The Foreclosure Crisis in the People's House

In recent weeks, Democrats and their allies have taken to criticizing the Chamber of Commerce among other lobbying organizations for their acceptance and use of "foreign funds" to influence the outcome of elections in the United States.  From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, last week:
The White House will keep up its assault on outside spending by conservative groups and will continue to press the case about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's foreign money, despite hints of retreat on the latter issue, senior adviser David Axelrod told me in an interview this afternoon . . .

"The fact that these front groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars from undisclosed sources on attack ads to influence these elections is a serious issue and we're going to continue to raise it," Axelrod told me. He added: "As we've said from the beginning, the prospect that foreign controlled companies might somehow be involved, this was opened up in the Citizens United debate, and it continues to be a concern."
This effort began in earnest toward the end of August, when the president argued in a weekly video address that transparency in television advertising will "stop the corporate takeover of our democracy."  From the video address:
this summer, [we're] also seeing a flood of attack ads run by shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names.  We don’t know who’s behind these ads and we don’t know who’s paying for them.    The reason this is happening is because of a decision by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case – a decision that now allows big corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections.  They can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads – and worst of all, they don’t even have to reveal who is actually paying for them.  You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation.  You don’t know if it’s BP.  You don’t know if it’s a big insurance company or a Wall Street Bank.   [Emphasis added.]
As we all know, the Democrats and Republican parties are owned and operated by their corporate paymasters.  Someone should inform the president, because he appears unaware, that corporations hijacked our democracy some time ago.  Indeed, he wouldn't be sitting where he is today were it not for the generous support of his corporate sponsors.

But what if we had a more expansive definition of what constitutes "foreign influence" in our elections?  In the early days of the republic, if I remember my history correctly, most Americans did not identify themselves first and foremost as Americans, that is, as citizens of the United States.  Rather, their primary identification was with their state or even their locality.  They were New Yorkers or Virginians first and Americans second.  Meddling on the part of the federal government or other states was itself seen as undue foreign influence.

Today virtually all members of House of Representatives are almost completely bankrolled by precisely these sorts of "foreign interests."  Money flows into their campaign coffers from corporations and organizations based outside of their districts and states.  The people's house has been foreclosed upon and stolen right out from under us.  In a post on political panhandling from last summer, I highlighted a number of findings from a study by the Maplight organization, which showed, among other things, that:
• For 99% of U.S. House members (418 out of 421), Washington, DC was among their top 5 contributing states. . . .
• Almost all House members, 97%, raised more than half of their funds from outside their congressional districts.
• Five House members raised 99% or more of their funds from outside their congressional districts.
• Only 13 House members, or 3%, raised most of their funds from within the district where their voters live
Given these statistics, it is any wonder that Democrats and Republicans are incapable of representing the interests of their constituents?  Their loyalties lie elsewhere: out of district, out of state.  Only the most naive or cynical individual could conclude otherwise.  The other day, I received a press release about a new documentary that examines the lobbying system in the United States, entitled, The Best Government Money Can Buy.  From the release:
The documentary features beltway insiders and watchdogs from both sides of the aisle speaking very candidly about their process; the link between campaign finance and lobbyists; how our elected officials have become more beholden to the special interests than their constituents and, most significantly how - lip service aside - there’s little motivation by the Members to change the system.
A number of segments from the movie have already been released online.  One features dueling interviews with Daniel Newman, the CEO of Maplight, mentioned above, and Nick Calio, the Executive Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Citi Group.  Calio states, with a straight face, that the current fundraising regime "keeps members of Congress closer to their constituents in some ways than almost anything else does." Daniel Newman, on the other hand, lets the statistics speak for themselves when he notes that "79% of all the money raised by members of the US House came from outside their district . . . [and that] 57% came from outside their state."

The Best Government Money Can Buy Clip #10 from Cinema Libre Studio on Vimeo.

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