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The money problem

EJ Dionne is really eloquent on the flood of anonymous, corporate cash that's flooded the final days of the election. And though I'm not sure how much this money matters -- the political science on the question is mixed, and megaspenders like Meg Whitman and Linda McMahon often lose -- the fact that the people who practice politics think it matters, and the corporations handing over the cash think they're making wise investments, suggests we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss it.

Some of this is to be expected. Political money is pro-cyclical: When Democrats look likely to win, they get the cash. When Republicans are ahead, much of the money flows toward them. The Supreme Court talks about money as a form of speech. Corporations use money as a type of bribe.

But there's also the money that would surprise the public. The Democrats are hated for TARP, because voters think they were too soft on the banks. But TARP's recipients disagree, and are shoveling money toward the Republicans. And though Republicans have benefited from anti-bank sentiment, Rep. Spencer Bachus, the conservative congressman who will chair the House Financial Services Committee in the event of a Republican victory, is literally berating members of the financial industry who donate to Democrats. "It is hard to believe, he told the crowd, that some in their industry were still giving more to Democrats than Republicans after, he said, Democrats hammered them with over-reaching Wall Street reform legislation."

And then there's the money that no one can be surprised about because we simply don't know where it's coming from. "You can be sure that the benefactors will not keep their identities hidden from the members of Congress they help elect," writes Dionne. "Only the voters will be in the dark."

But not totally in the dark. They know the money is there. They see it going to Democrats in some years and Republicans in others. They hear about it being secret, foreign and constant. They know that the same people who run against the system end up at lobbyist-hosted fundraisers two years later.

Money may or may not buy elections. But it does undermine public confidence in them. It may or may not buy legislation. But it does discredit it. It may or may not sway politicians. But it does delegitimize them. What's most appalling about this system isn't even the amount of money in it. It's that the politicians at the center don't care enough about what Americans think of their government to give them a government they could actually think well of.

Or, to put it slightly differently, watch this:

By Ezra Klein  | October 25, 2010; 5:24 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: This might be the most devastating ad of the election
Next: Reconciliation

Comments

"What's most appalling about this system isn't...."

What's most appalling is WaPo continues to allow the originator of "Journolist" to write biased articles about anything, let alone the upcoming campaign. To call Dionne eloquent is laughable. His articles are all biased and normally attack Palin, Tea Party, conservatives,...anything to distract voters from the issues. In fact, the WaPo Journolist crowd never writes about Obama's policies and why they are good for jobs, the economy, or the country. Don't believe me, look it up.

Posted by: Tostitos | October 25, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

And so when did President Obama talk that Wall Street Bankers, the same which were benefited by TARP, are giving money to GOP because they do not want Consumer Protection Agency? That is the reality.

He needs to say - if protecting common Americans is considered as 'anti-business or socialist'; he has no problem with those labels.

Did he say that? Did he connect the dots?

What he said on Spanish network Piolin, he needs to be that direct with Americans about how GOP is sleeping with Businesses and blaming Obama whenever he tries to protect Americans.

I have never seen a political party so right on the track but which does not fight for what they have done or expose the deeds of opposition...

Posted by: umesh409 | October 25, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

If you cannot trust a best friend alone with your wife, how can you trust a politician with keys to the kingdom? If given enough space the most trusted public servant would quickly fill their vaults with countless treasures. The only honest people are retards and idiots who are too stupid to reach for the gold, but they make the best night watchmen.

Posted by: morristhewise | October 25, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Its easy to point to the Meg Whitmans and Linda McMahons to show that spending unlimited amounts of money doesn't always work but those are very high profile candidates where the opposition has a fair amount of money and there is a national media covering them. When you think about similar amounts of money being spent in smaller Congressional districts where the opposition doesn't have those types of resources and only the local media is covering the election, you can better see how large amounts of anonymous money can be abused to buy an election. Its amazing how little coverage there has been about the individual Congressional seats up for grabs this year.

Posted by: saratogian | October 25, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I suppose that if GM had been able to run a campaign ad back in 1970, it would have said that if the UAW continues to raise wages and reduce productivity at the current rate, we will be out of business no later than 2010 without a massive government bailout. Of course, if they had run since a ad, the liberal groups would have mounted a boycott and call for the resignation of all the management. Hence, GM just tried to sneak away to China, where one can still do business as a profitable company rather than a charity.

Posted by: droberts57 | October 25, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I guess I was expecting something a little more invigorating from this article when I clicked on it. Silly rabbit.

Ezra Klein: "Cash probably makes the world go around". Shocking.

Posted by: ANCLvr | October 25, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

"Corporations use money as a type of bribe. "

Bribes are against the law. No doubt some corporations get in trouble with the law. So do some Republican and Democrat politicians. The last Democratic governor in my state got into a large amount of difficulty over questionable use of influence for personal gain. The current Democratic governor has problems because of violations of campaign regulations. When money is used legally, the virtue of its use is largely in the eye of the beholder. President Obama's middle class tax cuts are as much of a bribe as anything that corporations are able to do legally. Of course, the Republicans are no better. Corporations are made up of people. Everyone who works for the Washington Post is part of a corporation. The fact that they are part of a corporation does not make them more or less virtuous.

Posted by: dnjake | October 25, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Again, I find myself laughing at how utterly shallow Ezra Klein is.

Posted by: NyallsStJohnSmytheIV | October 25, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Franklin's fears have been realized. We have lost our Republic. We are too blame because we are too lazy to make candidates explain what they will do rather than spew useless ideology.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | October 25, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

It seems Ezra, theone of former Rober Reich's lackys and designer of the secret Journolist society to help media move the liberal propaganda *fails* to mention the flood of money in this election from unions to the tune of 200 million dollars plus.

I guess it just 'slipped his mind'.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | October 26, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I just saw the new documentary, The Best Government Money Can Buy, which is all about corporate cash flooding our election campaigns. The film is actually very interesting and there are interviews of various Washington Insiders like Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21. Check out this clip where he talks about the fall of representative democracy: http://www.vimeo.com/16025804

Posted by: PoliticalDude | October 26, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

You can tell an excellent analysis and presentation by the way the trolls dismiss it with scorn, but no argument. Or a minor, barely relevant counter example. As we say in the South, a hit bird flutters. You hit them where it hurts.

Posted by: MadWizard | October 27, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

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