Could the need for real and aggressive campaign finance reform be any clearer than it is now?The Bush Administration continues to hawk its $700 billion bonanza bailout for Wall Street with little oversight, accountability, or justice for the people on Main Street who would be picking up the tab. Why? Maybe because – as Nick Nyhart, President of Public Campaign points out – since 1990 the financial, insurance and real estate sectors have spent $2.06 billion dollars on federal political contributions.
And the money is flowing more rapidly now than ever before.
Hard money totals for these sectors during the 2000 election cycle – when the Glass-Steagall Act was formally repealed and the regulatory firewall between investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies was brought down – totaled nearly $200 million. With the accounting for the 2008 cycle only partially in, those sectors have already upped the ante to over $300 million. They have supported John McCain and Barack Obama roughly evenly with $42 million in contributions.
With this kind of money deluge, it’s no surprise that despite the fact that it’s Wall Street who’s begging Main Street for $700 billion, a lobbyist like Scott Talbott of the Financial Services Roundtable still has the audacity to warn that “any effort to attach other provisions [to the original proposal] would be a deal breaker”; or to tell the Wall Street Journal, “We’re opposed to attaching provisions that will turn the bill into a Christmas tree. Building a bridge won’t have an immediate impact.” (Really, Scott? Tell that to someone who has just lost her home, or is choosing between paying for food or medicine, and might get a job building that bridge.)
“As Congress debates what to ask for on behalf of consumers in return for the bailout, citizens should demand of Congress that they get their government back through Congressional adoption of publicly financed ‘clean’ elections,” Nyhart told me.
Once again, the people are way ahead of Congress on this. A Zogby poll taken this weekend as the crisis unfolded showed that 82% of Americans “said that political parties, presidential candidates and candidates for the US Congress should be banned from receiving financial contributions from lobbyists or other representatives from those industries that are vital to the financial and national security of the country.”
Nyhart pointed out that the cost of public financing is a small price to pay compared to the $700 billion bailout – roughly $2 billion annually for Congressional elections and even less for the presidential campaign. (And for a look at what else could be done with $700 billion check this out.)If there was somehow still a need for incontrovertible evidence as to how the people’s interests are relegated to big corporate interests in our gamed system, here it is with the Bailout Bonanza. This is a moment to seize and say never again – it’s time to cut the cord between the lobbyists and the Best Congress Money Can Buy.