Friday, October 07, 2016

The real criminals get to vote

One in 40 Americans can't vote because of a criminal conviction. The rules vary state by state but nationwide, one in 13 African-American adults cannot vote. In Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia, more than 20 percent of African-Americans are ineligible.

The United States takes the practice political disenfranchisement to incredible levels. We are one of just four countries in the world (Croatia, Belgium and Armenia are the others) that enforces post-release restrictions on voting. Over three million Americans who've already served their time and are out of prison remain ineligible to vote.

In the United States, whether or not you lose the right to vote for committing a crime mostly depends on who you are, not what you did, especially when it comes to nonviolent economic offenses.

Companies like Wells Fargo (which paid $175 million to settle charges of discriminatory lending practices), Citigroup ($7 billion to settle mortgage fraud allegations), JP Morgan Chase ($13 billion to settle similar mortgage charges) and Bank of America (which paid the largest civil settlement in history to make its mortgage fraud issues go away) have all committed offenses involving integrity and honesty. Yet election after election, they get to keep exerting enormous influence by donating millions of dollars to candidates.

Citigroup, for instance, which broke its own promise not to violate the same antifraud statute at least four times between 2000 and 2011, has donated over $37 million to candidates since 1990, and spent over $108 million on lobbying since 1998.

HSBC this year was also one of the top lobbying banks in Washington, spending over $1.8 million on such efforts. The bank's employees have donated more to Republicans than Democrats this year, but it should be noted that HSBC is also one of many banks to have hired Bill Clinton for a six-figure speech in the past.

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