If you're the CEO of a large, transnational corporation, life has never been better.
According to a new study by the Sunlight Foundation, between
2007-2012, the nation's 200 most politically active corporations
received $760 for every $1 they donated to influence politics. Those
corporations have spent a combined $5.8 billion on campaign
contributions and federal lobbying expenditures and have received $4.4
trillion in return. If the game is reaping rocket-high profits,
Washington is the perfect playing field.
By investing so heavily in politics, the 200 corporations, or the
Fixed Fortune 200, have been able to inject themselves into government
decisions, benefitting their companies at unprecedented levels. Those
companies have been successful in squeezing out federal loans, expanding
particular programs, and getting contracts from the officials they
helped get elected. It's a win-win for the corporations and their
The Fixed Fortune 200 are a diverse group, ranging from corporations
in different sectors including finance, insurance, real estate, defense,
agribusiness, energy and transportation, among others. In what seems to
be a quid pro quo arrangement, the government and the corporations
mutually benefit from these astronomical returns (more money in the
pockets of CEOs means more money for politicians during the election
Although the Fixed Fortune 200 account for 1 percent only of all
lobbying clients, the 200 corporations are responsible for about 26
percent of the total amount spent on lobbying expenditures. This chunk
of change ($5.2 billion) has gone toward establishing relationships and
influencing the legislatures that write the laws that could either favor
or oppose their interests.
For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield, a politically active corporation
ranking 18th on the list of 200, has its own provision in a tax code,
saving the company as much as $1 billion every year. New York Life and
Pacific Mutual, ranking 20th and 189th respectively, are granted tax
breaks that save insurance companies an estimated $30 billion a year,
with more than $3 billion going back to the companies. But it's not only
tax loopholes that are saving the Fixed Fortune large sums of capital;
federal contracts and handouts pervade the system, as well.
Of the $3 trillion the federal government issued in contracts between
2007-2012, the Fixed Fortune 200 earned $1 trillion. Under the Troubled
Asset Relief Program, the Treasury gave 16 of the Fixed Fortune $298
million. Additionally, the Federal Reserve gave 29 corporations $2.8
trillion. Evidently, higher participation rates among corporations in
politics result in a greater return on their investments.
And Congress keeps finding more ways to make it easier for them to invest.
The recent spending bill, affectionately referred to as Cromnibus
(for combining a long-term omnibus spending bill with a short-term
continuing resolution) is a perfect example of the Congressional will to
increase the flow of money in politics. Cromnibus contains
a provision that will drastically expand the amount of money extremely
wealthy donors can contribute to the national parties, virtually
dissolving the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. These donors will
now be able to give 10 times the amount they were previously allowed to
give. As if big money in politics had not been a problem before.
This is great news for you CEOs out there, not just for national
politics, but also for state and local politics. But for local business
owners and citizens who care about the triple bottom line (people,
planet and profit), this presents a crisis for our democracy.
On average, per election cycle, the 200 corporations have spent a
considerable amount of money influencing the elections of 144 sitting
members of Congress. And the political contributions to those
Congressmen are hitting home, literally. Of the 200 companies, 174 were
granted subsidies from state and local governments.
Big money is taking over American democracy. And it's only getting
worse. It's incentivizing politicians to write legislation in favor of
their donors, not their voters. That's not democracy: that's corruption.
But there's hope. There is a growing grassroots movement across the
country. Almost 5 million people have signed a petition calling for a
Constitutional amendment to end the big money dominance of our
elections. Sixteen states, more than 600 cities and towns and more than
200 members of Congress have joined this call for a 28th Amendment.
Almost every generation has amended the Constitution to protect and
expand our democracy. This is a battle our generation must wage.
Put that last paragraph out of your mind, it's a distraction, a mere reform. Where have the previous reforms got us so far? Would you say things have got better for the majority or that they're headed south? The battle all generations must wage - together - is one of control, control of the system. Only a total removal of the root cause of the challenges and problems we face daily will be good enough to make a world worth passing on to our next generations. Solidarity for World Socialism, People and Planet.