Campaign Contributions During Key Votes: Call It Bribery

The quote from Sen. Max Baucus’s spokeperson instantly becomes a leading candidate for “Lie of the Year.”

“Money has no influence on how Senator Baucus (D-Montana) makes his decisions,” Kate Downen told the Washington Post. “The only factor that determines Senator Baucus’s votes is whether a policy is right for Montana and right for our country.” Is there any American so naive as to still believe this, not just about Baucus but about any member of Congress? The Post reports that despite Senate and House rules forbidding it, campaign contributions routinely spike when important bills are about to be voted upon. The sources of the sudden gifts to the lawmakers? Individuals, organizations and corporations who will benefit from the law’s passage or defeat.

Earlier this year, Ethics Alarms ran a post condemning the House Ethics Committee’s whitewash of the blatant fundraising activities of eight Congressmen prior or even during floor votes. They were obviously—to all but the committee, of course—selling earmarks. The article concluded,

“The final lesson is this: any and all assertions by House Democrats or Republicans that they are passing legislation in the best interests of the nation are by definition unbelievable, until Congress stops regarding bribery as standard operating procedure, and stops lying to the public about it.”

Now the second shoe has dropped. It isn’t just earmarks our patriotic representatives on Capitol Hill are auctioning off, but the laws themselves. From the Post:

“For three weeks in June, for instance, the members of a joint House and Senate committee worked to draft final rules for regulating the financial industry in the wake of its 2008 meltdown. During that time, the 35 members of the drafting committee collected $440,000 in donations from that same industry, which was then lobbying heavily for looser rules.”

And the pure and patriotically-motivated Senator from Montana?

“Earlier this month, the chairman of the Senate committee overseeing tax policy, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), gave himself a birthday-party fundraiser – on the same day that the chamber took its first vote on an $858 billion tax package that would provide breaks to wealthy citizens and business interests.”

The Post quotes various ethics watchdog groups about the need for “clearer ethics rules” and “disclosure of all fundraising” around crucial votes. After all, seeking and accepting gifts from those who stand to benefit from the adoption or defeat of a bill “could give the appearance that donors are improperly influencing decisions.”

Could give the appearance that donors are improperly influencing decisions?????????!!!!!!!

Could give the APPEARANCE that donors are improperly influencing decisions????????

The process of seeking out interested parties and asking them for money before an elected official has announced his or her decision regarding an upcoming vote is corrupt. It doesn’t just appear corrupt—it is. Receiving a contribution under such circumstances is bribery per se, and protestations like those of Sen. Baucus should be treated as what they are: lies.

The laws and ethics rules should clearly state that such campaign contributions will be regarded as bribes and prosecuted as such, and the ridiculous, if traditional, explanation that the convergence of a senator’s or representative’s vote with the timing of a contribution and the interests of the contributor is “a coincidence” can be offered to the jury, the members of which will presumably have a good laugh in response.

Whichever political party establishes those reforms will have my vote for the foreseeable future. The political parties that continue the current bribe-friendly system—which is presently both of them—deserve neither trust, respect nor credibility.


3 thoughts on “Campaign Contributions During Key Votes: Call It Bribery

  1. There just aren’t any good congressman any more, the definition of a good congressman being that one’s he’s bought, he stays bought.

    • Hey, John, there’s a certain ethical value in that, isn’t there? “I’m not really happy with our bargain any more, but a deal’s a deal, and congressman Smith is no welsh!” No? Could we settle for the appearance of ethical value?

  2. This post looks to be 100% on the money to me, so I’m going to carp about the comment John made instead. It should be “once,” not “one’s.” That said, I always thought one welched on a deal. Oops.

    [/Grammar and Phrase Nazi]

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