Zephyr Teachout Schools The DC Political Establishment About What Bribery Means
Congressmen Alan Grayson (D) and David Jolly (R) are running against each other for the open Florida Senate seat but are also co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit federal elected officials from soliciting campaign donations-- which everyone in DC knows are bribes. Yes, bribes, but bribes redefined in such a way as to keep those who write the laws and those who underwrite their careers out of prison. The video above, an ad running in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo from the Bill Ostrander for Congress campaign hones in on the abstract messaging around "campaign finance reform" and bolsters what Jolly told a 60 Minutes audience a few weeks ago-- a message frantically denied by the criminal elements at the NRCC-- that as soon as he was elected he was told he would have to spending enough hours per day dialing for dollars to raise $18,000... every.single.day. Forget working on reforms, legislation or even thinking about the country's problems congressmen are elected (and paid) to deal with; first and foremost they would have to call rich people, lobbyists, PACs and all kinds of special interests to do whatever it takes to get them to send money.
And in both parties, the Members of Congress willing to sell their souls most blatantly would be the ones who rise in power. Those unwilling to prostitute themselves, those who preferred to spend their time working on legislation would be shunned and relegated to the back-benches. On both sides of the aisle, criminally-minded characters devoid of moral scruples, advance rapidly up the ladder of power, setting a low tone for everyone else. That why the worst and most corrupt members of Congress-- Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Charlie Rangel (D-NY), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Jim Himes (D-CT), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Steve Israel (D-NY), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Patrick McHenry (R-NC)-- rise the most rapidly in the ranks and get into position to fill the party ranks with corruption-minded characters like themselves.
Chuck Schumer's fanatic sponsorship of Patrick Murphy is the most classic current example. The Finance Sector has given Schumer $24,710,208, more money than any other member of Congress in history other than 3 who ran for president. And, in return, Schumer has long delivered for and protected for Wall Street. Now he's doing everything in his power to drag the least effective, laziest, most corrupt and probably stupidest member of the House into the Senate on behalf of those same Wall Street interests. Murphy, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, has been the banksters' cat's paw among the House Democrats on the committee, advancing Wall Street's anti-regulation, anti-consumer agenda, while picking up money money from Wall Street this cycle than any other non-incumbent running for the Senate, $1,105,850 so far. Patrick Murphy is the definition of crass political bribery and, at Schumer's behest, the corrupt Beltway establishment has rallied around his cause, not despite his criminal bent but because of it.
Although raising money for Zephyr Teachout's congressional campaign, the DCCC and Hillary Clinton have kept as far from it as possible. NY-19 should be one of the most obvious seats the Democrats can pick up in the nation. Obama won it twice, the PVI is D+1, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans and the Republican incumbent is retiring. But the DCCC is studiously ignoring the district. They fear a smart-as-a-whip, independent-minded reformer like Zephyr Teachout, far more than they fear another corrupt Republican who speaks their lingo. Teachout's OpEd for yesterday's Washington Post makes it abundantly clear why Democratic Party powerbrokers like Steve Israel, Chuck Schumer and Jim Himes fear and loath her and would rather see a Republican win the seat. "Members of Congress," she wrote, spend the majority of their time fundraising from wealthy donors, learning the smallest details about donors’ lives-- at the expense of learning about the policy details most relevant to their legislative work. When they’re not fundraising, members may be anxious about meeting their fundraising quotas set by the national committees, or worried about offending the secret donors to powerful super PACs. This lurking fear undoubtedly shapes policy decisions, lest a wrong move trigger a deluge of attack ads from special interests." Zephyr Teachout is recognized by the party bosses as a threat to both party establishments and to the way Congress works (or doesn't work).
The Supreme Court has said that none of this is corrupt or corrupting. That defies law, history and logic. In a recent case Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “Any [campaign finance] regulation must instead target what we have called ‘quid pro quo’ corruption or its appearance. That Latin phrase captures the notion of a direct exchange of an official act for money.”Let's wander back down to Chuck Schumer's greasy little fledgling in Florida for a moment. As Alan Grayson pointed out this week, "No other politician in Florida-- Democrat or Republican-- has gained more financially than Patrick Murphy and his family has from doing business with Donald Trump. Patrick’s construction company still brags about its work to deliver Trump Royale and Trump Hollywood. Thanks in part to those deals, Patrick sits on millions of dollars in company stock that his daddy gave him, and Donald has parlayed those and other real estate deals into a Republican presidential nomination. So it’s fitting that these business partners are teaming up once again to push destructive conservative policies in Washington. Democrats know that none of us can afford more of the Trump-Murphy partnership. Just as Donald Trump has bragged about how he enticed Hillary Clinton to attend Trump’s wedding, you can expect Trump to brag about how he made Patrick Murphy fabulously wealthy (owning up to $5 million in company stock)-- without Patrick ever working a day in his life." This is the crook Schumer and the entire DC Democratic Establishment is trying to foist on Florida Democrats as "their" candidate-- and Wall Street is footing the bill for their efforts.
While quid pro quo is, in fact, a Latin phrase, that’s the extent of the rightness of his argument. The phrase comes from contract law, and traditionally was used to describe a relatively equal exchange between parties to a contract. It is not historically a phrase from corruption law. “Quid pro quo” appeared less than 100 times in all state and federal bribery and extortion cases before 1976. That year, Buckley v. Valeo struck down limits on campaign spending while upholding limits on campaign contributions. There, the Court used the phrase quid pro quo in passing. But the Roberts Court has clung to it, using it to narrow the definition of corruption and thus broaden the limits of what our representatives can do. This new standard is inappropriately limited and reveals an unrealistic view of the corruption in our politics.
Our founding generation understood that corruption happened whenever those in public power use public power for private ends. They also understood corruption as the central threat to the survival and flourishing of our country. During the Constitutional Convention, the Founding Fathers debated the corruption implications of dozens of Constitutional provisions, and George Mason described their job as protecting against corruption lest the country “be at an end.” Alexander Hamilton described the convention as a project in enacting “every practical obstacle to corruption and cabal.”
We know the Founders weren’t just talking about direct exchanges of money for official action, because as Professor Larry Lessig has shown, only five of the 325 mentions of “corruption” in the debates around the ratification of our Constitution referred to what would now be considered criminal bribery. The rest referred to instances where those in public power used that power for private, selfish ends. The fact that the narrow quid pro quo definition has replaced the traditional idea of corruption is not just bad history; it’s a dangerous misunderstanding.
The stakes are high. The quid pro quo understanding is vastly naïve, and Robert’s distortion of a critical term in our history has made a vocabulary fight into a constitutional crisis. It overturns laws that were designed to address truly dangerous big money forces.
Lobbyists have gained grotesque amounts of power in legislation, allowed to use campaign cash and the revolving door of political appointees to gain influence. According to the Court, as long as you don’t say magic words of exchange while talking to a lawmaker, your financial support is not corrupting, even if it sways legislation and policy. To add insult to injury, the Court is now-- in McDonnell v. US-- also considering narrowing traditional bribery laws as well, adding requirements before prosecutors can bring basic federal corruption charges. A tendency to constrain corruption in both campaign finance and criminal bribery law will lead citizens with few tools to fight a serious threat to our democratic culture.
It’s common sense that big money is corrupting: When corporations spend vast amounts of money, they do it because they they know that they can use that capital to exert their influence. A 2014 study by the Sunlight Foundation showed that $5.8 billion spent by corporations in lobbying and campaign contributions reaped some $4.4 trillion in federal business and subsidies for those corporations. They do it because it works.
But it doesn’t work for democracy. We need to revive the traditional understanding of corruption, overturn Citizens United and continue the long American fight for freedom from powerful interests.
What will that mean? First and foremost, it means public financing of elections, which Teddy Roosevelt called for long ago. Public financing allows candidates who show some threshold amount of public support to receive sufficient funding for their campaigns. Congressman John Sarbanes has introduced legislation that would match small contributions with public funds, and free candidates and officeholders from begging from big donors. This legislation would broaden and diversify democratic participation, in our voters and candidates alike.
Only with independence from outside interests can our representatives disentangle from the corruption of our current system.
Zephyr Teachout, Bill Ostrander, Alan Grayson... all on the Bernie Congress page, candidates dead serious about ending the corrosive and corrupt system that gives us a Congress despised by between 85 and 90% of Americans:
Labels: 2016 congressional races, Alan Grayson, Bill Ostrander, bribery, CA-24, campaign finance reform, Chuck Schumer, Culture of Corruption, DCCC, NY-19, Patrick Murphy, Senate 2016, Zephyr Teachout