Sunday, February 24, 2008

Campaign Video of the Day -- February 24, 2008

Today's campaign video is from BarackObamadotcom and is a passage from the last debate about what he thinks is wrong with Washington. Part of the reality he abhors is the pervasive influence of special interests.

If you listen to Obama you will learn that not even he wants to totally end the special interests. He wants to find a place at the table for the rest of us who can't afford our own Vicki Iseman. He is probably right. The most we can hope for is to carve out a seat at table for regular folks. Even that might be a hope too far.

Today's video is called How we bring about the change we seek. I don't know if Obama's approach will be successful. Sometimes you just have to go into the stable and muck it out.

More commentary and today's Campaign Video after the break.

The perceived Washington corruption that most Americans hate is derived directly from the series of Supreme Court free speech decisions holding that it is perfectly OK to bribe a Congressman or Senator so long as the bribes are called campaign donations and are tied to "access" rather than specific votes. The way our current system works requires that every election cycle every Congressman and Senator take millions of dollars in the form of these legal bribes because to be re-elected they are required to pay millions to the mainstream media industry for advertising spots. In a way Congressmen and Senators are little more than bag men for NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and all those holier than thou newspapers.

The lobbying industry, of which Vicki Iseman is a part, has grown fat these last decades making sure the legal bribes that are ultimately used to pay Tim Russert's salary go smoothly. Since lobbyists are capitalists, the best ones demand the highest fees. Vicki Iseman and her firm are among the best. Only the richest corporations can afford the highest fees. The lobbyists promise "access." The client gains special access to make its case to the elected official. Lobbyists never openly promise results in the form of a vote. That would be illegal.

Businessmen don't give a crap about access. They want results. The results provided by the highest paid lobbyists are often better than one would expect if we were just talking about arranging face to face meetings. It is a miracle.

Well, it is widely known that some Congressmen and Senators cheat. Some are open to take more in the way of bribes than the law allows. Sometimes the bribes are not in the form of campaign donations. Sometimes, some lobbyist, to remain competitive, funnels money or services to a Congressman or Senator personally. Some Senators and Congressmen privately let it be known that more than access is for sale. Duke Cunningham is serving serious time in the Federal slammer for crossing the line to the illegal side.

The line between legal bribery and illegal bribery is very fine and sometimes convoluted. Somethings you might consider illegal. For example, plane rides on private jets so the Senator doesn't have to rub shoulders with the riff raff in airline first class were once considered legal. Now they are considered legal only if the Senator sends a check in the amount of the price of a first class ticket to the corporation. The corporation is still spending $4,000 to $10,000 per hour to operate its private jet, but the Senator is only required to pay 1/10th that amount or so.

Old straight talk John McCain has made his reputation claiming he is opposed to the current pay for access system. He might be, but in his day to day operations he seems to have embraced the current Washington system completely. His top advisors are all top drawer lobbyists. His causes just seem to fit the needs of the clients of those lobbyists exactly. His votes always seem to reflect the views of the businessmen who have purchased access from his closest advisors. Whether he has violated the law since the Keating Five is unknown. What is known for sure is he talks like a maverick reformer, but plays the game like he is legally bought and paid for.

Hillary Clinton also moves easily in the Washington insider world. Frankly, every Senator and Representative has to become somewhat comfortable with the legal side of the Washington bribery system if they want to be re-elected. No doubt Obama has had occasional ties to lobbyists. He hasn't really been there long enough to have developed the kinds of connections John McCain and Hillary Clinton take for granted, but he sure does seem to know the rules. That is why he doesn't offer you and me more than a seat at the access table. He has apparently gotten "real."

If you encounter a campaign video in need of broader play, please email the link to subject campaign video of the day.