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Friday, June 1, 2012

Money in politics: Depends on who receives it

by Sonny Bunch | May 15, 2012
photo by iChaz on Flickr
Money in politics corrupts, and huge sums of money corrupt hugely. At least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe.
Think tanks have popped up to ensure we have a democracy where “the will and concerns of the people aren’t drowned out by the financial influence of the few.” Newspaper editorials decry the fact that there is “one key that always fits Washington’s locks: a big campaign check” and worry that “the appearance that money is being traded for access” is more than just an appearance. Bloggers with national perches pine for sensible reforms that “would clearly make for a fairer democratic process.”
It’s funny: These voices have all been muted in the wake of President Obama’s flip flop on gay marriage.
Make no mistake. Obama’s “evolution”—or, at the very least, the timing of its announcement—comes in large part because the president was having trouble raising money. This is no secret to the American people, two-thirds of whom think that Obama’s step up Darwin’s ladder was prompted by politics and not doing the right thing.
An analysis of the president’s largest fundraisers showed that one in six is gay. The payoff for the president’s leap was obvious and immediate: “I think that this statement by the president expressing his personal support for same-sex marriage is going to make my life immeasurably easier raising money from LGBT donors and progressives in general.”
That was John Cooper, a bundler for Obama. He was not alone: reversing course on the issue netted the Obama campaign a near-instantaneous cash infusion of more than $1 million. Donors came crawling out of the woodwork to show their appreciation: “People I’ve been seeking out for campaign support for months have been calling me saying, `I’m ready to give,’” according to Obama bundler Robert Zimmerman.
For the record, I’m happy that the president has discovered the latent mutant power of flip-flopping for material gain. Bully for him; evolution often takes us down some weird paths. Just ask the X-Men.
I’m simply amused that the punditocracy has decided that big money in politics is no big deal after all. At least, when it’s an issue they agree with.
Efforts to keep money out of politics are efforts to stifle debate. They are efforts to shut down those you disagree with, to drown out the voices of those who don’t have access to editorial pages or news broadcasts. They take us down dark, dystopian paths where lawyers for the government—and future Supreme Court justices—argue that the government should have the right to ban political books.
But we only try to stifle the debate of those we disagree with.
This is why the left is so vociferous in their denunciations of “big business” or ALEC or the Koch Brothers, or whichever other bogeyman is trying to change things in a way that the left doesn’t like. We can’t let the money influence our politics, because of corruption and stuff!
When it comes to liberal priorities, however, no worries.
Consider green energy. We’re often told that big coal’s money is to be shunned—or shut off entirely. But no one ever thinks the same about green energy. The left rarely flips its lid when green energy companies rake in billions in government money after spending millions donating to political campaigns and lobbying for federal money.
The wealthy can’t possibly be profiting off of environmentally friendly projects, so no one questionswhy huge donors to Obama who own huge chunks of green energy companies receive huge amounts of federal money to pursue their business endeavors.
No one says peep when the Democratic National Convention receives a hefty chunk of funding and a huge line of credit from a company that received almost a quarter of a billion dollars in loan guarantees from the federal government for green energy projects.
Perhaps big money in big politics isn’t such a big deal after all?
Sonny Bunch is managing editor of The Washington Free Beacon. He blogs about culture and politics at