FOR SALE TO HIGHEST BIDDER

Here’s a link for you:

OpenSecrets-Oil and Gas Contributions

It’s a report on election campaign contributions and lobbying efforts by the oil & gas industries. In 2011 Exxon was the biggest contributor in that industry, followed closely by Koch Industries. Aside from direct contributions, the industry spent $148 million on lobbying efforts in 2011. So adding together the 2011 contributions and lobbying, the oil & gas industries spent $170 million in 2011 to influence government.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at some other contributors:

OpenSecrets-Fin-Ins-RE Contributions

OpenSecrets categorizes this group as Finance/Insurance/Real Estate. It’s worth noting that the largest contributor in this category by itself contributed more than the top four contributors in the oil & gas industry—combined. That would be Goldman Sachs, at $3.4 million in contributions in 2011.

As a group, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate contributions in the 2011 election cycle totaled $212 million. That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

No, not really.

Not compared to spending in 2008, when the industries spent—wait for it—over $500 million. That’s for campaign contributions alone.

Now what about lobbying? Remember, this is in addition to money the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate industries spent on campaign contributions.

To put it in perspective, in 1998 the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate industries spent $208 million on lobbying. But ten years later, in 2008, the figure more than doubled: $456 million. And it’s risen since then. The industries are steadily pumping over $460 million into lobbying efforts every single year since 2008.

What happened in 2008?

You remember:

Recession.

Bailouts.

What an opportunity to rewrite the rules.

What an opportunity missed.

Is it possible that 2/3 of a billion dollars flowing into campaign contributions and lobbying every single year influenced the way Washington dealt with the financial crisis?

Look, I’m a capitalist. There’s not a better system for rewarding risk-taking and innovation, and for progressing quality of life for everyone.

But this is not capitalism. It’s buying influence.

If we want equal representation, we cannot have a government being run for the benefit of the contributors and lobbyists.

And that’s what we have now.

If you can explain why this much money flowing into election campaigns and lobbying efforts is good for our country, I’d like to hear from you.

Are you okay with this?

Be Sociable, Share!

5 Comments

Leave a comment
  1. DB March 31, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    I think you know my opinion ;0)

  2. Jody April 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Let’s look at it from a capitalist viewpoint…

    The companies and individuals obviously believe it is in their best interest to spend money to influence policies. To put it in business terms – they expect a positive return on their investment.

    That return is measured in two ways, capital made/saved and the duration of the influence.

    We could tell corporations they cannot spend money on lobbying & even pass laws saying so, but just as PACS and Super PACS were created, they will find a way to use their $$ to influence the decision makers and skirt the edges of what is legal in doing so.

    Instead of playing an ongoing political game of Whack-A-Mole, maybe we could try to reduce the impact their dollars have once they reach Washington. Let them spend more than they do now, and employee tons of individuals in the DC metro area. But while they double their spend, lets reduce the influence.

    How?

    One way, at least I believe, would be start putting term limits on any politician. Easy to implement, and would not allow an individual to be “bought” for long periods of time. From big oil to unions, left to right, they might still be able to “buy” votes and influence direction – but at least the cost would increase as they would have to constantly be dealing with turnover on the Hill.

    Would not be a full solution to the problem, but would be an easy place to start.

    • Michael Berrier April 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Jody. I haven’t heard a good argument against term limits in the legislative branch, but I’d be interested to know why they apply to the executive branch but not to Congress.

  3. Bill Giovannetti April 7, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    You are right about influence peddling and the corruption these vast sums of money bring. I agree it is not true capitalism. It’s corrupt, it’s evil, and it’s ruining our country. And it’s saddling out children’s children with unsustainable debt.

    Might not the underlying problem be that government is SO involved in the affairs of business that business has to bow at government’s altar? If governmental agencies didn’t wield so much influence over the economy, wouldn’t participants in the economy be less inclined to dump billions of dollars into attempts to influence it? The solution isn’t to regulate spending on lobbyists; it is to regulate the influence of big government in the sphere of commerce. Let the states do what states were meant to do.

    As to term limits, I’ve gone back and forth on this. One argument against it is that term limits weaken the Congress, especially relative to the BUREAUCRACY. Bureaucrats sit in the same chair for decades, and they can become little tyrants. It takes years to understand the ins and outs of power in Washington, and term limits relegate legislators to second rate influencers in that gigantic machinery. Besides, the ballot box itself offers term limits every 2/6 years.

    • Michael Berrier April 9, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      Bill, I’m inclined to agree with your comments on term limits. We have the opportunity to vote out our legislators every few years, and presumably if they’re not doing their jobs–and we have a level playing field with respect to election finance (a big question)—they’ll be voted out if their constituents are dissatisfied with them.

      On your comment about government intervention into commerce, my opinion is that business needs regulation, because unfettered capitalism has no conscience and no limitation on its reach and appetite. (See my earlier post, “Capitalism is an Omnivore.”) This is not to say that capitalism is worse than socialism or communism, because it’s not. It’s better. But left to its own devices we will have sweat shops and servitude and cronyism and wealth-hoarding and pillaging. It’s human nature, and that’s why regulation is a necessity. Not intervention, but regulation, because it’s the government’s job to protect the powerless from the powerful. I do agree with you that government tends to overreach, which I think is a factor of the same human nature that makes capitalism binge.

      Good comments. Keep them coming.

Leave a Reply