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 by Jon Burras
Lobbying for America
     You would have to be deaf, blind and incapacitated these days not to hear the daily news briefs about how Russia has meddled into the elections of the United States. We are shocked and dismayed that another country would try to influence our political system. We feel proud and historic that we are not like other corrupt countries but pride ourselves in our sense of purity and honesty. We have accepted the illusion that elections are pure and the will of the people always comes through.
     That illusion is about to change. Once you pull your head out of the proverbial sand you will realize that Russia is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to American politics. Because we have a "pay for play" system we have set ourselves up for failure all along. This means that because American elections depend on private donations to promote a candidate, those candidates who win their elections are now beholding to campaign donors. An elected candidate, whether local, statewide or national, will have many promises to fulfill. People do not donate money to politicians without expecting something in return.
     What most people do not realize is that countries often have their own lobbying group. Russia is a lobbying group. Members of the country of Russia have (allegedly) tried to influence who gets elected and how they should vote when matters of their own country (Russia) take place. This is not new. This lobbying by countries has been taking place for many decades now.
     What is interesting is that Russia is not unique in its efforts to lobby for American political influence. Many countries have lobbying efforts that try to impact American politicians. There is no greater lobbying effort by any country than there is by the state of Israel. What Israel does to the American political system makes anything that Russia (allegedly) has done look pale in comparison.
     Israel (allegedly) owns most American politicians (Senators and Representatives). According to the authors of The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, every Senator and Member of the House of Representatives is approached by a member of the Israeli lobby (consisting of over fifty different groups like AIPAC—American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
     When approached, these American politicians are highly encouraged to sign a document proclaiming unqualified defense of Israel when it comes to voting. If the politician does not sign the document the Israeli lobby will condemn the politician as an enemy of the state of Israel and funnel large campaign donations to his or her opponent in the election. The strategy is that if you are not 100% committed to Israel, we will spend whatever it takes to defeat you. If he or she does sign the document, they are now approved to be approached by pro-Israeli campaign donors to give them campaign finance money.
     Press TV reporter Richard Edmondson interviews Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney on how this act of extortion works.
          "... former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney revealed what amounts to some pretty startling news regarding the extent of the Israeli lobby’s influence over Congress. During her years in Congress, she stated, candidates for both the House and the Senate were requested to sign pledges of support for Israel, documents in which the candidate promised to vote to provide consistent levels of economic aid to the Zionist state. Refusal to sign the pledge meant no funding for the candidate’s campaign. “You make a commitment that you will vote to support the military superiority of Israel—the economic assistance that Israel wants, that you would vote to provide that,” McKinney, who served in Congress from 1993-2003 and again 2005-2007, tells Press TV interviewer Marzieh Hashemi in the two-part video program below. According to McKinney, the pledge also included a vow to support Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel." -Press TV-
     It is estimated that most of the members of Congress have signed this document pledging allegiance to Israel. Some call it a pledge and others refer to it as a statement of commitment. The common bystander might see this as extortion. Why isn't the American Congress investigating the influence of countries like Israel in American politics and elections? Most members of Congress have participated in signing the document. That would mean that Congress would have to investigate itself.
     Countries are not the only ones who lobby to influence American politics. Corporations, unions, ethnic groups, private citizens like the Koch brothers and Rockefeller family lobby as well as do sports franchises and the tobacco industry. Hollywood entertainment has its own lobbying group as well as religious groups like evangelical Christians.
     For instance, it is no surprise how much money the drug industry donates to campaigns of politicians to gain influence in how politics are decided. The coal and gas industries donate money to influence elections as well as the mining and airline industries. Frankly, there is no large industry that does not donate money for political campaigns. These donations mean one thing. The company is giving a candidate money so that the candidate once elected will vote in the favor of the company.
     Most major unions spend millions of dollars lobbying politicians for influence. This might be a teacher's union, steel worker's union or plumber's union. Every group wants something from politicians. Unions are no different.
     Ethnic based groups also lobby politicians by donating as a way of buying influence. From the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense Fund), ethnic based unions will donate money to politicians in hopes of swinging votes in their favor. They are no different than countries or corporations.
      From major league sports franchises to giant conglomerate corporations, lobbying is the norm for our political system. As long as we continue to have privately funded elections there will be legal and illegal campaign contributions changing hands. While most of the emphasis these days is on Russia, why are we not examining every other country and group that is trying to influence our election system? If you are an American citizen there is a good chance that someone is lobbying for you right now, either because of your skin color or because of your profession.
Solutions
     The best solution to end lobbying for political influence in America is to have publically financed elections where each candidate is given a set amount of money from the government to run their campaign. No private donations would be allowed. For instance, a presidential candidate is given 5 million dollars where a Senate candidate is given 1 million dollars to run their campaign.
     Elections would only have a 3 month campaign cycle and not the current 18 month long grind that is currently the norm. The money given is enough to open an office and hire a small staff. There is plenty of free advertisements like television, radio, internet and newspapers where a candidate does not have to travel around kissing babies and shaking hands at newly opened factories. Most of a candidate's campaign costs come from travel expenses (hotels, airplanes, buses, meals, security etc.). Many countries do well with a short campaign window and little money spent. Why should America be any different?
     When will we stop blaming Russia for our problems and begin to look at our own dysfunctional political system?


Resources

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
Press TV, Richard Edmondson, May 23, 2011
The Israeli Lobby