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FDL Movie Night: Pricele$$

What is the cost of getting elected? A lot. More zeros than I can count per candidate per election cycle. That money comes from their own personal wealth and even more so from campaign donations; case in point, failed California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who could have done a lot more good for California giving that $140 million (forty of it hers), to schools and causes, funding small locally businesses in depressed neighborhoods, investing and spreading her wealth, rather than spending her owns and the combined of others besides. For decades it has taken small fortunes to get elected, or at least to run: Kennedy, Bush, Kerry, McCain, Edwards, these are storied and even more so moneyed names which come to mind as using personal wealth. Candidates without such a kick start need to work even harder to raise money, and along the way, America has lost. Pricele$$ points out that politics is not a poor man’s business. Yet the majority of Americans lack the funding to run for office, should they so choose.

Once in office, politicians have at their best interest those who got them elected; sadly in America that is seen as wealth giving access, politicians may feel more beholden to large donor who has maxed out in each cycle than to someone who sent in ten dollars.

Corporations are now people, with free speech rights–and making campaign donations is part of that. Lobbyists remind politicians who got them into office. And therein lies the problem addressed in Pricele$$:

Politicians must go to large donors such as the oil and gas industry, agrichemical companies, health insurers, and Wall Street…you know…the type of companies they’re supposed to be regulating. Likened by one seasoned Senator to the ancient art of whoring, America’s electoral system forces elected representatives, in both parties, to rely on special interests for their job security.

And that’s wrong. It’s unfair to their constituents, to their parties and platforms. Steve Cowan explores this first through looking at how our food and water are affected by subsidies and agrichem companies, who make huge donation to politicians, politicians who make the policies that keep these companies in business, politicians who vote for the subsidies. One example: Organic farm development receives less than .5% of the 8.5 billion dollar agriculture budget. The devastation caused by chemical fertilizers and pesticides could be stopped by farmers transitioning to organic which produces as well or better than chem-farming. But that wouldn’t benefit agrichem companies, who are donors to the politicians who vote on funding all forms of farming, organic and chemical.

Petroleum, oil and gas companies have their own agenda(s), their own lobbyists and donor bases. America’s dependence on fuel fuels wars, while certain corporations benefit from the wars themselves. We, the American people suffer–suffer the loss of your troops, of our reputation abroad and our economy at home.

Is there a solution for this aspect of the puzzle? Shifting to renewable fuel sources. But what is the benefit for the oil and gas companies, and my extension the politicians they fund?

Pricele$$ brings up a solution: Campaign reform, and showing us why, giving us a look at, a non- partisan guide to Mammon’s hands in American politics. If all politicians were held to Clean Campaign practices like Arizona state elected officials, then “friends” wouldn’t be made and ideology formed through expensive fund raising dinners and office visits, but rather by meeting and serving constituents.

Granted, politicians and their handlers could argue that elections make money and spread the wealth: Ads are bought, commercials are made, fliers and posters and banners are printed, staff are hired; there’s all those ballrooms, and conventions centers, travel; and all employees who are hired in the stages of campaigns along each whistle stop.

And corporations would fret about what to do, as well–How would they get rid off the money they set aside for lobbying and donations? One suggestion in Pricele$$ for the latter problem is to have any corporation that does business with the government donation to a fund which will be divided between all candidates to level the playing field. And thus, campaigns remain funded, it doesn’t cost the taxpayers, and all the spending on campaigning can continue without all that pesky fund raising.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.