Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Follow the money

It’s been a few weeks since the country was in an uproar over bonuses paid to AIG executives after company had received of a large chunk of taxpayer’s money. It was eventually disclosed that the clause put into the agreement with AIG that authorized the bonuses was put there by Senator Chris Dodd (D) CT. He initially denied being the culprit until it was proven. Then he owned up, meaning he had been caught in a lie, but claimed that he had been ordered to do so by the White House. Naturally, the White House denied it. While I’m sure it was a mere coincidence, AIG gave Senator Dodd $103,100 in campaign donations. An even bigger coincidence is that AIG also gave then Senator Obama $100,332. These things happen all the time. Politicians receive large campaign donations from certain donors and then something good happens to the donors as a result of federal legislation or other action. Is it magic, or is it something else? While I certainly wouldn’t intentionally besmudge the escutcheons of our honorable elected officials, it would seem that such things happen all too often to be just chance.

Another seemingly strange thing that happens to many long-term elected officials in Washington is that they arrive with very little money and retire wealthy. I think many, if not most, get into it thinking they can make a difference. But once in office, they become addicted to the power. Almost any politician that makes it to the national level can become very wealthy if so inclined—and they are.

In a March 2008 Reuters News Agency article, Kevin Drawbaugh wrote, “The personal wealth of members of the U.S. Congress has soared in recent years, leaving lawmakers on average far more well-to-do than most Americans as of 2006, said a study on Thursday.
The median net worth of senators was estimated at $1.7 million and House of Representatives members at $675,000, said the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog group that monitors the influence of money on government.
The center released a report saying that until the recent economic slowdown, lawmakers ‘enjoyed an extraordinary run in their personal investments and other finances.’
The report said, ‘Members of Congress, who are now paid about $169,000 annually, saw their net worths soar 84 percent from 2004 to 2006, on average.
They have millions of dollars invested in politically influential industries that they also regulate," such as real estate, banking, pharmaceuticals and energy, the center said.’"

Although it will never happen, it would be a good idea to require elected members of congress and former elected officials serving in the current administration to dress in uniforms similar to NASCAR race car drivers. Like racers with patches of their sponsors sewn all over their fire suits, the politicians would have to display patches showing logos of their major campaign contributors. Once those we have entrusted to run the country are suitably credentialed, it would become easier to understand that the reason why certain new laws seem to benefit certain companies is neither magic nor coincidence. It would be easier to follow the money.