Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Does money equal corruption?

Illinois State Senator Steve Rauschenberger launched a bid for the state’s governor’s office by claiming that incumbent Governor Rod Blagojevich is corrupt because of his campaign fund.

"Anybody who's amassed $15 million -- more than $7 million of it from connected contractors -- is giving off an appearance of corruption," Rauschenberger said. "I don't think anybody has a reasonable need for $15 million in this process. . . . I think he is corrupt."

I don’t know if Rauschenberger is on to something here or not, but it is obvious the money plays an increasingly more important role in elections today.

Since it’s fairly easy to find in multiple places (Center for Responsive Politics is one) let’s look at the role of money in the 2004 presidential race. Bush and Kerry spent more than $700 million in the run-up to the election, nearly three times the total spent by Bush and Gore in the 2000 campaign, making 2004 the most expensive campaign in American history. But, that doesn’t begin to capture the true amounts spent. Issue groups – such as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth – and the local, state and national parties each spent millions more.

I’m losing track of the dollar amount here, but let’s just say that conservatively for the US presidential elections the campaigns, parties, and issue groups raised and spent in excess of $1 billion. Not only would that money help fix our nation’s schools, prevent hunger in the US, or provide every child health insurance, it also means that there was a lot of fundraising going on during, before and even after the election.

This money comes from somewhere and far too often those who donate it, especially corporate interests, want something in return. Does this make Gov. Blagojevich corrupt? Not in and of itself. Does it mean that we need to do something to get money out of politics? Absolutely.


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