The governors of our various states must love history. They just engaged in one of America’s oldest traditions. They took bribes. Or they extorted money from people and businesses. Or maybe it was a bit of both.
The traditions began in England while we were colonies. Many of our founding fathers complained that politicians in England’s parliament were on the take.
Well, ours are too.
The governors publicized what they were up to. Banged the drums to increase the number of bribers and extortionees.
I refer to the Republican Governors Association at the Republican Convention. And the Democratic Governors Association at the Democratic Convention. Both associations advertised that influence was for sale.
For $5000 up to $250,000 donors could get packets of tickets to various events at the conventions. They could sup with political big shots, get their photos snapped with them. For the larger donations they got more snoot- to-snoot time with the big guys.
You know who gave the big money. Lobbying outfits did. Oil companies did. Unions did. Fat cats did.
Now, campaign finance laws outlawed this garbage. Ah, but, the governors associations are exempt. And they made the most of it. “We’re breaking all of our records,” one of the organizers said. Records for amounts raised.
This goes on throughout our political system, of course. If you want to do business with your state, you will have to pony up some contributions. If you want to do business with your city you likely will have to pay to play too.
If you want to have a few words with any of our presidents or vice-presidents, you will have to pay somebody somewhere.
You may recall the Clintons became masters at this. They sold influence by way of the Lincoln Bedroom and breakfasts. Bill sold pardons to a bunch of thugs and drug goons and criminals of all stripe. In return for contributions to his library.
Oh, yes, we come up with rules against some of this. But wouldn’t you know it, somebody always finds a loophole.
And yes, some politicians overstep the line. (Not that it is a line of honor. Hardly!) They get caught taking money so blatantly that the powers that be prosecute them. That will slow down the rest of them as much as the odd speeding ticket slows down the traffic on the interstate.
We can see where the influence buying is. Look up the supporters of some controversial legislation. Then find who contributes to their coffers. The gun control guys give to the pols who vote against gun control. The NEA pours money into the pockets of the guys who fight against school vouchers.
Some of this is secret. Until some prosecutor sniffs it out. But so much is public knowledge. I recall one congressman saying to me - in front of a dozen people - “I don’t take his calls. He never gives me any money.” And he was not joking about this.
Will Rogers made jokes about politicians in his time being on the take. Most of his humor was timeless. Those jokes certainly were.
Pity is that so many of us know there is sweet little we can do about the corruption. Pity is that our pols and influence buyers are so accostomed to all this they feel insulted if someone calls them corrupt. The pitiful truth is that they are.
From Tom ... as in Morgan.
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