America: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

Posted By Levi

March 5th, 2012 9:05pm

Category: Amrican History

One of the biggest problems the country faces today is the huge amount of big money that flows in politics and the corrupting influence it has on our politicians. The situation has gotten worse since last year’s decision by the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United that allowed the rich and big corporations to pour in as much money as they wish in the campaigns of their favorite politicians. For the first time in our history, President Obama and the Republican candidate are expected to raise and spend about $1 billion each on their respective campaigns.

 But the undue influence of money in American politics is not a recent thing and goes all the way back. Mother Jones Magazine did some digging for us and comes up with the following.    

 • 1758: George Washington’s successful campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses spends £39 on booze to “treat” voters on Election Day ($8,130 in 2011 dollars).

• 1800: Thomas Jefferson hires a writer to smear President John Adams as “mentally deranged” and a “hideous hermaphroditical character.” Propagandist is imprisoned under the Sedition Act; Jefferson wins the election.

• 1829: President Andrew Jackson advocates rewarding loyalists with political office. Sen. William Marcy later notes approvingly, “To the victor belong the the spoils of the enemy.”

• 1867: In America’s first federal campaign finance reform law, Congress makes it illegal to pressure workers at naval yards for political contributions.

• 1872: Railroad financier Jay Cooke gives $50,000 to the Republican Party—25 percent of its budget. A historian writes of President Ulysses S. Grant, “Never before was a candidate placed under such great obligation to men of wealth.”

• 1875: Mark Twain: “I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.”

• 1883: Congress prohibits soliciting civil servants for political contributions.

• 1896: President William McKinley’s campaign manager hits up corporations for donations sized “according to [their] stake in the general prosperity of the country.”

• 1906: Accused of fundraising improprieties, President Theodore Roosevelt calls for a ban on all corporate contributions “for any political purpose,” leading to passage of the Tillman Act (named after white supremacist Sen. “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman).

• 1952: VP candidate Richard Nixon delivers his “Checkers” speech, defending more than $18,000 in secret donations: “Every penny of it was used to pay for political expenses that I did not think should be charged to the taxpayers.”

• 1971: President Nixon tells his chief of staff to tell donors, “Anybody who wants to be an ambassador must at least give $250,000.” Dwayne Andreas, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, later delivers $100,000 to Nixon’s secretary and helps fund the Watergate break-in.

• 1991: Five senators, including Sen. John McCain, are found to have advocated on behalf of Charles Keating’s failing S&L after receiving a combined $1.3 million in campaign money.

• 1997: The Clinton administration releases a list of 938 overnight guests at the White House, many of whom slumbered in the Lincoln Bedroom. Others received coffee, golf outings, or morning jogs with the president. All told, these donors gave some $10 million to Democrats in the 1996 election.

• 2005: GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay is indicted for funneling corporate money through the RNC to Texas Republicans. More than five years later, he is convicted of money laundering and sentenced to three years in prison. He’s out on bail while appealing.

• 2006: Lobbyist Jack Abramoff admits trading golf junkets, meals at his DC restaurant, and campaign contributions for political favors. President George W. Bush and GOP leaders rush to dump donations linked to him.

• 2010: Citizens United ruling allows corporations and unions to advocate for or against candidates at any time. Two months later, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, an appeals court strikes down limits on contributions to independent-expenditure shops. The super-PAC is born.

• 2011: As super-PACs proliferate, the FEC approves Stephen Colbert’s Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Colbert exalts, “Today, we put liberty on layaway.

Then take a look at this neat little chart that helps you follow the money trails.

Leave a Reply