Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/368/6035
The White House For Sale
LAST MONDAY'S TV documentary - The White House for sale - gave a revealing, if none too surprising, insight into how big business dominates the US political system.
Presented by John Snow of Channel 4 News, he quotes Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address: "All men are created equal" and that America stands for "government of the people, by the people for the people..."
Not so. Less than 2% of the US electorate raise the bulk of funds for the Democrat and Republican parties. Nine out of ten candidates - congressmen, senators or councillors - who raise the most money win elections. Moreover, both Republican and Democrat presidential candidates, George W Bush and John Kerry, are effectively in hock to the big corporations.
Their political careers were built on corporate money. Donations from construction and oil secured Bush the governorship of Texas and later the presidency, and money from the telecommunications industry helped senator Kerry. All these big business concerns were later rewarded after Bush and Kerry secured high office.
Having received donations from Perry Homes, Bush signed the passage of a bill protecting such property construction companies from being sued by dissatisfied home buyers.
He also allowed power-generating companies to avoid cleaning up polluting power stations under the Clean Air Act. Not forgetting of course corporate fraudster and Bush donator Ken Ley of Enron fame. After Bush relaxed price-capping on energy Enron increased its prices by 800%, leading to electricity blackouts in California.
Kerry, who has received the largest amount of donations over the last 20 years, did his telecom backers a big favour when serving on a telecoms senate committee. Kerry ensured that these big players escaped regulation and are now well on their way to securing a monopoly of the TV news media.
'Hard' and 'soft' money
Since the fall of disgraced president Richard Nixon (who was found guilty of taking illegal donations), presidential candidates have been limited to individual donations of $1,000. This limit on 'hard' money was easily circumvented.
Fundraisers, known as "pioneers" in Republican circles, simply got others to give $1,000 each. The pioneers who raised the most were subsequently rewarded with favours. One pioneer who went on to become US ambassador to the Mauritius secured a $1,000 donation from his three-year-old son!
Dick Cheney, as chief executive of Halliburton, got his company employees to donate $1.5 million. Cheney become US Vice President and his former company secured a lucrative contract maintaining Iraq's oil fields.
Of course this hard money pales before the amounts of 'soft' money raised i.e. donations to the parties as opposed to candidates. Some $1.5 billion will be raised by Republican and Democrat parties in this campaign. Two years ago the McCain-Feingold Act was meant to curb this soft money. In fact they raised the limit on hard donations from $1,000 to $2,000.
They also failed to close a tax loophole allowing big backers to donate. Known as the 527's after the tax code, these Republican and Democrat networks can raise huge sums to finance TV adverts rubbishing their opponents.
It's all legit as long as they don't mention their candidate's name. Kerry's Vietnam war record was tarnished by a pro-Bush network advert. Likewise billionaire speculator George Soros has contributed $15 million to the pro-Kerry New Democrat Network.
In The Socialist 30 October 2004:
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