Lawmakers – show us your bank accounts in real time
We are all being played. The state has a professional political class and what they want is to get into office and stay there. In order to understand the game that is surely afoot, just ask yourself what you would do if you were one of them. You’d create a set of rules which would keep you in and your competitors out. You’d do this by collecting as much money as you could. Remember, if someone wants something from government, they give money to politicians, most of whom spend an inordinate amount of the time reaching out to major donors by telephone or in person. It would, of course, be a crime if Mr. X of the Y Corporation said, “If you help me get this deal through, I’ll give you money.” If Preet Bhahara, the crusading U.S. Attorney, happened to record you in the process of doing this, you’d go to jail. Most of the time, however, both the politician and the donor have an understanding. Since it is illegal to vocalize the quid pro quo with such an agreement, it is simply understood. Mr. Y gives the money to politician X and X honors the agreement down the road by giving Y what he wants.
The game gets even more complicated because we have five conservative justices on our Supreme Court who appear determined to keep conservatives in power in this country. They seem to want to give the corporate types anything they want. They want the people with the most to be able to contribute as much money as they like with no limits. They declare that corporations are people and they render most of the sensible campaign laws limiting amounts people can give null and void. They make fair elections close to impossible. Vast war chests with unimaginable amounts of money in them are assembled. We talk a good game about democracy but it isn’t happening.
So how do we change things so the citizens have a chance? First of all, we impose term limits on these politicians, just as we have done with the president of the United States. Then we do the most important thing of all — we open up the books, real time. The MINUTE a politician receives a donation, the name of the donor and the exact amount of the donation is recorded and available online. None of this phony baloney stuff where we are told weeks and months later that some politician got some money in some obscure reporting system that leads you to scratch your head with your eyes glazed over. No, the minute that money hits the bank, it comes up on our computer screens just as it does when we put money in our own bank accounts and check our balance online.
To illustrate this, take the current fight over who gets to build gambling casinos in New York state. Remember what happened after we got cable television? There was a big fight about who could exclusively build cable systems in which parts of the state. Today it’s gambling. The various contestants want politicians’ help in building the morally indefensible gambling houses so they give some of them money. I don’t want to know who got what six months from now — I want to know the minute the check clears. I want to know who got what they paid for. I want to be able to add one and one and know who’s on the legal but immoral “take.”
A plan like this is guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of insider politicians on all levels. Just look at the amounts of money they have in their war chests and you’ll want to know who gave them the dough. The sooner we can all get right online to see who got what TODAY, the sooner we will bring this ugly farce to an end. No matter what they say, don’t believe them until they show us their bank accounts in real time.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 4/28/14