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par Binoy KAMPMARK
The US Congress seems to be an amphitheatre, less of unflinching fear in the face of vested interests than the personification of those interests. It is fitting, in fact, that the Corporation, vested with a legal personality, has become the greatest unelected owner of the US congress, the master ventriloquist that articulates through the puppets that take up the role of House representatives and Senators.
As the mid-term elections bears down upon the United States, the various lobbies are muscling their way into the coffers of candidates on both sides of the aisle, punting for their best men and women. The nefarious form such bodies take is the Political-Action Committees (PACs), the anthrax of America’s political system. According to the Wall Street Journal, a “significant shift” has been registered, with business groups giving more largesse “to Republican candidates than to Democrats in seven of the most competitive Senate races in recent months, in some cases taking the unusual step of betting against sitting senators”. The pattern of finance is typical and detrimental. Back the incumbent for a period of time, notably in the earlier part of a campaign. The hope here is to secure a selective, higher order of treatment in the course of the electoral cycle. The Democrats are missing out in the race, and for that reason, are getting less. A quoted brokerage executive’s words to the WSJ should send shudders down any politically attuned observer. “Wall Street expects return on investment. It makes no sense to contribute to a losing campaign”. Democracy has truly been rented.
Unfortunately, much of this has been facilitated by the officials themselves, including that valued arm of government, the US Supreme Court. The case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission 558 US (2010) seemed to reduce democracy to effigy, ready for the burning. In what was a rather absurd twist, campaign organisations became the subject of First Amendment protections. Effectively, limits to campaign spending were lifted by the 5-4 ruling. While it seemed like Mr. Kettle was coming out to call the pot Black, President Barack Obama, yet another President in the long line of purchases made by corporate lobbyists, would claim that the Citizens United case had gone too far. It gave “the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington –while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates”. Not only was Congress, through its intelligence committee, proving complicit in sanctioning the range of unwarranted surveillance of subjects, but the guardian of the law in the country was showing itself to be disinterested by the effects of the money machine on politics. There was no talk of level playing fields, because there was never one to begin with.