Why political bribery is legal is much easier to understand than how it works.
The short of it is that state legislatures and the US Congress write the laws. They have made it illegal to bribe government officials so long as those government officials are not elected. Elected government officials cannot be bribed if the money is paid to them as campaign contributions. It is a loophole through which lobbyists and special interests could drive big rigs loaded with bales of cash.
The problem has become all the worse with the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision which held that corporations are persons entitled to use money in exercise of free speech and removed the limits on campaign donations.
Note: Many progressives are pushing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizen’s United decision, an absurd waste of time and energy, as even if successful, the result would be merely that we return to levels of bribery extant in 2010. Only adopting public financing of campaigns and banning private funding of candidates will eliminate corporate control of legislation and government.
Political bribery is much more nuanced than lobbyists delivering bags of cash for traded votes. Most candidates go hat in hand seeking campaign donations from interests they purport to agree with, and are pretty much under those donors’ thumbs from then on. Many elected officials will weigh the possibility of donors supporting primary or general election challengers should they waiver in obedience to them.
Most pernicious is the rationalizing of their votes and positions to comport with the positions of those with generous checkbooks.
The compounded effect of campaign bribes is the predictable and inexorable shift in loyalties by those in office from the constituencies who elect them to the constituencies who fund them.
The political rationale for this obvious flaw in the system is parroted by almost everyone on the take, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative alike. The defense is “name one instance where I changed my vote due to a campaign contribution.” The reason that votes were not changed is that they were bought-and-paid-for before they took office, and they have been towing the line for their masters ever since.
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