CALL IT BRIBERY
It is election year. The country is expressing its hunger for better representation in government by coming out in support of the candidates in record numbers. When its over, a new president elected, he or she will then be faced with expressing the people's will through the Byzantine halls of Congress.
With polls showing a strong movement away from war, toward domestic development of alternative energy resources one would expect swift and concerted action from our elected officials. The country is ready to disentangle from our misadventure in the Middle East and boost our economy out of the bottomless pit of military spending, (now approaching a trillion dollars per year) the profits from which accrue to a very few; the cost of which is thrusting more and more people into poverty.
But what can we realistically expect? Will a system which permits corporate interests to lobby with the same constitutional guarantees and protections of real people, once again put fossil fuel and military contract profits ahead of the people's will to get past this terrible bind? When a corporation or coalition of corporations can gin up the money to practically guarantee the election or re-election of a representative, who is the representative going to listen to?
BRIBERY is a crime. Black's Law Dictionary defines it as "the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in discharge of a public or legal duty. It may be any money, good, right in action, property, preferment, privilege, emolument, object of value, advantage, or merely a promise or undertaking to induce or influence the action, vote, or influence of a person in an official or public capacity."
LOBBYING, on the other hand, is not considered a crime, when, according to the Supreme Court in Rumely v. United States it is confined to "indirect lobbying by the pressure of public opinion on the Congress.. That is not an evil; it is a good, the healthy essence of the democratic process. . . ." However, they go on to say, "We agree that lobbying by personal contact may be an evil and a potential danger to the best in legislative processes."
Somehow, corporations have been able to circumvent this restriction by various means; PACS, coerced donations from employees, working through foundations, fielding thousands of lobbyists, wielding far more power than the greater body of citizens who, after all, are the recipients of policies thus influenced. And this is not the crime of bribery?
Election reform, removing all sources of funding other than public, becomes very, very attractive. In that case, the corporations and wealthy, influential individuals, would have to stand in line with the rest of us to be heard.
There are those who would argue that the collective citizenry doesn't know what's good for it; that certain well-funded think tanks representing business, academia, certain ideologies, know better. Maybe so. But I would suggest that they, too, stand in line, engage in honest dialogue with all of us, try to persuade without taking the shortcut of coercing, bribing, our representatives.