Our political system is a system of bribes

Drew Sheets, Opinion Editor

Our current lobbying system is a legalized system of bribery. Interest groups allowed to donate unlimited amounts of money, not too mention undisclosed money, pollutes our political body and leaves way too much influence over our elected officials in the hands of the extremely wealthy.

Individuals start interest groups for the sole purpose of influencing politicians. They are the ones who create political action committees or PACs. These PACs or super PACs can donate as much money as they want to any candidate of their choosing without disclosing the name of the donors.

A pluralist would argue that this is a good thing because it gives people with money a way to actively participate in influencing their government in a form other than voting. They would say that it works out fabulously and that this is the way it should be. The way I see it, this undisclosed, unrestricted amount of contributed money more resembles a system of collusion between state and business or bribery, thus visibly corrupting the way policy is made, or should we say bought.

To make this system more democratic we must demand that congress quit accepting all private money donations. We cannot stop until this is accomplished. Money interests will always be there, and if we do not regulate our officials and hold them accountable for their actions, nothing will ever change.

With the 2009 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Committee, the U.S. Supreme Court decision declared corporations to be people, giving them First Amendment rights. This decision allows corporations to donate as much as desired to any PAC or Super PAC without disclosing their identity or whereabouts as to the origin of the funds. Never would our founders or framers have allowed George Washington to buy the presidency, or Jefferson, Hamilton or anyone else for that matter, so why should we allow a few extremely rich corporations and people to buy it now?

The richest brothers in America, David and Charles Koch, donated more than $5 million in 2010. They have pledged to donate anywhere from $60 to $200 million in 2012. They are personally worth a combined $25 billion. Personal fortunes can now buy entire campaigns. Most of these fortunes were made off of fossil fuel production guaranteeing their continued use.

The bribe/donation money has got to get out of politics if we are going to function as a country again and lead the world in transitioning to a cleaner energy source.

The next thing that should be done to strengthen the democracy within the interest group system is a tax on lobbyists. If an interest group has the money to afford a lobbyist, it can afford a tax as well. This money could be dumped into trying to publicly match independent funds, which brings me to the idea of limiting funds that can be spent on a campaign and having public funds available to match campaign funds to help level the playing field with the incumbents.

The third thing needed to fix this absolutely dirty system is to make it illegal for any sitting members of congress to become lobbyists for at least six years for any industry on which they sat on a committee or sub-committee. Companies hire these big names, like ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, to sell legislation to current members. It’s another federally sanctioned scam.

So the first thing that needs to be done is to reverse the Citizens United decision with a Constitutional amendment. Then we need to limit donations and have public funds available for candidates to have equal campaign speech. We can’t allow powerful members to influence the democratic process after they get out of congress.

Do not allow for corporations to donate to campaigns and limit or completely eliminate all private money as well. If we are to allow money in congress, we must demand 100 percent disclosure. Right now non-profit organizations can donate any amount of money to a campaign without having to disclose their information via means of what is known as a 527(c)(4) loophole. 527 is the name of the organization and (c)(4) is the loophole that allows them to stay undisclosed. This is dead wrong. To hold them accountable we have to know where it’s coming from.