US: Elections, Big bucks buys votes

MILLIONS OF big-business dollars were used by both major parties to campaign for votes. Both represent big business. The Republicans, however, push more aggressive pro-business policies and heavily outspent the Democrats, by $527.4 million to $343.7 million.

Part two of an article by Lynn Walsh on the recent US elections. Part one posted on 11 November 2002.

CWI online.

Big bucks buy votes

Bush was credited with personally raising $141 million for his party. Cash was targeted on key marginal states, particularly through intensive television advertising. The candidate who spent most money, according to the Centre For Responsive Politics, won more than 95% of House of Representative races and 75% of Senate races.

One candidate who won despite being outspent was Bernie Sanders, a reformist social democrat who was returned to the House as an independent for Vermont.

At the same time, so-called ’special interest groups’ such as the pharmaceutical companies and the National Rifle Association, spent millions on TV campaigns that, while not openly supporting particular candidates, opposed state funding for prescription drugs and gun control.

Other corporate interests campaigned for the privatisation of social security, the US state pension scheme. Altogether, over $1 billion was spent on TV advertising during this campaign.

In the State of Oregon alone (population 3.3 million), the pharmaceutical industry spent $2 million to defeat a ballot initiative (a referendum) proposing a comprehensive government-run health system similar to Canada’s.

Corporate interests outspent the health care campaign by 50 to 1, defeating it by 79% to 21%, despite the fact that 13% of the state’s population have no health insurance and many more have very inadequate cover.

This year the Republicans and Democrats smashed all records in raising over $500 million in ’soft’ money, which is unregulated campaign finance that exploits loopholes in earlier laws supposedly intended to limit the influence of ’special interest groups’ over the parties.

From the morning after election day 2002, ’soft money’ donations are supposed to be illegal under new legislation passed last year, the so-called McCain-Feingold law. Both parties, however, have been busy opening up new loopholes.

They have had plenty of help from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), appointed by political leaders in Congress, which has already re-interpreted the rules in favour of big-business donations. "The chief enabler who lets this seamy game continue," comments the USA Today (7 November), "is the very agency charged with enforcing the law.

"Instead of aggressively blocking end runs around the law, the Federal Election Commission has led the way to keep special-interest millions flowing."

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