oddly enough, most people are underwhelmed by a manifesto that would only be good for a narrow range of the population).

      However, many of the wealthy people who give money to ACT are apparently afraid of having their donations being published for reasons that are unclear to me; since there's a $5000 disclosure limit, a local law firm whose partners are pro-ACT helped people around this by taking donors' money, and then having the staff of the company make $4999 donations.

      (Ironically enough a number of people who support ACT whine about more socially oriented companies such as Stephen Tindell's Warehouse chain getting involved in philanthropy; supporters such as economist Gareth Morgan trot out the line that companies becoming involved in social/political action are "stealing from owners"; Mr Morgan was rather silent on this little trick).

      One of the problems with these sorts of regulations is that the unscrupulous will go to considerable lengths to evade the law and have the resources to help them: consider the aforementioned example, where secretaries, junior lawyers, and other employees are press-ganged into evading the law and supporting their bosses' favourite party.
  • So basically... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jucius Maximus ( 229128 ) <m4encxb2sw&snkmail,com> on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:24PM (#4838687) Journal
    ... polititians are elected based on advertising that is payed for by corporate contributions and then act based on who payed them a lot of money?

    I can only come to one conclusion: The ballot is definitely stronger than the bullet, but in today's United States of America, the Dollar is stronger than the ballot.

  • Yeah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by antis0c ( 133550 )
    We all know how well threatening and writing letters to Microsoft works. Microsoft doesn't care much about the individual consumer, what they care about is the corporation using Microsoft products. And I don't know about you, but I can't go write letters on the behalf of my company threatening to stop using Microsoft products.

    This is why there are laws against forming monopolies. However we've passed that threshold. Microsoft isn't "becoming" a monopoly that we can stop, Microsoft is and has been a monopoly that those laws were suppose to prevent in the first place. Now it's going to take a lot longer to rid them of the monopoly than it would have been to prevent it from forming about 8 years ago.
    • Re:Yeah (Score:3, Insightful)

      Hey Mr. Slashdot,

      I think the aggression against Microsoft here is a tad misplaced. First, they are but one example of the corporate power-bidding going on, and you seem to ignore the rest out of personal bias.

      Second, the larger issue here is clearly the political side of things, where parties/candidates who's job it is to represent their constituents (NOT corporations) are prostituting themselves directly now to corporations (who have nothing in their legal "job description" about buying power and influence).

      Thanks for your time.
  • by macdaddy357 ( 582412 ) <macdaddy357@hotmail.com> on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:25PM (#4838697)
    Not a damn thing, since so few of us even vote. The few who bothered to vote in november elected the buddies of legalized bribery by a landslide. Mitch McConell,(R, KY) legalized bribery's best friend in Washington won by a nearly 70 to 30 margin. We have an oligarchy, not a democracy, because people stay home.
    • It seems to me that in practice, the USA is a republic not a democracy.
      • Definitely Republic (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Alethes ( 533985 )
        You don't want a pure democracy. That's the equivalent of mob rule, where the majority rules and the minority and dissenting opinion is effectively squelched. The founders of the US of A went through great lengths to protect the minority opinion and, if I remember correctly, it wasn't until Woodrow Wilson that the nation was referred to as a democracy.

        A republic on the other hand, insists that the law rules regardless of what the majority wants. This is not popular a lot of times. For example, the majority of people in the USA want to give up freedoms for security, but the Constitution is effectively slowing down, if not preventing, the complete elimination of our freedoms in favor of security. The times that you do see the Constitution being ignored, you're seeing a great example of true democracy in action.
    • by Dunark ( 621237 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:46PM (#4838860)
      The problem isn't the small number of people who vote, it's the large fraction of those people who vote the way the media tells them to. That's why those campaign dollars are so valuable, they buy the votes of the mindless couch potatos that do vote.
    • Huh, I take it you're calling the republicans the "buddies of legalized bribery" because many were against campgin finance reform (limiting MY rights)?

      While we're on the topic of corruption in politics how about Clinton and his infamous cash-for-clemency ring? Toricelli? hah. What about the foreign bribe iquiries into the DNC? What about DNC head, party McAuliffe--teamsters union money swap mean anything to you? I could go on...
      • Yes, some Democrats are dancing to the tune that doners play, too, but Republicans outspent Democrats by 200 milion in November, 200 million big business donated to them, and not the dems. The few who actually voted did what TV and talk radio told them. Republicans are the party of big business and big greed to a much greater degree than Democrats, but they all get away with it because people don't vote. Campaign finance reform and free speech are unrelated. If there are no limits to donations, because donations are "speech," then the rich, and corporations can "say" infinitely more than I can. So much for all being equal under the law. So much for one person, one vote. Or are some animals more equal than others?

        By the way, do you let talk radio spoon feed your political views to you. Your rant sounds like Rush Limbaugh, or possibly convicted felon, G. Gordon Liddy.
        • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday December 08, 2002 @04:56PM (#4839416)
          Let me spell this out for you:

          The new campaign laws say flat out that me, Dan Heskett, a private citizen, cannot go to a newspaper and buy an ad within 90 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election. Candidates can, but I can't.

          That is a clear cut abridgement of the free press. Newspapers are unable to sell ads to people who them based on content. Period. Thats a violation of the 1st Amendment.

          This law also means that me, as a guy on the street, cannot take out a TV criticizing a candidate before an election. That is a violation of the right to free speech. It also means that my speech is subject to additional regulation if I am a member of certain organizations. That is a violation of the right to free assembly, and the right to free speach.

          Everything else is secondary. Everything else takes a back seat. This is unacceptable. The content-based censorship of citizen opinion is illegal. Just as it would be an illegal law that prevents you from posting on slashdot.

          Yes, corruption sucks. And yes, there are many issues with how elections are run. But it is simply not acceptable to forfeit the first amendment in order to attempt to possibly correct some of these problems. We MUST find ways that do not impinge of individuals unalienable rights to free speech.
          • I'll keep it straighforward since I know it'll start a flamewar but:

            money != speech
            tv != speech
            newspaper != speech

            speech == speech.

            Not EVERYONE can afford a newspaper advertisement. However EVERYONE can afford speech. It's free (both as in beer and as in FREE).

            You do not have a right to reach a larger audience just because you have more cash than others... once we accept that we have doomed ourselves to be an oligarchy.
            • This is much more simple:
              Newspapers are the press. The Federal government has now said they can't print certain things from certain people at certain times. That's an abridgement of freedom of the press, and its clearly not right.

              Everything else you said is pointless. If I own a Newspaper there is no way it is legal for the government to tell me who I can allow to buy ads, or what the content of those ads will be.

              Chew on it fro a bit, and get back to me. All that nice chat about "oligarchy" this and that are superceded by the fundamental American and human right to free press.
  • What do you expect? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by James Crid ( 568495 )
    If I give money to people, I kind of expect something in return. If I give money to the supermarket, I expect to be able to take home the groceries in my trolley. If I give money to the petrol station (translation: gas station) I expect to be able to drive away with more fuel in my tank. If my company gives money to a political party, do you think they give the money just for fun? Isn't it right that they should at least have access to the politicians?
    • I donate money to political candidates not to gain special access, but because I feel my interests will be furthered by their success. I don't expect to gain special favors in return for my donation.

      Donors should have access to politicians -- just like the rest of the citizenry. When donors are given special access, I think that is unacceptable.

      Perhaps we should allow unlimited, anonymous contributions.
  • It is a well known fact that America is controlled by corporations, such as Microsoft. Unfortunately we cannot do much about this, for it is the corporations that have made America what it is. If it wasn't for global corporations such as Microsoft, McDonnalds, Disney, ect... America wouldn't be the richest and most powerful country on the planet. Really, if you don't like it, there are more socialist countries such as Canada who have a living standard almost as high as USA's that you can move to.
  • Democracy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 5lash ( 589953 ) <andy@@@fuckhotmail...com> on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:26PM (#4838712) Homepage Journal
    Personally I find it hilarious that America can still claim to be a democracy, the "Land Of The Free". Only the richest people can get political influence. Surely there should be a cap on how much politicians can spend, and how much can be donated to them? I know its not perfect over here in the UK but its better. American hypocrisy continues...

    By the way this isn't a flamebait, just political opinion
    • Re:Democracy? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @04:06PM (#4839022) Journal
      1. We are not a Democracy, we are a Democratic Republic. We are about as much a Democracy as the UK is a Monarchy.

      2. Not every politician is 'for sale.' But the ones that are get a lot of press on Slashdot.

      3. What American hypocrisy do you speak of? You just sound bitter. It's not my fault they took away all your guns.

      By the way this isn't a flamebait, just political opinion

      Yeah right.
    • By the way this isn't a flamebait, just political opinion

      Hah. They're the same thing buddy.

  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    by cscx ( 541332 )
    Someone took POL 101 and realizes how government works, yay for you!
  • Somehow I get the feeling that Hatch is not all that disappointed about being seated far away from Monkey Boy. What a long evening that would be.

    "Developersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopers!"

  • not new (Score:3, Informative)

    by caffeine_monkey ( 576033 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:30PM (#4838741)

    Unfortunately, this sort of thing is not new. Remember that before their company self-destructed, Enron executives had repeatedly met with Dick Cheney while the Bush administration's energy policy was being drafted. Details of those meetings still haven't been disclosed, and Cheney refuses to do so, using the defence that forcing politicians to disclose the details of such meetings would stifle politicians from doing their job.

    What he actually means by this, of course, is that if politicians aren't allowed to keep their backroom deals with corporations secret, then they won't be able to have secret backroom deals with corporations anymore. Having to behave like honest politicians is clearly unacceptable to the likes of Cheney and Bush.

  • But we're talking about two institutions (government and corporations) that are generally considered to be somewhat corrupt and untrustworthy. Then you throw in money. Politicians have power... they want money to get more power. Corporations have money... they want power so they can make more money... Seems like there's supply and demand here. Two groups have what each other want, and they're making agreements to facilitate the transfer.

    Do I agree with it? No. Do I think it's right? No. But in a society where the acquisition of wealth and power are your primary goals, and things like charity, scholarship, helping others, doing the right thing, etc. are back burnered...what do you really expect? Those organizations are doing exactly what they're expected to do. I'm afraid we need more than a few laws to fix this one.
  • This is how the system has evolved. The US system may not be perfect, but its still the best out there so far.

    This just happens to be the 'dark' side of it.. Political power purchase.

  • A business that supports thousands of people should have more access to a politician than you. A politician does not have infinite time. So... A company (or entity with money) that represents you can speak for you and the thousands below it.
    If something by Microsoft is going to kill X idea, then a company or smaller companies that support that idea should also speak to the politicians.

    This is how it works. I'm sorry, you do not count as much as an entity representing thousands of people.
    • by fliplap ( 113705 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:42PM (#4838834) Homepage Journal
      I'm sorry that you believe your employer shapes your beliefs for you. My employer does NOT represent me, nor should they ever say they do.

      Smaller companies often do not have the money, because of larger companies, to buy themselves politicians. Microsoft may support thousands of people, but this country contains MILLIONS of people and there's no reason a company that supports only thousands should have enough sway to negatively affect the MILLIONS it doesn't support.
    • "A company (or entity with money) that represents you can speak for you and the thousands below it."

      Yeah, but MS isn't the most accurate representative for its shareholders and employees. If only there were a way to take this power from MS, and give each citizen of the United States of America a way to represent him or her self.

      Hmm.... A way to allow every citizen to choose how they're represented at the state and federal level.... Nope, can't think of anything.
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      This is how it works. I'm sorry, you do not count as much as an entity representing thousands of people.


      Oh, BS. There's no reason to believe that Microsoft really "represents" the interests of the people it employs. It represents the interest of the top management, or -- if you are really magnaminous -- of the shareholders. Each of those Microsoft employees and investors has exactly the same right to vote (and to donate time, energy, or money) as I do -- but they have no greater right just because they work for Microsoft or own its stock.


      It'd be nice if we'd all remember that corporations are not people -- not even the oft-misquoted Taney decisions say that they are -- and they have fewer rights than the individual. Or at least, they do under the theory of government to which we allegedly subscribe.

    • I'm sorry, you do not count as much as an entity representing thousands of people.

      You make the fatal assumption that those in charge of the business cares about its employees as much as their own interests.
  • by ssclift ( 97988 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:32PM (#4838752)

    ... by banning partisan political advertising on TV, in newspapers and on the radio. You want to know about issues in an upcoming referendum or election there? You can ask for position papers from the candidates, listen to debates open to all candidates, read reports in the three daily and several weekly newspapers from independent publishers across the political spectrum. Posters are permitted, as are a limited number of mass-mailings, if they are directly addressed.

    Suddenly, campaigning gets cheap! No more competition by who can afford the most attack ads during the 6pm news slot.

    Then again, Swiss democracy is 500 years older than American democracy. I suppose it could take a while for the U.S., and Canada for that matter, to catch up... *sigh*... (I'm Canadian, but lived in Switzerland for 6 years).

    • All good ideas but I'm afraid politics and big business are to inter mingled today to ever change. However you never can tell. If we can over come slavery then over coming some fat cats on wallstreet should be a snap.
    • No it couldn't... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MacAndrew ( 463832 )
      Aside from the overwhelming constitutional problem, to ban advertising would be to forbid the candidate from speaking to the polity except through official state channels. Actually, that last idea scares the hell out of me. We do have some limitations on fundraising, much more so with McCain-Feingold, but the proposed level of state-enforced structure is disturbing to me, and most Americans.

      The other point I'd raise is: Do we want to be Switzerland? On the serious side, Switzerland failed to ask itself hard questions about its involvement in WWII, a war that it is of questionable honor to sit out, and far more questionable to remain neutral and even profit through laundering Nazi gold.

      On the lighter side it the old joke: What has 500 years of Swiss peace brought us? The cuckoo clock. :)
  • 2 cents (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geek ( 5680 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:34PM (#4838760) Homepage
    Just as there is seperation between church and state, there should be seperation of business and state.

    Even our President has interests in oil companies at home and abroad. I'm not saying Bush is doing anything wrong, but the potential for abuse is huge.

    Politians are supposed to be public servants, yet we have Senators like Kerry (who is BTW running for President in 2004) who have upwards of 600 million in the bank and god only knows how much much in stocks in these companies. They care more about big business than they do us. That's not servicing the public, thats ripping the public off.

    All politians are guilty of it too. You can't point at the Dems or the Republicans for this. Both are doing it.

    Busines, big or small, needs to stay the hell out of politics and work on their business model for a change. Stop trying to pass legislation when your business model starts to fail (RIAA MPAA). Stop passing laws that benefit businesses to the detriment of the people. Just flat out stop the fucking insanity!!

    Politicians wonder why people don't trust them. This is exactly why.
    • Re:2 cents (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mesocyclone ( 80188 )
      Why should business in particular be singled out as the only interest that is prohibited from participating in our political system?

      Businesses represent other people - namely their stockholders and (in some areas) their employees.

      If you are going to deny the right to businesses, how about zillionaire Hollywood actresses whose only qualification is big b00bs?

      How about trade unions?

      How about pro or anti abortion groups?

      How about the NRA?

      How about the trial lawyers? If businesses don't balance the influence of trial lawyers, pretty soon we won't have any businesses operating in our country!

      I think the whole approach to dealing with campaign financing is idiotic. We are restricting the rights of various parts of our society to speak their position (through advertising or direct contributions), with the limits arbitrarily set depending on what deals can be cut in congress. This is corruption way beyond what corporations or trial lawyers can buy!

      WAKE UP, FOLKS! The purpose of campaign finance reform is to keep incumbents in office! It works well. Since the post-Watergate campaign "reforms", incumbency has been greatly strengthened. It is rare that a challenger wins in a national political race. The new reforms will make it even harder.

      The way to combat those forces who you think have too much power is to organize to achieve equivalent power, not to arbitrarily create complex restrictions.

      I wonder how many of those who complain about the power of big corporations actually contribute to organizations which counter them? After all, there are many anti-corporate groups which have vast power - the environmentalist groups being the most significant (the trial lawyers are more powerful, but they just want to take the money, not change policy in any other way).

  • by vandan ( 151516 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:34PM (#4838761) Homepage
    The major political parties thrive on this sort of dishonest practice. There should be NO donations to political parties at all. All election campaigns should be funded from tax-payers money. The people want democracy and the only way to get it is to pay for it. This will not sit well with the major political parties because they know that winning an election at the moment is simply a matter of marketing. The most money and the best marketing means winning the election. That has to stop. No more 'donations' from Israel, Microsoft or the deforestation companies. Write to (or go and see as I am doing on the 16th) your local member and tell them why you are removing support from them, and who is willing to change the system (here in Australia we have the Socialist Alliance and the Green parties who are on the ball on this issue). And write to the companies that make donations and tell them why you don't buy their products - because doing so corrupts you government. This is the only way short of a violent revolution that we can effect change. Do it now or lose the option and watch your country become a police state protecting the interests of those with the most money.
    • And throw away your vote? MUHAHAHAHAHA!

      Sometimes the Simpsons is so accurate it's scary.
    • All election campaigns should be funded from tax-payers money.

      Okay, here are the problems I have with this idea:
      • How do you decide who's campaign gets state money without squelching free speech? You certainly can't be giving money to every putz with an axe to grind.
      • As a tax-payer, why should I be funding the campaign of someone who's positions are antithetical to my own?
  • I'm not saying "pay for access" is right, but on the other hand, who should politicians listen to? Someone who controls an industry and affects millions of people (like Microsoft) or Joe L33t who has no perspective beyond his own limited world?

    It's kind of like when you advertise a job and get hundreds of resumes back that look basically the same. Personally, anyone who has misspelled words goes straight into the trash can to thin the herd. That may sound unfair to people who send resumes, but you have to use SOME method of thinning since you can't interview hundreds of people.

    Politicians need some sort of method to thin the herd of people who give advice. I really think that's at the root of this, rather than simplistic corruption that many make this out to be. They have to choose SOMEBODY to talk to, so they might as well choose people who have been good to them in the past. In other words, it's loyalty at work, not bribery.

    • ... Is the day democracy died. Corporation aren't people. You may want to take them into account *as a side effect* of taking care of people, as in , taking care of the economy, but they should never take stake before people. Remmember. The governement is here for the *whole* not for special interrest. That is the theory. The practice is that people are "forgotten" and corporation rules. And I thougth that Gibson's neuromancer was too far away, or all this cyberpunk roman where corporation rules...
    • Barbra Streisand on firearms, Alex Baldwin on Canadian tourism, Richard Gere on Chinese politics and Rosie O'Donnell on the uselessness of math education for the modern grrl.

      Just kidding... I hope.
  • by JohnTheFisherman ( 225485 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:36PM (#4838775)
    http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/topcontribs.as p?cycle=2002 [opensecrets.org]

    Please take not of who has the most lopsided and largest donations. Notice the movie studios at #1 and #3? Care about fair use at all?

    I'm certainly not trying to make the Repubs out to be the good guys, but the Dems aren't going to save you from big money influence.

    Real election reform [lp.org]

    • Wow... nice link. It should be noted that most of the top contributors are from labor unions to Democrats, although there appear to be far more corporations making smaller donations to Republicans.

      You know though, the thing that scares me most about that list, is the companies or organizations that are listed as "on the fence". Those are the companies that don't really care who is in power - they are hedging their bets to ensure that they can get the support of whoever ends up winning.

    • That's rediculous (Score:3, Informative)

      by geek ( 5680 )
      The richest man in the Senate right now is Kerry, a democrat, who BTW is running for President in 2004. He has his fingers in more big company tills than half the of the Senate combined. Likewise for Clinton and Daschle.

      No one is doing it more than anyone else, and to presume so is detrimental to our progress.
  • /. IS 1 MILLION (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thoolie ( 442789 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:36PM (#4838780) Homepage
    Slashdot is greater than 1 million strong (members/visitors). I think that if WE started doing seme petition writing and started some moving and shaking, how could they not listen. I am not the brightest egg on /., but i am sure we have enough intellegent members to START to make a difference!

    LETS DO IT!

  • "The campaign finance debate is probably the most important political issue in the U.S. right now."

    CFR is probably probably one of the biggest jokes that our government has fooled most of us into believing. CFR isn't going to change ANYTHING! Both the DNC and the GOP have set up 'third party' organizations to funnel their money to. All CFR is doing is opening as many loopholes as it closes so that the money flow is even less visible to the public than it is now.

    And the media moguls who hail CFR as a good and necessary thing are the biggest hypocrites in this deal. You don't think all those commercial spots are free, do you?

  • by RussP ( 247375 )
    Considering that political contributions are often used to pay for advertising, why don't you geniuses ask yourself how much influence the media has? In other words, the mass media already owns what other industries are trying to buy. And if we carry your logic to its logical conclusion, shouldn't we regulate the media? Oh, wait a minute, that would violate the First Amendment, wouldn't it. Any of you geniuses ever heard of it?

  • You can get more info on this from OpenSecrets.org [opensecrets.org].
  • Not that voting really means anything any more anyway, with both parties converged on a slightly fuzzy dot far to the right of center.

    My favorite moment of political naivete from the original poster had to be this, however:

    "How can we fight this? Write letters to the companies saying we won't buy their products because of their undue influence? You think the politicians will actually listen if we write them instead?"

    You think the companies will listen any more than the corporations will?

    Writing letters stating that you won't buy products doesn't mean a thing if you're at CompUSA tomorrow continuing to buy the products. NO ONE CARES about your letters. They only care about your money. And until you can find a way to actually release yourselves from the corporate teat, you will have no voice.

    No voice. None.

    There is no war on terror. There is no "government by the people, for the people." There are no elections. There is no "Homeland Security."

    There is only money.

  • Think about. That politicians can be corrupt is nothing new. Kinda amazing is how cheap they go nowadays. Billion dollar merges passed on 100.000 dollars? Tax deductable! Neat. Anyone happen to know how much Al Capone paid vs Bill Gates?

    Ah but thank god for democracy. Once the voter learns about this they will surely elect better leaders next time. :P

    Oh and for the american bashers/defenders if you want a real laugh follow the dutch political circus for the last year. Makes america look like kindergarden. At least americans betray the voter for good old cash. Over here they are just plain incompetent.

  • This reprehensible behavior is not a recent phenomenon, nor was it started by Microsoft. If you looked you'd find that this is routine for many or most of the companies whose products you buy every day. It'd be easy for a large chunk of the Slashdot crowd to "stop" buying Microsoft products - but what about Bristol-Meyers-Squibb? What if Dell does this (and they probably do) - Will you stop buying their computers? How about other large companies like Monsanto, Ford, IBM?

    This sort of behavior is so pervasive I don't think you could organize an effective boycott without being willing to starve to death. The only way it's likely to change is if we force the laws that allow this to be changed.
  • by being appalled by it. by communicating how appalling it is to others in a way that they will understand how apalling it is. by voting. politicians will do what they are allowed to do. if you are appalled by this, you apparently are pretty disconnected, and should take a trip to some inner city schools to see how the foundation of our democracy is being maintained.

    welcome to the lethargic US of A! and good luck!
  • by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:45PM (#4838858)
    many private lobbying organizations do this. That is how YOU get YOUR voice heard. Both sides of the aisle do this, from NRA to AARP to the Sierra club. I don't think what they do is wrong any more than it is for a corporation. So there are ways for you joe public to get your voice heard.
    Instead, I have to read this thread full of knee jerk us/republican/bush/cheney bashing that gets modded up as insightful. Think a little before you bitch. Corporations do this, but guess what, you can too. I know bush doesnt have time to have dinner at my place to discuss my views on the environment, but if I were to join the Sierra club it would help, no? Okay, go ahead and mod me down now cause I didn't slam bush...
  • How to fight back? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SquierStrat ( 42516 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:46PM (#4838864) Homepage
    Simple. Stop voting for the people who accept donations from people you do not want influence from in the government. Narrows down your voting choices alot, but remember. No vote is thrown away. Every vote is a message. If everyone votes the same way, then their message is the one heard. So, if you vote for the person who is not as bad in your opinion and might actually win, and so does everyone else, then the cycle continues. But when EVERYONE begins to vote their conscience, and doesn't just vote for the major candidates then things might begin to change.
  • Hey Cauce [cauce.org]!

    Bought a good senator lately? What, no you say?? You need to. This grass roots thing isn't owning your own senator. Buy your US congressperson today!

    cluge
  • by pjl5602 ( 150416 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @03:56PM (#4838945) Homepage
    It's simple. Reduce the power of the government. The money will always find a way to buy influence no matter what is done. If you really want to stop it, you simply make the influence not worth purchasing...

    Now, I know that's not going to happen so what I personally advocate is no limits but *FULL* disclosure of who gave the funds.

  • by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Sunday December 08, 2002 @04:01PM (#4838984) Homepage

    This feels a bit impolite, I'm not American so perhaps I shouldn't mix in these discussions, but whatever :).

    I think it should be like this: you are allowed to put money into campaigns if you are allowed to vote. Otherwise, the election is none of your business. Corporations are not allowed to vote.

    Of course, corporations will then give money to individuals, who can give it to campaigns, etc. Outlaw that too.

    Then, you get the problem that rich citizens will have more influence than poor citizens. That isn't right, they are equal, one isn't better than the other. So put a low cap on the allowed contributions (I believe that is already in place, though it could be lower).

  • Microsoft's donations to the Republican Party (and the Democratic Party, and the Libertarian Party, and the Green Party, etc) are from their 100% matching fund for employee donations. If an employee donates $50 to the Republicans, Microsoft donates $50 to them as well. There IS a Microsoft PAC but it has tiny funds to work with and only existed in the last two years after Microsoft decided that their policy of benign neglect of lobbying Washington was painfully naieve after the Senator from Novell launched yet another lawsuit.

    As for the "Microsoft donated money on the condition that they be seated next to... " that's flat out bogus. It isn't in the article and probably just originated in the fevered brain of the poster. Here's the paragraph from the actual article.

    When Microsoft Corp., a $100,000-plus donor to Republicans, planned to attend the party's major fund-raising gala in 2000, it asked to be seated next to "Sen. (Paul) Coverdell or leadership, Commerce Committee or Judiciary Committee," according to a GOP memo. At the time, the company was battling a major antitrust case that threatened to break the company into two. The memo added Microsoft did not want to sit with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a major critic.

    Note the LACK of the demand or a threat to pull their money. Frankly, if I were invited to a dinner, I'd rather not spend my time sitting next to a preson who was organizing a lawsuit against me.
  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @04:14PM (#4839071) Homepage Journal
    --work locally, you CAN make a difference. Two things you can do, buy single shares of stock and go to stockholders meetings and rant up a storm, leave flyers, etc. As to politicians, first, STOP supporting either of the two criminal gangs that have hijacked government. Don't believe the weasels who say you 'waste' your vote. the on;ly time a vote is wasted is when it isn't cast. You waste it worse if you keep voting for either criminal gang and expect them to do anything but criminal acts. Next, file ethics complaints in your home state whenever you find politicians or bureaucrats either violating their oaths of office or not doing their mandated jobs. I'm associated with a small county group that is doing that now, it REALLY shakes up the status quo, just do your homework first and make sure you find clear cut violations to file a complaint about. I tell ya, it's hard to NOT find violations once you start looking.

    Another wild card is the Free State Project [freestateproject.org]. This was covered on slashdot before, it's an extremely interesting concept and just might work.

    There are several "constitutional counties" now, primarily in some northern states like michigan and montana. In those areas local constitutional activists have created-by law-UN free zones, put the feds on notice to follow their own laws, and helped beat back radical corporate/greenie land grabs and loss of jobs and property rights. And yes, at the very tippy top levels, a lot of the green movement is controlled by the same corporations they rant against. For a clue, watch the sponsors of any random pbs feel-good nature show. You'll see the same globalist fatcats who want to own all the food and water and natural resources. There's ties with some of the more public enviro orgs, but they keep that stuff sorta hidden from the rank and file members, can't upset their memes on those issues.

    No links handy, this is just a short post, but a lot of this info is a google away.
  • by miguel ( 7116 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @04:17PM (#4839098) Homepage
    Hello guys,

    As sad as this is, it is not a new thing. I recently have been reading Greg Palast's [gregpalast.com] book The Best Democracy Money can Buy [amazon.com]. A fascinating reading.


    Greg Palast is an investigative reporter that researches and goes deep into various issues (he broke the news on the Florida ballot cleaning in 2000). The book covers a number of interesting topics from Enron and its alliances to the government and how they got preferential treatment and how they used this in the US and abroad to their advantage.


    A few months ago, someone told me `Remember: all governments lie', which I figured, seems pretty acurrate, but not much to debate over dinner in that topic. I think there is a tacit agreement that governments lie.


    The shocking news came from reading Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets [amazon.com] book in which he details how five consecutive adminisrtrations lied to congress, and lie to the american people about what they were doing in Vietnam. An interesting interview with Daniel Ellsberg in Salon (here [salon.com]) gives a quick overview of the book. For those who do not know, Daniel took some secret documents from the government in the 70's and got them published by the New York Times. The documents exposed the lies from the five administrations. Although the government tried to stop the publication of the documents (known from then on as "The Pentagon Papers", google found this [gwu.edu] which gives you some context, as well as the history around the event).


    So anyways, the short story is that democracy needs to be revamped with new technology. Hundreds of years ago it was perfectly possible to elect a leader/representative, trust him to do what he promised on behalf of the voters and revisit the issue on an upcoming election.


    But today's leader's loyalty is not to the voters, but to those who allow them to get the votes, people with enough funds to drive the agenda in any direction they please. Greg Palast's book points out that the current administration unlike previous administrations no longer has to deal with external lobbysts, the lobby now has got offices right in the White House (he goes on detail about the Enron's hand-picked policy makers and those who reverted Clinton's decisions regarding Enron's involvement in California).


    With the technology available today, democracy could be referendum-based, through electronic voting on key issues.


    Miguel.

  • Reform Proposal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @05:01PM (#4839462) Homepage Journal
    Here's a reform proposal guaranteed to piss off anyone with a vested interest in the current system:

    1) Only registered voters in a particular region can contribute to candidates, campaigns or parties in that region (country, district, state, nation).

    2) There are no limits to contributions, but they must be from registered voters.

    3) Corporations and unions are not registered voters, and cannot contribute to any candidate or party. Only individual human beings can register to vote.

    4) Corporations and unions may not direct or command any employee, member or executive to contribute to any political organization or campaign.

    5) Registered voters may join an association of other registered voters for the purpose of pooling funds.
  • by Baracus ( 628287 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @05:22PM (#4839614)

    I have yet to understand how it is that a two-party system can be touted as a model democracy? Being a Canadian it is unfathomable for me that every person in a country as large as the U.S. could either be a Democrat or Republican. Granted you have the Green Party, some Independents, and the "miscellaneous" parties in the U.S. but both are treated as fringe elements with only the Democratic party and GOP considered mainstream.

    I think it's the two party system that is the fundamental problem. We saw it during the last election where Ralph Nader wasn't allowed in the debates for no other reason other than that it would have showed a different/fresh point of view that did NOT conform to either the Democratic/Republican agenda. Both parties are so well bought out by industry that neither one could afford to allow Nader to speak. The sooner people realize that both the Democrats and Republicans share a mutual agenda that is formed and funded by the same set of corporations, foreign governments, and interest groups the sooner they will understand that the two-party system is only a pretext for a ONE-party system.

    The fact is that it's a lot easier to pay off two political camps on a regular basis than it is three, four, or more. The two party system is a way to ensure the illusion of diversity while making sure bribery is as easy as (American) pie. Paying off the Democratic party to put aside its convictions on a Republican bill/resolution (or vice versa) is a lot easier than paying off several parties at once.

    Given the current state of politics in the U.S. there is very little hope for campaign finance reform laws that will outlaw the shameless "donations" both parties so heavily rely on. Asking the gremlins in congress/senate to ratify such laws would be like you asking your employer to stop giving you such large bonuses to help the company- it ain't never gonna happen.

    The challenge is to have more political parties that do NOT toe the line. There is strength in numbers and the more we have the less merry "donaters" will be.

    • by Stonehand ( 71085 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @06:01PM (#4839902) Homepage
      Um, no. Some assorted points:

      * It's illegal for a US party or candidate to accept political contributions from overseas.

      * Multiple parties don't matter much unless they're so fractured that it takes many to form a majority coalition.

      * Parties and candidates NEED money because most voters don't go out of their way to educate themselves, hence the emphasis on TV and radio ads. Blame the voters for that one.

      * The Green Parties remain fringe parties because most people don't agree with their agenda. Sorry, their brand of socialism just isn't very popular.

      * The Reform Party disintegrated on its own accord, being split by wacko personalities such as the paranoid protectionist Perot and the tactless, part-time-Governor/part-time-XFL-announcer Ventura.

      * The Socialist Party and Communist Party likewise don't get that many recruits outside of college campuses, and that's not because of money. They weren't very popular even when the Soviet government was funneling money to them and in return getting recruits for the KGB, either.

      * The Libertarian party is on the fringe because most people don't like their agenda; most prefer /some/ social programs, parents go nuts if you threaten the Dept. of Education, and their candidates are often a bit on the strange side e.g. answering questions in a debate by tearing up a dollar bill rather than giving a rational explanation. It's not JUST about the money.

      * The Constitution Party is similar, except that it's limited to New York, if memory serves.

      See, we have many political parties... but the ones on the fringes are often there for a REASON -- their lack of appeal. Telling people that you're going to axe their favorite social programs or that they have no right to their property and instead confiscatory taxation is the Right Way to Go just doesn't fly here. If there were another party that were reasonable enough to actually represent a large number of people, they might have had a case to be in a debate... but Nader and his Greens clearly didn't.
      • Just a disclaimer that I'm a Libertarian before my response...

        * It's illegal for a US party or candidate to accept political contributions from overseas.

        This didn't stop Clinton. Even though he was scrutinized, he ended up getting away with it.
        Plus many international corporations have a US office that they can use to get around this little inconvenience.

        * Multiple parties don't matter much unless they're so fractured that it takes many to form a majority coalition.

        Under a parlimentary system, yes. However, in the US system, strong third parties would keep eachother in line, IMO, because of plurality voting. A party that has its members do unpopular things could be threatened with a complete loss of power.

        Realistically, it is hard to say exactly what would happen if we had more than two powerful parties in modern times, since it has been almost a century since a third party candidate has had a realistic shot at being President.

        * Parties and candidates NEED money because most voters don't go out of their way to educate themselves, hence the emphasis on TV and radio ads. Blame the voters for that one.

        This is debatable. I (perhaps optimistically) believe that if these trashy TV and radio ads were cut back, voters would begin to educate themselves again. In other words, the very presence of these ads (which are all marketing and mudslinging, they contain little substance) is what causes American voters to have no motivation to educate themselves.

        * The Green Parties remain fringe parties because most people don't agree with their agenda. Sorry, their brand of socialism just isn't very popular.

        Most people don't even KNOW the agenda of the Green Party beyond the perception that they are "more liberal" than the Democrats, or that they are just "Communists with another name."

        The Democrats would like it very much to stay that way. They even go so far as to blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore losing.

        * The Reform Party disintegrated on its own accord, being split by wacko personalities such as the paranoid protectionist Perot and the tactless, part-time-Governor/part-time-XFL-announcer Ventura.

        The reform party had some problems, agreed. However, Perot proved that MONEY is one of the most important factors in getting noticed. The only reason the reform party did so well in 1992
        was because Perot was pretty much able to buy himself into the debates.

        As for Governor Ventura, there is a wide range of opinions on him. Since I'm not a resident of Minnesota, I can't say very much, except for the fact that at least he has the fortitude to stand up against the Republicrats.

        * The Socialist Party and Communist Party likewise don't get that many recruits outside of college campuses, and that's not because of money. They weren't very popular even when the Soviet government was funneling money to them and in return getting recruits for the KGB, either.

        Of course these parties aren't very popular. After all, most Americans have been taught from birth to hate all commies unconditionally. It doesn't matter what the platforms or people in the parties are like, people will continue to associate the terms "communist" and "socialist" with the Soviet Union for years to come.

        * The Libertarian party is on the fringe because most people don't like their agenda; most prefer /some/ social programs, parents go nuts if you threaten the Dept. of Education, and their candidates are often a bit on the strange side e.g. answering questions in a debate by tearing up a dollar bill rather than giving a rational explanation. It's not JUST about the money.

        * The Constitution Party is similar, except that it's limited to New York, if memory serves.

        Again, as with most third parties, most people don't even really know what the Libertarian or Constitution parties are about. A lot of people are under the false impression that Libertarians are anarchists.

        Of course, there are some "interesting" personalities in third parties. This is because many of the people running as third party candidates aren't completely polished and faked, like the Republicrat candidates are.

        At first thought, it is a little strange to see the Libertarian candidate for Lt. Governor of California posing with his Ferret. He doesn't seem very much like a politician.

        Then if you think about it a bit more, it is more strange to vote for some PR-designed, party controlled, Republicrat drone who has next to nothing in common with a normal person.

        Of course third party platforms also appear a bit shocking at first, because they call for an ACTUAL change rather than the status-quo that Republicrats maintain.

        It is no surprise that this scares voters. They've been trained by the Republicrats to resist huge change like those proposed by the Libertarian, Constitution, or Green Parties...

        When the Libertarian party calls for the removal of a Federal Agency, the first reaction is to believe the lie spouted by Republicrats, that they can not live without the Federal Government "protecting" them. They fail to see the reality that the Federal Government has grown, and continues to grow, far beyond Constitutional levels. In the process it wastes BILLIONS of dollars every year.

        The true platform of the Republicrats,is to increase the personal wealth and power of the top members. To do so, they will continue to step all over the Constitution, make their votes available to the top bidder, and ignore the real needs of the public.
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @06:35PM (#4840110) Homepage
    "As you recall in our conversation some weeks ago, you agreed to upgrade your Team 100 membership to the Regent program ($250,000) when the merger was approved," Republican Party fund-raiser Mel Sembler wrote in 2000 to the chief of the now-bankrupt Global Crossing telecommunications company, which had already given $100,000.

    "Thankfully this has now been approved, so I am taking the liberty of enclosing an invoice for the additional upgrade," Sembler added in one of dozens of fund-raising memos the political parties turned over to a court hearing the first legal challenge of the nation's new campaign finance law.


    Many people (myself included) believe in capitalism because they believe that economics has proven it to be an efficient system. Economics assumes a level playing field. When that field is unleveled, capitalism is not efficient (or, if you prefer, it is not capitalism).

    If one accepts free market economics, it is reasonable to believe that it is in the public interest to pursue wealth. If, however, it is practical to use acquired wealth to unlevel the playing field and as a result acquire more wealth than was expended, this belief is not reasonable.

    The US chose capitalism because it is believed, under the tenets of free market economics, to be efficient and in the public interest. If that prerequisite assumption is invalid, then the conclusion is invalid. If the US ceases to target efficient economic growth, then it will decline relative to its potential.
  • by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Sunday December 08, 2002 @10:16PM (#4841288) Homepage
    Back in the times of the old Republic we had a name for this kind of donation: bribery. There were laws against it.

    That was before the dark time, before the Supreme Court decided that bribery was protected by the first amendment.

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