The FlimFlam Campaign: Corporations Buy the Conventions

By Jim Hightower

Vol. 22, No. 2, 2000 pp. 6-7

Ready or not, heeeeere they come. [music: Happy days are here again] The Republican and Democratic national conventions have come to town! You've seen the pageantry on TV, the bunting and balloons, the speeches... but what they haven't shown you is the bald-faced corruption behind the hoopla, the selling of the very conventions that formally choose the nominees of the two big parties.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that major corporations in need of major favors from the White House, Congress, and other governmental agencies, poured major bucks into the two national conventions. AT&T (lobbying for control of the long distance phone market), Lockheed Martin (lobbying for more Pentagon money), General Motors (lobbying for more global trade deals), Ernst & Young (lobbying for lax financial regulation), and Microsoft (lobbying to keep its monopoly position) are among the dozen corporations that underwrote both conventions. Microsoft, for example, already gave more than $5(X),000 to host the Republican convention in Philadelphia, and the same sum to host the Democrats in Los Angeles.

This kind of payola not only puts the corporate stamp on the consciousness and consciences of both parties, but it also buys special access for the CEOs and lobbyists of the favor-seeking companies. While the charade of democracy plays out on the convention floor, these executives are in private skyboxes and at closed functions, wining and dining the nominees and top lawmakers of the two parties. As one CEO told the Inquirer when asked to explain why her company would sponsor both conventions: "We need these folks to know who we are."

Republican and Democratic conventions once were important to democracy, choosing the nominees, writing the platforms, and debating big issues. But today, they're political farces. The delegates are nothing but stage props for the TV show, while political and corporate powerbrokers meet behind the scenes to assure that plutocracy rules, despite the public pretensions of democracy.

No matter which party wins, AT&T, Microsoft, Boeing, Disney, and Exxon win. They're among dozens of giants that put at least $50,000 each into the pockets of both camps, not only buying the loyalties of the candidates, but also controlling the political debate. So, basic kitchen-table issues that matter to most people are not even on the table for discussion, because the money masters of the Gore-Bush flim-flam campaign don't want their candidate--or you and me--talking about such troubling issues. Here are just a few examples of what the Democrats and Republicans are NOT discussing, much less challenging

  • The Mugging of the Middle Class. Gore and Bush gush about the glories of the razzle-dazzle Wall Street "Boom," but neither mentions that eight-out-of-ten Americans are experiencing more bust than boom, with corporate downsizings, farm bankruptcies, and family debt soaring.
  • Merger Mania. Every industry is being consolidated and conglomerated by huge corporations swallowing each other to become MegaHuge, gaining monopoly power that cuts our jobs, raises prices, squeezes out small competitors, reduces service, and bullies our communities. Yet Gore and Bush quietly take millions from the merging barons and stay eerily silent.
  • Globaloney. Rapacious corporations are empowered and even subsidized by our government to export U.S. jobs, exploit foreign workers and the environment, and undercut our very right to self government. Gore and Bush, however, are funded by the corporate globalists, so neither see, hear, or speak any evil about this outrage.

Stopping the Money Corruption of Politics

Gore and Bush are shameless poseurs on the reform issue, cynically prancing on the far edges of reform, while neither they nor their parties want even the modest changes they're willing to talk about Both are locked onto the matter of "soft money," the unlimited millions that corporations and unions give to the political parties (though overwhelmingly its corporate cash that plays in the soft money game). Gore would outlaw soft money, and Bush would outlaw it for corporations and unions, but allow CEOs, fat cat investors, and other individuals to continue pumping millions through the soft-money loophole.

Not a whisper do we get from these two reform frauds on public financing of all elections, which is the one way we finally could get the corrupting private money out of the process. If you want public policy to reflect genuine public


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interest, rather than private interests, we've got to fund the democratic process publicly, rather than privately. Doing this closes all loopholes for special interest money, but it does something else that might be even more important. it allows regular people to run for office again, since a teacher. small farmer, retail clerk, cab driver, or whomever could get access to the same pool of public campaign funds to which incumbents and elites would have access. Already, Arizona Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont have passed state laws for public financing, while Connecticut, Missouri, and Oregon will vote on it this year. Why not a national debate?

On these and dozens of other key issues--from the stupid drug war" to the crying need for universal health care--Gore and Bush are not engaged in an election, but in a scurrilous scam to preserve the status quo And status quo" is Latin for "the mess we're in"

Jim Hightower, author of "If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates"> continues to produce his daily talk radio show "The Chat and Chew," and gives speeches nationwide. To find out more information about his newsletter and other endeavors, go to www.jimhightower.com For detailed information on soft money in the 2000 election and national pony conventions, visit the Center for Responsive Politics website at: www.opensecrets.org