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I'm Tired of Some Democrats Not Wanting To Face The Corrupting Influence Of Money In Politics.

9 min read

It’s bad enough that there are Democratic politicians who argue that large campaign contributions do not affect their policy prescriptions, but Zach Carter of Huffington Post points out an essential truth I have observed with regards to more than a few Democratic voters.  They simply do not want to face the fact that some of their favorite Democratic politicians have been heavily influenced, actually captured or bought, by special interests.  

But it’s not just people with fancy TV contracts. Rank-and-file Democratic voters don’t like corruption, but they also don’t like to think about ways their favorite Democrats have failed them in the past. Accepting the standard Warren and Sanders are setting means coming to terms with the fact that Obama and Bill Clinton’s administrations engaged in activity that is hard to defend. Even Warren and Sanders know that’s a big ask for most Democratic voters, so they rarely apply the implications of their own rhetoric to Obama’s activities.

Let’s get real folks.  Does anyone really believe that humans can take large contributions from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, or any other special interest and turn around and tell those donors “NO!” when it comes to policies that directly impact their bottom line? Buttigieg sneers at Warren and throws out the line that criticizing who he gets his campaign contributions from is some kind of “purity” test.  But what is implied by Buttigieg and all other Democrats who rake in large campaign contributions is that they are morally superior because they can resist temptation.

Uh huh.  

Buttigieg is not the only Democrat to do this.  Hillary Clinton used Barack Obama as a shield during a debate with Bernie Sanders over the influence of big campaign contributions.   Here is a transcript of one of those debate exchanges:

WOODRUFF: We're going to move on. Secretary Clinton, your campaign has recently ramped up criticism of Senator Sanders for attending Democratic Party fundraisers from which you say he benefited. But nearly half of your financial sector donations appear to come from just two wealthy financiers, George Soros and Donald Sussman, for a total of about $10 million.
WOODRUFF: You have said that there's no quid pro quo involved. Is that also true of the donations that wealthy Republicans give to Republican candidates, contributors including the Koch Brothers?
CLINTON: I can't speak for the Koch Brothers, you're referring to a Super PAC that we don't coordinate with, that was set up to support President Obama, that has now decided that they want to support me. They are the ones who should respond to any questions.
Let's talk about our campaigns. I'm very proud of the fact that we have more than 750 thousand donors, and the vast majority of them are giving small contributions. So, I'm proud of Senator Sanders, and his supporters. I think it's great that Senator Sanders, President Obama and I have more donors than any three people who have every run, certainly on the Democratic side. That's the way it should be, and I'm going to continue to reach out to thank all my online contributors for everything they are doing for me, to encourage them and help me do more just as Senator Sanders is.
I think that is the real key here. We both have a lot of small donors. I think that sets us apart from a lot of what's happening right now on the Republican side.
The Koch Brothers have a very clear political agenda. It is an agenda, in my view, that would do great harm to our country. We're going to fight it as hard as we can, and we're going to fight whoever the Republicans nominate who will depend on the Koch Brothers, and others.
WOODRUFF: I'm asking if Democratic donors are different than Republican donors.
SANDERS: What we are talking about in reality is a corrupt campaign finance system, that's what we're talking about. We have to be honest about it. It is undermining American democracy.
When extraordinarily wealthy people make very large contributions to Super PACs, and in many cases in this campaign, Super PACs have raised more money than individual candidates have, OK? We had a decision to make early on, do we do a Super PAC? And, we said no. We don't represent Wall Street, we don't represent the billionaire class, so it ends up I'm the only candidate up here of the many candidates who has no Super PAC. But, what we did is we said to the working families of this country, look, we know things are tough, but if you want to help us go beyond establishment politics, and establishment economics, send us something. And, it turns out that up until — and this has blown me away, never in a million years would I have believed that I would be standing here tonight telling you that we have received three and a half million individual contributions from well over a million people.
Now, Secretary Clinton's Super PAC, as I understand it, received $25 million dollars last reporting period, $15 million dollars from Wall Street. Our average contribution is $27 dollars, I'm very proud of that.
IFILL: Senator Sanders, are you saying…
CLINTON: We are mixing apples and oranges. My 750,000 donors have contributed more than a million and a half donations. I'm very proud. That, I think, between the two of us demonstrates the strength of the support we have among people who want to see change in our country.
But, the real issue, I think, that the Senator is injecting into this is that if you had a Super PAC, like President Obama has, which now says it wants to support me. It's not my PAC. If you take donations from Wall Street, you can't be independent.
I would just say, I debated then Senator Obama numerous times on stages like this, and he was the recipient of the largest number of Wall Street donations of anybody running on the Democratic side ever.
Now, when it mattered, he stood up and took on Wall Street. He pushed through, and he passed the Dodd-Frank regulation, the toughest regulations since the 1930's. So, let's not in anyway imply here that either President Obama or myself, would in anyway not take on any vested interested, whether it's Wall Street, or drug companies, or insurance companies, or frankly, the gun lobby to stand up to do what's best for the American people.
SANDERS: The people aren't dumb. Why in God's name does Wall Street…
But let's not — but let's not — let's not insult — let's not insult the intelligence of the American people. People aren't dumb. Why in God's name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it; they want to throw money around.
Why does the pharmaceutical industry make huge campaign contributions? Any connection maybe to the fact that our people pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?
Why does the fossil fuel industry pay — spend huge amounts of money on campaign contributions? Any connection to the fact that not one Republican candidate for president thinks and agrees with the scientific community that climate change is real and that we have got to transform our energy system?
And when we talk about Wall Street, let's talk about Wall Street. I voted for Dodd-Frank, got an important amendment in it. In my view, it doesn't go anywhere near far enough. But when we talk about Wall Street, you have Wall Street and major banks have paid $200 billion in fines since the great crash. No Wall Street executive has been prosecuted.
CLINTON: Well, let's just — let's just follow up on this, because, you know, I've made it very clear that no bank is too big to fail, no executive too powerful to jail, and because of Dodd-Frank, we now have in law a process that the president, the Federal Reserve, and others can use if any bank poses a systemic risk. I think that's a major accomplishment.
I agree, however, it doesn't go far enough, because what it focuses on are the big banks, which Senator Sanders has talked about a lot, for good reason. I go further in the plan that I've proposed, which has been called the toughest, most effective, comprehensive plan for reining in the other risks that the financial system could face. It was an investment bank, Lehman Brothers, that contributed to our collapse. It was a big insurance company, AIG. It was Countrywide Mortgage. My plan would sweep all of them into a regulatory framework so we can try to get ahead of what the next problems might be.
And I believe that not only Barney Frank, Paul Krugman, and others, have said that what I have proposed is the most effective. It goes in the right direction. We have Dodd-Frank. We can use it to break up the banks, if that's appropriate. But let's not kid ourselves. As we speak, there are new problems on the horizon. I want to get ahead of those, and that's why I've proposed a much more comprehensive approach to deal with all of these…

Emboldened is my doing.

And no, Obama didn’t take on Wall Street, at least not in the way that Hillary Clinton described in this debate.  I would suggest that people read Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men.  But if you don’t want to read that, here is Zack Carter again:

In the fall of 2010, Axelrod, then a member of President Barack Obama’s White House, appeared on ”Face the Nation” to downplay the severity of a “robo-signing” epidemic that was sweeping the housing industry. At the time, thousands of mortgages were frozen because the banks that wanted to foreclose on them couldn’t document who actually owned the property. Axelrod promised the administration was working for a speedy resolution.
“We are working closely with these institutions to make sure they go expedite the process of going back and reconstructing [mortgages] and throwing out those that don’t work,” he said.
It wasn’t true. The banking problem was not a technical hiccup and the Obama administration was not lighting a fire under the banks to sort it out. It was instead a widespread fraud which the biggest banks in the country eventually agreed to pay tens of billions of dollars to settle. Obama’s Treasury Department had essentially turned over the administration of its own anti-foreclosure initiative to big banks, which were squeezing homeowners for whatever they could, with or without the right paperwork, often overcharging families or even wrongfully evicting them. After dragging its feet about this outrage for years, the Justice Department under Obama eventually inked a settlement, and then promptly declined to prosecute anyone for the wrongdoing involved.
Maybe it was a coincidence that Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign raised nearly $44 million from the financial sector ― more than any other candidate in history ― including more than $1 million from employees of Goldman Sachs, nearly $1 million from JPMorganites, and over three-quarters of a million from his supporters at Citigroup, some of whom ended up staffing his administration.

But here we have Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and other former Clinton and Obama Administration officials essentially saying, “We cannot be corrupted by money!”  Let me state for the record, there is no one from any part of the ideological political spectrum who can resist the Sirens’ song of big campaign contributions.  If this were true, we would have had a lot more progressive legislation passed over the last forty years.  Instead, we have seen government policy shift to conservative economic policies as more money has poured into our political system.

Does anyone here on Daily Kos seriously think that taking more money from Wall Street and special interests is the answer to saving our democracy?

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