Jim Hightower’s glossary of political corruption, consisting of words and phrases, from A to Z, actually used by the buyers and sellers of political influence in these modern times.
ACCESS, n. The Yellow Brick Road. It leads straight into the back rooms of Washington. Access is what the buyers of political favors profess to be purchasing, as in: Our contribution to the Senator merely reflects our desire to have access to the legislative process. Buying access is distinguished from bribery chiefly by the fact that the latter has been declared illegal, while the former is still at large. Despite protests by political pettifoggers, experience teaches that there is no practical difference between buying an official’s action and buying exclusive access to the official. Slang: Greasing the skids. “There is no question–if you give a lot of money, you will get a lot of access,” a satisfied executive told the New York Times after his corporation had given $500,000 to the GOP. “All you have to do is send in the check.” Many citizens are unaware that access is for sale, so out of ignorance they don’t bid.
ASK, THE, n. The key moment. After all the wine has been drunk and the dancing done, finally comes The Ask, the naming of a specific price; e.g., The chairman has the material you wanted him to see on that tax problem, Bob, and he hopes you’ll consider donating 50 and raising another 50. Also called The Pucker.
BAIT, n. Officeholders and candidates. To hook a major donor, bait is offered in many forms: We can arrange a private meeting for you with the Speaker; or, The President will be golfing at Windswept on the 25th and there’s an opening in his foursome; or, The Senator hopes you will sit at his table at the fundraiser. All bait opportunities are based on market price and availability. Overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom and appearances in Buddhist temples have been discontinued for 2000.
BUNDLING, n. To get close, but not go all the way. Corporations cannot give money directly to a presidential or Congressional candidate, which frustrates many CEOs who miss the old days. Hence, the artful dodge of bundling. Since executives (plus their wives and children) can each write $1,000 checks to candidates, the CEO simply collects, say, a hundred of these checks from those in the executive suite of Great Big Global Corporation Inc., bundles them together with a tasteful gold ribbon and personally hands them to the candidate in the name of the company: George, here’s a hundred grand we’ve bundled for you at GBGC–don’t forget us now, you hear? Technically, the law is not violated, and the corporation and candidate both get what they want.
CLOSER, n. The one who does The Ask. Usually, the closer is a campaign official brought in to do the dirty work of asking a potential contributor for a certain amount of cash; some candidates, like Al Gore, are exceptions: “He’s an excellent closer,” a Gore confidant says. Colloquial: One who seals the deal.
DONOR, n. One who gives to get; a political investor; the most valued citizen in today’s political system.
FACE TIME, n. A rare and prized commodity, now mostly for sale. The chance to sit face-to-face–constituent to Congress member–for maybe a half-hour or more to talk about a particular issue of concern is about as unlikely for regular citizens (i.e., noncontributors) as coming face-to-face with a talking pig. It is, however, an opportunity that grows more likely in direct proportion to the amount of money brought to the trough; as a notoriously whorish Texas state senator used to say, “Write your problem on the back of a check for me, then we’ll talk.”