The recent failure of Congress to reign in the domestic surveillance capabilities of the NSA wasn’t split along party lines; instead, the 217-205 vote was split along which congresspeople get paid more by the defense industry. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that those getting more money from the defense industry voted against cutting that power back.
Our government is deeply corrupt on a federal level. This corruption is not hidden. It isn’t illegal. And what’s more is that it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. I’m talking, of course, about campaign contributions by big business and special interests, creating a conflict-of-interest for politicians that are supposed to be representing the needs of their constituency. Unfortunately, the elections we vote in to pick our candidates are only the second set of elections — you never hear about the first, because you don’t have any say. The first election comes when the candidate is calling to get money to run their political campaign. On the national level of politics, campaigns cost millions, and it takes big backers to have any shot of victory. You don’t have to win the money competition, but you have to do extraordinarily well in order to compete.
That need for campaign donations to remain in office creates a system where even the “good” politicians in Washington that wish to represent your wishes are constantly bombarded with conflicts-of-interest when it comes to voting. They need the money just as badly as votes to stay in office. And that’s why this corruption isn’t along party lines, either, nor is it a byproduct of having two dominant parties. Indeed, a third national party could actually compound the problem by making major races more competitive, making even more money necessary for advertising and causing politicians to rely on their campaign donors even more.
And that’s why the recent vote on the Amish amendment to the H.R. 2397 Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 failed. On average, those voting against it received 122 percent of the money that those voting in favor did from the defense industry. Wired has more:
Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $12.97 million in donations for a two-year period ending December 31, 2012, according to the analysis, which MapLight performed with financing data from OpenSecrets. Lawmakers who voted to continue the NSA dragnet-surveillance program averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765.
The amendment (.pdf) was proposed by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who received a fraction of the money from the defense industry compared to top earners. For example, Amash got $1,400 — ranking him in the bottom 50 for the two-year period. On the flip side, Rep. Howard McKeon (R-California) scored $526,600 to lead the House in defense contributions. He voted against Amash.
Of the 26 House members who voted and did not receive any defense financing, 16 voted for the Amash amendment.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) voted against the measure. He ranked 15th in defense earnings with a $131,000 take. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) also voted against Amash. Pelosi took in $47,000 from defense firms over the two-year period.
This image comes from Maplight:
Whether or not you agree with the surveillance, you cannot ignore the fact that there’s a huge problem with evidence this obvious that Congress is primarily money-driven.