The center for responsible politics estimates that over $3.6 billion was spent on the 2010 congressional midterm elections. In the House of Representative races the winner spent an average of over $1.4 million for a job which pays $348,000 ($174,000 x 2 years). In the Senate, the winner spent an average of almost $9.8 million for a one million dollar job ($174,000 x 6 years). Sounds like a shitty deal to me unless other compensation is involved. Who the hell do these people actually work for?
The Center for Responsible Politics has a great interactive chart to show you where this money comes from. About half of the contributions come from “large individual donors”. These are people who donate $200-$2500(the legal max) per candidate and per PAC. They are 0.35% of American adults. PACs (Political Action Committees) are organizations created to raise money and push the agenda of a party, corporation, ideology, union, an entire industry, or a very specific issue, or candidate. They are maxed at $5,000 per candidate. Well...this doesn’t sound that bad. Looks like it takes a lot of individuals and PACs to get that campaign money, so no one should have too much influence....right?
Here's where it gets tricky on purpose. Each party is composed of individual, national, state, and local parties. Each party can have several “fund-raising committees”. All these entities can be given individual contributions. Individuals can give to as many campaigns, parties , and PACs as they want. They can also form groups/clubs/organizations to pool their money and donate again to the campaigns, parties, PACs. Then the PACs can give to other PACs which can again donate to the campaigns and parties. Then the parties and individual campaigns can redistribute the contributions to campaigns who need it the most. The only limit that ends up having any real effect is a total cap on individual spending at $117,000 per election cycle (every two years). The $117,000 limit gets no press and is the only one that matters. These tricks alone allow those who can afford it (up to $117,000 every two years) to vote with their money, but it's just the beginning.
So far we have only been discussing the money officially given to and spent by the campaigns themselves, but there are other ways to influence an election. You can just skip a step and spend the money for them. That’s the purpose of a “Super PAC”. Super PACs can take UNLIMITED money from anyone, including corporations, because they don't directly contribute to campaigns. They run their own tv and radio commercials, send out their own pamphlets, and make their own phone calls. This is allows them to appear impartial; or even worse allows them to be as misleading and vicious as they want with no accountability to the actual candidate. According to The Center for Responsible Politics, outside groups spent $489,289,288 during the 2010 election.
Then there are the lobbyists. These are the brokers between the clients/sponsors and the politician. Lobbyists usually have no agenda of their own, they are guns for hire (just like the politicians they pimp). They are paid to do whatever it takes to get politicians to vote a certain way or introduce certain legislation(often written by the lobbyists themselves). In 2010 $3.5 billion was spent on lobbyist. $3.5 BILLION! Instead of just throwing money at a candidate and hoping you get noticed, you give your money to a lobbyist and they make sure you get what you pay for. Lobbyist are practically a branch of government. Almost half of congressmen become lobbyists when they leave office. It's pretty much the next step in the corporate latter of U.S. Government. If your a really good lobbyist you might even get promoted to a sweet gig in the president's cabinet.
With few exceptions, these politicians are glorified actors, networkers, and salesmen. They are not statesmen, scholars, or experts on anything. Their ideas, opinions, and agendas are either paid for or contrived to tell voters what they want to hear.
to be continued......