Op-Ed: Political Corruption and How to Kill It
by Andrew M. Horning
Unlike any other employer in the world, the average voter does not spend time and money to seek and research job applicants. Voters don’t pore over resumes or hold face-to-face interviews; too few even watch the too-few televised debates.
It’s the opposite. Most voters expect candidates to grab their attention with billboards, yard signs, radio spots, TV ads and lots of newspaper column inches. Candidates research voters, however, to target ads for maximum effect. They learn exactly how much it costs to buy your vote, because that adds up to a lot of money — more every year. “Viable” federal candidates must raise multiple millions now, or we’re told they have no chance of winning.
Do you know where that money comes from, and the effect that resulting government has on your life?
Let’s review one federal office; then you can imagine how this works across the nation with billions upon billions of dollars from local elections up to the U.S. President.
I ran for an Indiana U.S. Senate seat in 2012, which, after all the receipts were in, cost donors about $51 million. Almost $33 million of that came from groups outside of Indiana. In 2016 the Indiana U.S. Senate seat sold for over $75 million; almost $46 million of which came from groups outside Indiana. This upcoming U.S. Senate race is shaping up as much more costly still.
Though incumbents win over 90 percent of the time, the Democratic Party incumbent has already raised close to $7 million. On the Republican side, the “Defeat the Elite” candidate, who is himself a U.S. Congressman and has raised over $2 million so far, held a luxurious fundraiser for California elites. Another down-to-earth regular guy legislator threw in $800,000 of his own money for a job that pays $174K. Between 10 candidates so far, it’s already a $10-million race a full year before election day.
If you go to opensecrets.org, you can easily see that many mass donors like bank and securities groups, law firms, insurance and healthcare corporations give to multiple candidates across party lines.
Why? Because they don’t care so much who wins as they do that they made a good investment that will pay back many thousands of times over. It’s easy to connect millions in campaign donations with trillions in policy and law. It’s easy to see that this is why politicians say one thing to voters, and do another for their donors. That’s how they get hired —by you.
This is not a criticism of the candidates, power brokers and power-purchasers for the way they’re playing the system. It’s not their system. It’s yours.
Our founders bequeathed us elections not as passive hiring processes but as the means of peaceful revolution. Politicians hire themselves if you let them. Elections are about firing politicians.
But again, federal reelection rates have shot up to well-over 90 percent even as approval rates sank into single digits. Politicians and those who purchase them can see this absurd dichotomy, of course. And they see that over 90 percent of voters never vote against this puppet show.
So, if the political players can assume that over 90 percent of us are satisfied with this madness, they can concentrate on that very profitable business of special deals for special people; robbing Peter to pay Paul.
You are not Paul, by the way.
While money has become the fuel of winning political campaigns, let’s stop fooling ourselves about their modus operandi. It’s corruption. Unless you’re among the less than 10 percent who ever vote against it, you’re considered willing participants.
You, as a voter, are supposed to fix this. The good news is that it’s easy to do. If you want politicians who won’t sell you out, quit electing the ones who’ve already been bought.
Andrew M. Horning is an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation who lives in Freedom, Ind. He writes on classical-liberal topics and is an expert on the federal and state constitutions.