I have yet to see mention in a company report of how much was spent for political contributions and lobbyists, but I would assume that if a company I own incures these expenses it would be to my benefit. If we were to ban corporations from political spending, it would give more weight to foreign governments and special interest groups. Eliminating political contributions would have to be an all or nothing game to maintain balance. Regarding the excerpt taken from The Declaration of Independence...deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...the author points out that it doesn't say "from the consent of the corporations formed by some of the governed and owned by some of the governed". I would point out that it also doesn't say "from the consent of the radical special interest groups whose opinions deviate from the vast majority of americans". The article also failed to mention corporate lobbying for causes that may be beneficial for all of us. Insurance companies for increased legislation of sprinkler systems in our public buildings, equals Decreased insurance costs as well as fewer lives lost to building fires. It would be wonderful to elect politicians who always vote for what's beneficial to the majority, as opposed to what will keep them in office. If you find one who does, let me know. goldenbb
goldenbb,I disagree with your position here. First you state:If we were to ban corporations from political spending, it would give more weight to foreign governments and special interest groupsThe corporations are special interest groups. I do not see how banning their influence increases the influence of the group they are a part of. I am also not sure what influence foreign governments exert on our elections. Please explain what you mean by that.Then you say:I would point out that it also doesn't say "from the consent of the radical special interest groups whose opinions deviate from the vast majority of Americans". I think this makes it clear that you have a problem with special interest groups. So do I, so I would think you would like the idea of doing away with the corporate aspect of special interest groups.You make the point that some corporate lobbying can be for all of our benefit. Perhaps this is so, but so could the lobbying of the other special interest groups that you disapprove of. For that matter, the influence of the foreign governments could be to our benefit as well. I do not care if the cooperation wants to help me, I care that the cooperation is having an undue influence on my government. While a corporation is considered to be like an individual under the law, it is not. Such non-entities are not what I want controlling the direction of my country.Lastly, your comment about the integrity of politicians really is cynical. I think you are just in that view. I also think part of the reason you have that view is due to the kind of things the original article was fighting against.John
<<While a corporation is considered to be like an individual under the law, it is not. Such non-entities are not what I want controlling the direction of my country.>>I think that is the crux of the matter. I suppose I railed more against corporations than anything else, but I have to question ANY kind of non-individual contributing to a politician. I naturally like and appreciate some special interest groups -- we all have our favorite issues and causes -- but I don't think they should be filling politicians' coffers. I'd rather they just continue to exist and continue to share their research and opinions with politicians and the public, but leave it at that, with no $$ contributions. Selena
While I do appreciate the philosophical intent of the article, its a bit naive to assume that any organization (corporation, trade association, interest group, etc.) that can be affected in a dramatic way by public policy will not attempt to influence those decisions. We live in a competitive, capitalist society where everyone is looking for an edge. The numbers regarding fundraising (especially soft-money) are clearly troubling. However, the reason that those sums need to be raised are because of all of us. Expensive television ads sway the public. They get people elected and re-elected. If Americans spent more time critically assessing the policies of our elected officials, rather than reacting to advertisements and cable t.v. talking heads, our quality of government would rise a bit. OK OK, I do recognize the irony in opening this reply by identifying a naive assumption, then making my own naive comment in closing. :)P.S. If you really want to become upset, look at the state law in California, where corporations can give directly to political candidates in unlimited volumes.
KamFool --<<While I do appreciate the philosophical intent of the article, its a bit naive to assume that any organization (corporation, trade association, interest group, etc.) that can be affected in a dramatic way by public policy will not attempt to influence those decisions. We live in a competitive, capitalist society where everyone is looking for an edge. >>Understood. I think they should be allowed to make their points and try to influence decisions, but not by money. (Since money seems to speak louder than words.)<< The numbers regarding fundraising (especially soft-money) are clearly troubling. However, the reason that those sums need to be raised are because of all of us. Expensive television ads sway the public. They get people elected and re-elected. If Americans spent more time critically assessing the policies of our elected officials, rather than reacting to advertisements and cable t.v. talking heads, our quality of government would rise a bit. >>Indeed. It's a shame that so many campaigns seem to come down to sound bites, not substantive discussions. Still, I think that the system could be rearranged so that candidates are assured some airtime, without their having to raise millions and millions for ads. I'm also troubled by how wealthy candidates are able to bankroll big campaigns, putting less wealthy candidates at a major disadvantage. It somehow seems undemocratic. It would be great if we could somehoe equalize things a bit, perhaps setting a small maximum TV spending limit, for example.Selena
Ah, but for that bloody First Amendment. Those guys in the wigs sure knew how to throw curveballs, even if baseball hadn't been invented yet.
Why should politicians be able to raise any more funds than they can earn as a salary while holding their position?I won't claim credit for this idea--I heard it elsewhere. Limit the maximum amount of contributions that can be raised to the same level as their pay for holding the positon. For example, assume a U.S. Senator will make $150K per year (don't know the actual amount). Since it's a 6 year term, they should only be allowed to raise $900,000 for their campaign, whether it's hard or soft money.I agree that only "real" people, not individuals should be able to give political contributions. I've worked for large corporations that actively distributed materials to employees that twisted the truth about how employees would benefit from contributing to the companies' PAC's. I disagreed with that while I worked for them and still do even after moving on.
Why don't our elected representatives show more courage? I bet that if some of them took surprising stands, working to create legacies that would impress and inspire future generations, they'd also earn the admiration of today's voters. (Even if they weren't reelected, they'd be respected.)If only they had the courage to ignore corporations and face the people. They could legislate a ban on all special interest contributions, and then they'd all be on a more level playing field, perhaps able to spend more time on issues and less time pandering.http://www.fool.com/news/foth/2002/foth020930.htmKind of reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt. I can't recall who the statement is attributed to, but one corporate figure was quoted as saying, "We bought the bastard, but he didn't stay bought!"TR never got reelected, but his face is on Mt. Rushmore along with other honorable Presidents.
the reason that those sums need to be raised are because of all of us. Expensive television ads sway the publicBingo!!1) Cap the price AND numbers of political ads per election. The broadcasters's can charge more to the others who want to advertise. If they don't like it, well tough! What is they gonna do about it? Moan and bitch? I say: "Snif!"2) NO contributions by ANY group. And Yes! that include unions, foreign govs, non-profit, Sierra Club and what have you. Nada! Zippo! Rien du tout!Why should we let other decide for us? Why should allow anyone, but us (the individual) to have more influence over those who govern on our behalf? It'll happen only if we decide that comfort, cooconing and plain laziness is better than taking charge.For the people, by the people.Francois
It's funny, I don't agree with the premise of this article at all, but at the same time I'm really glad Selena wrote it.I am personally of the opinion that corporate contributions to political causes or charities are evil. I don't think that it's evil for either group to *receive* the money, I think that it's wrong of managements to allocate their shareholders' capital in such a way without their consent. When I worked on Capitol Hill (with a lobbying group, no less) we would consistently host congressional members to discuss issues that were important to the industry that I was representing. You think that this would change once the laws changed? It would not. Industry groups are already quite adroit at setting up proxy "citizens' concerned about XXXX" groups, where citizens who actually agree with an industry position are used as a front to make the position seem more homegrown. It will not take any work at all for the trade associations to hire individuals to do the lobbying on their behalf, and make contributions on their behalf. Corporations are another form of special interest group. I am constantly amazed by the way that these groups are adroit at framing their narrow interests as being "good for the American worker" and other such nonsense. But the funding of Congressional campaigns is a form of free speech, and thus cannot and should not be abridged in this way. Let me turn this another way -- a large portion of the taxes generated in this country come from corporations. One of the reasons that corporations are afforded the right to make their collective opinions known to governmental leaders is the fact that they are taxpaying entities. Corporations, of course, cannot vote. Should we also restrict their abilities to make their interests known or to support leaders that have their best interests at heart? If so, does any jurisdiction have any right at all to tax corporations, since they are not afforded any voice in the political process?Seriously -- I've seen the system work from the inside and it made me want to puke. But as with any seemingly righteous change in policy, we have to make sure that the treatment is not worse than the problem. What are unions, anyway? They are groups of like-minded individuals. At what point does a group united in a cause make the transition from being "well organized" to being a formal entity? Where are you fixing the political process and where are you restricting someone's right of free speech? The solution is just not that simple.Bill Mann
2) NO contributions by ANY group. And Yes! that include unions, foreigngovs, non-profit, Sierra Club and what have you. Nada! Zippo! Riendu tout!That was my major question. If the corporations are so scary in the amount they donate, what about unions? The NEA is one of the largest unions in the world, and they can esily make it so that the donations they give are individual instead of simply as a PAC (which they also do). GWB said something in reference to the corporate scandals of recent, but it is applicable to politicians also. "We can't make them honest, we can only make laws to punish them if they are dishonest."Unfortunately, there will always be someone that figures out a way around the laws. Maybe the campaign finance reform bill needs to be worded along the lines of RICO. "You are doing something wrong, we don't know exactly what it is, but you are doing something illegal."
TMFOtter said: "I am personally of the opinion that corporate contributions to political causes or charities are evil. I don't think that it's evil for either group to *receive* the money, I think that it's wrong of managements to allocate their shareholders' capital in such a way without their consent."Right on! This is where things can be changed by TMF members and, if it takes some shareholder lawsuits to make it happen, so be it. Every US publicly held corporation should be required to post instantly any political contributions they make. Politicians can be allowed a little more flexibility--post the contribution before the check is deposited. (And of course, if the donation is in cash, instant posting by both is required...) Also it should be obvious that aggregate amounts tell nothing. The information needed is who the money goes to and why. If corporation A gives money to "trade organization" B, which donates money to political party C that funds candidates D, E, F, and G. You either rely on Common Cause or other public interest groups to distribute the credit and blame, or require that the original donor track the money. (I like that option for a different reason...the company--and its stockholders--should know exactly what they are getting for their money. Right now, they often don't.)This would certainly decrease the acceptance of funds by incumbents who would worry about the damage done just before the next election. In many other cases, neither the corporation or the politician would have anything to appologize for, which is fine. Funds from tobacco companies might stain a politician from California, but be seen as a recommendation by many tobacco farmers in North Carolina. Also, a lot more money would go to opponents of incumbents who take action against the company or its interests. Fine, more money for challengers would make the overall political process more balanced.Oh, and you notice the real fun thing about this, which is starting to happen already. Corporations giving money to crooked politicians could expect trouble at their annual meetings, and politicians taking money from companies like Enron and Global Crossing would find out that such deals are very much a two way street.The trick, and it is always the problem when trying to make any organization composed of humans work, is that the responsibility has to go with the authority, and vice-versa. There are lots of ways to do this wrong, but any organization that doesn't have this principle at its core will fail. Right now, politicans are not accountable for money they recieve from corporations, and corporations have been totally uncontrolled in this area. No wonder it has gotten completely out of hand. We have no one to blame but ourselves as stockholders, and ourselves as voters. If we don't hold the politicans and corporate executives accountable, who will?
Kind of reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt. I can't recall who the statement is attributed to, but one corporate figure was quoted as saying, "We bought the bastard, but he didn't stay bought!"TR never got reelected, but his face is on Mt. Rushmore along with other honorable Presidents.-----------------------------------------------------------------------Yupper, remember that "remark" but can't attribute it correctly (not enough motivation to do the research <g>).However TR WAS elected on his own and served almost a full eight years, as McKinley was assassinated only 8 ? months into his term (TR was VP). Was enough time to become the Nation's first "Trust Buster", "create the National Parks system", become the first "Imperial President" of the US, & to build the Panama Canal at the same time. Nothing breeds success quite like success IMHO.KBM
Kind of reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt. I can't recall who the statement is attributed to, but one corporate figure was quoted as saying, "We bought the bastard, but he didn't stay bought!"I'm going to venture an educated guess and say either an exec of Standard Oil or Rockefeller himself.I seem to remember from the book Titan I read a while back that S.O. originally supported him for the election, thinking he'd be "cool" with the whole monopoly thing -- but Teddy eventually ended up pulling a fierce 180 on them.But it really didn't matter. Not much changed after the break-up, except for the fact, as some may know, that it only made Rockefeller even richer than you could imagine, basically tripling his wealth overnight.
Well, I'll chime in briefly in opposition to Selena's point.The American people conduct most of their economic activity through corporations. Virtually no one runs their business as an individual enterprise (or "sole proprietorship"); even folks that work for themselves have usually set up a corporate shell that they are nominally employed by. But the real core of American business is transacted through the corporate form. Chances are that 90% or more of the economic transactions you conduct are with a corporation.It's not just limited to businesses, either, but countless other aspects of American life. Most charitable activities are organized through corporations, including many churches and synagogues and other eleemosynary institutions.(Actually, I've been referring to "corporations," but really I'm talking about the whole panoply of artificial entities: corporations, l.l.c.'s, partnerships, and general partnerships)It's simply inefficient, and thoroughly unreasonable, to exclude so large and important a segment of our society from participation in the political process. And I'm surprised to see that type of position taken on the Fool, which normally is such a staunch advocate of the individual investor.Suppose big bad Philip Morris wishes to participate in the upcoming California "no-smoking" referendum. They want to do $50K or $100K of media buys. It might be populist to suggest that each of the many hundreds of thousands of individual MO shareholders should each kick in a couple of pennies - but realistically, there's no practical mechanism for doing so. For large corporations - heck, even for smaller companies - there is no efficient mechanism for collective action in the interests of the shareholders outside of acting through the corporate form. Transaction costs and free rider problems preclude any meaningful activity. That's why the corporate form exists in the first place - to eliminate those problems.I also disagree with Bill's suggestion that shareholder approval is necessary before allocating capital in this fashion. Management makes all kinds of capital allocation decisions without checking with the shareholders. Again, delegated management exists because coordinated activity among large number of shareholders cannot be efficiently implemented. If the shareholders disagree with the effectiveness of management's capital allocation decisions, then there is a mechanism for expressing that. Quite frankly, given the portrayal of the political process in the press, it appears that for most companies the allocation of capital to the political process is the only thing that management is getting right.It is naive to suggest that business interests can participate in the political process through means other than donating money. Virtually everything you might suggest as such an alternative is usually deemed an "in-kind" contribution, and would be barred along with corporate donations. That includes mailers, organizing rallies or events, or printing and posting signs. Put simply, the only effective way that shareholders can advance their business interests as shareholders is through the corporate form.Here in Miami-Dade, we do not permit corporate donations to local elections. As a result, most political fund-raising is conducted by gathering smallish groups of high net-worth individuals. Once organizations cannot participate, the only source for efficient fund-raising is the individual who can afford a large contribution. Many organizations that might be able to make meaningful contributions as organizations, but who are not comprised of wealthy individuals, get shut out of the process. It has not worked out well.Albaby
OK Selena, let's cut out the corporate gifting to politicians/parties. And while we're at it, let's also cut out gifts by trade unions, special interest groups, and any other organization. While I don't agree always with the position taken by business, I also don't generally agree with what trade unions want from a company I hold stock in - it costs me money, and capitalism is what drives the system. When I was a school teacher, NEA gave mucho bucks to the Democrats. I didn't generally agree with the candidates they backed, but had no choice in whether or not my money was given.
And I'm surprised to see that type of position taken on the Fool, which normally is such a staunch advocate of the individual investor.From just 2 1/2 days ago on this very board..."In general, the Fool on the Hill space has been where people have expressed their own opinions."-TMFOtterhttp://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=17914763It is an opinion of one person.Besides, you'd be surprised at just how much public disagreement there is on countless subjects between TMF'ers -- including between the Brothers G.And considering we can't see and hear everything that goes on behind the scenes, I'm sure what is available to us is only the tip of the iceberg.
jcm1313. "If we were to ban corporations from political spending, it would give more weight to foreign governments and special interest groups." When I said special interest groups in this line, I meant that to be excluding corporations. Groups that are joined by donation or membership i.e AARP, NRA, PETA, etc, rather than corporate ownership. Also, I did not say foreign governments influence our elections. However, foreign companies do have lobbiests, and influence might be exerted through them. Maybe Bill Mann (TMF Otter) could give us some input on this. Can foreign governments contribute to political campaigns, or lobbiests directly? "I would point out that it also doesn't say ""from the consent of the radical special interest groups whose opinions deviate from the vast majority of Americans" I don't have a problem with special interest groups. I'm a member of a union that makes political contributions, and I contribute to other groups that may use the funds for political influence. I can understand how I may have misled you, as I used inflamatory language to make my point as follows. "Eliminating political contributions would have to be an all or nothing thing to maintain balance." Put another way, if you prohibit corporate interest groups from political spending, other special interest groups should also be prohibited from political spending. If the oil companies can't lobby to drill Alaska, the Sierra club shouldn't be allowed to lobby against it. All sides should be heard from. That being said, I feel there is inequity in political spending. Campaign reform needs to address this issue. Finally, after rereading my comment on politicians,it does appear rather cynical. I wrote it toungue in cheek, with a sly grin and a smiley face drawn after the final sentence! I hope this clarifies my point. Thanks for your response! goldenbb
"Why should politicians be able to raise any more funds than they can earn as a salary while holding their position?"Yikes, that would guarantee that incumbent politicians would be vulnerable to independently wealthy challengers. Even if every one of their constituents thought their Congressman was doing a great job and wanted to give him/her money to stay in office and keep solving problems, they couldn't do it."It would be great if we could somehoe (sic) equalize things a bit, perhaps setting a small maximum TV spending limit, for example."This would guarantee that anyone with a high name I.D. before entering the race would have a huge advantage, since you are artificially constraining people's ability to deploy money to raise their profiles. On the bright side, it would provide us with a tremendous number of movie stars, sportscasters and other deep thinkers as our national leaders."TR never got reelected, but his face is on Mt. Rushmore along with other honorable Presidents."A not-so-subtle feature of Teddy Roosevelt's political strategy was that he, as a person of privilege who grew up in coveted social circles, spent a tremendous amount of time courting the owners of newspapers and the American aristocracy at the time, which controlled the publication of "news." This tactic enable him to artificially raise his public profile, to the detriment of others. I wouldn't be so quick to hold him out as the champion of the little guy. Even though he was a tremendous personality."We have no one to blame but ourselves as stockholders, and ourselves as voters. If we don't hold the politicans and corporate executives accountable, who will?"Amen
What ever happened to maximizing free speech and educating the voters. What special interest groups donate to politicians in one form or another is correlated to the power that government can exercise over their fates. In today's political environment, placing more and more restrictions on the donations and speech of organizations and individuals will be met with more ingenious ways for these special interests groups to protect their territory. The final solution would then appear to be taxpayer financed campaigns with major restrictions on free speech. In a democracy that constitutionally protects free speech and with a voting public appalled by the large campaign expenditures, one would think that those politicians that take the larger donations from special interests groups would be voted out of office and the public sentiment would gradually encourage those who oppose such contributions to enter the fray. What was the answer to term limits for politicians? Vote them out of office after X years if that is what you as a voter favor.Quite frankly your efforts and blame are misplaced. It is the voter who must understand that bigger and more restrictive government encourages efforts from the controlled to steer that control in their favor and by whatever means available. The voter is to blame for not showing their dissatisfaction with the current situation at the polls. I think most of the real frustration is with the voters who apparently are not all that upset with the existing situation. But then I do not believe you will hear politicians calling the voters to account in these matters or, for that matter, a politically correct media. It is easier to legislate some restrictions so we can all feel good about the situation. And if politicians break this law, we will slap their wrists and mumble something about how they all do it.Regards,fingfool
Efforts to limit spending in political campaigns are misdirected, in my opinion. The federal government controls an annual budget of $2 Trillion. Laws and regulations affect the competitive environment of the largest economy in the world. Attempting to write and enforce campaign finance laws to control this behemoth is a bit like trying to pen an elephant in your living room using silly string. It just can't be done, and the only solution is to banish the elephant before the whole house collapses.Politicians will always be corruptible and there will always be special interests willing to pony up cash in exchange for favored treatment. The hope of the little guy is to limit our government to controlling only those things specifically granted in the Constitution. The feds should defend the homeland, print the money, and protect the rights and property of the individual if the State government fails to do so. All the rest of it, from $100,000 pork barrel projects benefiting an individual politician to $100 Billion 'entitlement' programs that enthrall millions of voters, should be devolved back to the States or left up to the private citizen as specified in the Tenth Amendment. This can't happen overnight, obviously. It took almost a century to get from the passage of a federal income tax to a $2 Trillion dollar budget. I hope it won't take as long to rein in the government elephant, but as long as he is in the house, getting more silly string won't save us.
But the funding of Congressional campaigns is a form of free speech, and thus cannot and should not be abridged in this way.I really have a philosophical problem with that statement. I know about the Supreme Court decision ( It was Buckley vs ...help!) stating basically that "money is free speech". Therfore, less or no money is less or no free speech.Is that really what the American people want?Francois
When we compare donations to political campaigns from years past to today, and see that things were "so much better" then, we forget that the power of the federal government was so much more limited back then. It was only as the government gave to itself the ability to interfere with the economy and with individual lives in a much larger fashion that the growth of special interests occurred.Limit the ability of government to muck around with the economy and our individual freedoms and you will limit the amount the corporations--and individuals--will want to contribute to politicians. Everyone now wants to make sure it's someone else's bull that's being gored, but if government were once again restrained we'd see a lot less "influence peddling." Sadly, now that the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's very hard to get it back in.Thanks, Selena, for getting us all wound up! ;)Rich
Text of email sent to my Congressional Reps. on 25 Sep.One of the great strengths of the Constitution is the recogniton of the rights of the individual against the tyranny of the group. Corporations are not constitutionally enfranchised with the power of the vote but have, through power of the lobby and compaign contributions, usurped power from Constitutionally empowered Citizens and individual owners of public corporate entities.I am concerned that attempts are being made to weaken the Sarbanes-Oxley Act by lobbyists pursuing the narrow interests of corporate sponsors. Specifically as of this writing regarding loans to corporate officers. The language prohibiting such loans is coincident with the interests of the owners of public corporations.Corporations whose efforts often contradict the needs and desires of their true owners are not the true constituents of elected representatives and by these efforts show their true and rather antisocial and perhaps un-American tendencies. This activity is not only an insult to but is also a cancer in the integrity of the legislative process. Of course, I know that you are aware that the only entities to which elected representative are accountable are the voting individuals from their respective States and Districts but the perception of venal corruption taints honorable members of Congress whenever the interest of Corporations are served over the needs and desires of the Electorate. This is eroding confidence in the performance of our Capitalist Democratic Republic.I respectfully urge you to stand against this progressive shift in the balance of power, not only in this instance but in EVERY instance when the needs and desires of the duly empowered citizens are thwarted by the narrow interests of corporations who do not have the rights of individuals so granted by the Founding Fathers.
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