Skip to content Skip to footer

Only Way To Get Big Money Out of Politics: Devalue Political Influence

(Photo: P.O. Arnäs / Flickr)

The US Supreme Court, especially under Chief Justice John Roberts, has gone far beyond its constitutional authority to officially declare our government is (legally) for sale to the highest bidder. We, the people, no longer matter much in politics. But reversing Citizens United – or convincing Congress to use the Exceptions Clause in the US Constitution to rein in the Supreme Court, or any other proposed reform to get big money out of politics – would be useless as long as a high value is placed on selling and buying political influence.

It’s patently naïve to expect Congress to cooperate in any reform that could kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Congress and the rest of our corrupt government has every incentive to keep the big money flowing. But let’s assume a miracle: Citizens United is overturned, Congress uses the Exceptions Clause to get the Supreme Court out of politics, and new laws are enacted that criminalize and severely punish the selling and buying of political influence.

Nothing much would change.

The Nature of Consensual Crime

The crime of selling and buying political influence is a so-called consensual crime. It’s not a victimless crime. Indeed, it directly causes vast death, destruction and suffering around the world. But unlike ordinary crime, for this category of crime, all participants consent to committing the crime. None of the participants feel aggrieved. The victims (if any) are far removed from the scene of the crime, whereas in most crimes the victims are either present or feel immediately and directly aggrieved.

Consensual crime has a radically different nature than 99 percent of crimes that makes enforcing laws against this category of crime practically impossible. Two other consensual crimes (illegal drug dealing and money laundering) amply illustrate the success of law enforcement against consensual crime is practically impossible. Drug dealing, which despite a drastic escalation in enforcement resources over 40 years, remains rampant. The IMF estimated money laundering accounts for 2 percent to 5 percent of world GDP, or $800 billion to $2 trillion each year. Obviously both consensual crimes are thriving enterprises against which law enforcement is patently ineffective.

As long as an illegal product is in great demand, be it illegal drugs, illegal clean money or illegal political influence, when all participants in the crime are consenting, law enforcement efforts largely will be ineffective. Although there have been some big drug busts and some notable convictions for money laundering, the vast majority of these and other consensual crimes are never even detected, much less prosecuted.

False Hope

It’s naïve to believe our corrupt politicians voluntarily will cleanse politics of big money. It’s even more naïve to believe enacting laws against selling and buying political influence would be any more effective than laws against selling and buying illegal drugs. Claiming to be able to effectively enforce laws against consensual crimes sows false hope against the evidence, which diverts valuable resources from real, effective reform.

Devaluing the Product in Consensual Crimes Only Way To Get Big Money Out

Legalizing banned drugs would devalue the product greatly, thus effectively getting big money out. Legalizing drugs also would get significant money out of the money laundering industry. But creating another consensual crime, the selling and buying of political influence, would be a boon to money launderers. Corporations, lobbyists and our crooked politicians would rush to money launderers to transfer bribes secretly with little fear of being caught or prosecuted. This new consensual crime would do nothing to devalue political influence. Quite the contrary.

The value of political influence depends on our politicians’ abilities to deceive the masses. Blatant special interest legislation must be hidden in a complex web of deception to get it past the masses. Mainstream media greatly aid in this necessary deception. But if we could expose instantly and efficiently the deception by our politicians, political influence would become essentially worthless because deception could no longer work. Big money won’t buy something that doesn’t work.

To understand exactly how we could accomplish this, see: An Elegantly Simple Way to Revolutionize Government. Any reform efforts that don’t greatly devalue political influence are doomed to fail.

Countdown is on: We have 8 days to raise $46,000

Truthout has launched a necessary fundraising campaign to support our work. Can you support us right now?

Each day, our team is reporting deeply on complex political issues: revealing wrongdoing in our so-called justice system, tracking global attacks on human rights, unmasking the money behind right-wing movements, and more. Your tax-deductible donation at this time is critical, allowing us to do this core journalistic work.

As we face increasing political scrutiny and censorship for our reporting, Truthout relies heavily on individual donations at this time. Please give today if you can.