Joe Trippi Feels My Pain

February 5th, 2009at 07:20am Posted by Eli

This is something that really, really bugs me:

Let’s face it – there is a reason why big corporations are willing to pay good people millions to influence government. They know it will be worth their while, financially. Right now, millions in campaign contributions coupled with millions spent on lobbying can result in billions worth of payback for special interests. It’s all legal. And being part of that system is irresistible to many who retire from Congress after years of public service.

But there are some big losers in that equation: The public. The American people have lost faith in a system dominated by money. We don’t have lobbyists looking out for the public good. And when non-profit groups do send liaisons to congressional offices, they don’t have the same clout as a lobbyist who can put together a $50,000 fundraiser later that evening.

As the $700 billion Wall Street bailout got debated before the 2008 election, constituents had plenty to say – placing thousands of calls and writing thousands of letters to congressional offices. The problem was that Congress wasn’t listening. Members of Congress (not “men”) were busy calling the same special interests that got our economy into this mess, listening to their requests and begging them for $2,300 checks.

The result was a bailout with no strings attached–taxpayer money that could be legally spent on bonuses, office redecorations, and airplanes. And the same special interests who cut the campaign checks back then are lobbying Congress now, begging for more handouts. Once again, the ones with disproportionate influence in this debate are the public.

We ordinary people have many more votes than rich people and corporations, yet we have no voice at all, even within what is supposedly our own party.  We can call and write until we’re blue in the face, and all our efforts can be trumped by cash infusions that we can’t match.  The money that politicians use to woo voters has become far more important than the voters themselves, and that’s undemocratic and wrong.

Trippi identifies a root cause and a possible solution, but I’m not sure whether it’ll work or not – even if it can be implemented, will the Democrats care?

The power of small-dollar donors was proven in the 2008 election like never before, and the incentives are beginning to realign in a way that promotes politicians catering to the little guy, not the big guy.

But there’s one snag. If politicians know that they can depend on small-dollar donors giving online while asking nothing concrete in return, and politicians can still take special interest cash that depends on results, the incentives remain wrong. Politicians will take the little guy’s money while still being disproportionately influenced by special interests.

That’s why the reform group I started with Lawrence Lessig, called Change Congress, launched a “donor strike” last month. In just a few weeks, 6,300 people who gave a combined $750,000 last election cycle promised not to give a penny more to federal candidates who don’t support the bipartisan Durbin-Specter bill which would fundamentally reform the system.


Every week, thousands of new people join the strike and give politicians a choice: you can have our money, the people’s money, or special-interest money, but you can no longer have both.

Given the choice, I kinda suspect that politicians will choose corporate money.  There’s a lot fewer points of contact, and they’re easier to please.  I still like the idea of withholding money from Democrats who betray us, though.  If they lose elections because of it, too bad.  They weren’t representing us anyway.

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Wankers

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