July 06, 2011

How money influences politics and the health of a nation

Can You Be President, Senator Or A House Representative?

By Melvin J. Howard

Of course, you can! But under the current system, the way it is organized, even if you were the best person for the job you would, statistically speaking, not usually stand a chance unless you could raise at least $900,000 in campaign cash to spend in a house election, $5,000,000 for a senate election, and about $100 to $200 million for presidency adjust for inflation (that is the same as raising $270,000 to $540,000 per day, everyday, for one year). To get a sense of how much money is involved consider the fact that in 1976 the candidates and parties spent $160 million on the presidential elections, $1.2 billion in the 2000 elections, and $4 billion in the 2004 elections. The only way you can come up with $300 million, better yet $500 million to assure presidency, would be to have the support of wealthy interest groups. Public finance limits you by law, to $45 million if you choose to accept public finance help. So the question then remains what is to happen to the best person for the job if they have no money and don’t see things the way the big corporations, wealthy business owners and lobby groups see them. The current system has proven that the rule of the game, rather than the exception, is that if you don’t have the support of corporations, wealthy business owners and certain lobby groups, you will not even have a chance of holding major public offices. In 2002, 98% of House incumbents (those already holding a seat) and 85% of Senate incumbent were re-elected. Through the connections and loyalties that they have formed while in office, the incumbents are also able to raise far more in campaign funds than the challengers (a major reason for the re-election rates). The U.S. House re-election rate has been at over 90% for the last two decades. In the last 20 years, it was at its lowest point in 1970, when, if you were a House member already, you would have had an 85% chance of being re-elected. Odds of beating a US House incumbent based on spending by the challenger in 2000 elections:

Spending by Challenger 
Odds of Winning

$500,000-$1 million
$1 million - $1.5 million
Over $1.5 million
Under $500,000
Money raised in 2002 election cycle: Senate:

Type of Candidate
Total Raised
of Candidates
Average Raised
$71, 945, 307
Open Seat

Type of Candidate
Total Raised
of Candidates
Average Raised
Open Seat

Spending vs. Winning stats for 2000 election cycle:

Average Winner Spent
Average Loser Spent
Number of Incumbents Seeking Reelection
Number of Incumbents Reelected
Incumbents Reelection Rate


Average Winner Spent
Average Loser Spent
Number of Incumbents Seeking Reelection
Number of Incumbents Reelected
Incumbents Reelection Rate

Biggest Contributions in the 2002 Elections for Senate candidates (notice the composition of the contributors in this list):
Goldman Sachs
Jon S. Corzine (D-NJ)

Emily's List
       Deborah Ann Stabenow (D                                            Mich)
Emily's List
Jean Carnahan (D-Mo)
Emily's List
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Goldman Sachs
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Emily's List
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif)
Citigroup Inc
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del)
Olympia J. Snowe (R­Maine)
Robins, Kaplan et Al
Michael V. Ciresi (D-Minn)
Bear Stearns
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter & Co
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Microsoft Corp
Slade Gorton (R-Wash)
Credit Suisse First
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Emily's List
Rebecca Yanisch (D-Minn)
Credit Suisse First Boston
Rudolph W. Giuliani (R-NY)
Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-NY)
Bear Stearns
Chris Dodd (D-Conn)
Merrill Lynch
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Kushner Companies
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Walter F. Mondale (D-Minn)

Arlen Specter (R-Pa)
Mandalay Resort Group
John Ensign (R-Nev)
Fidelity National Financial
Matt Fong (R-Calif)
Blank, Rome et al
Arlen Specter (R-Pa)
Citigroup Inc
Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-NY)
Altheimer & Gray
Gery J. Chico (D-Ill)
Lehman Brothers
Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
Equitable Companies
Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-NY)
Citigroup Inc
Hillary Rodham Clinton (DNY)

General public contributions for 2002 election cycle:

The big corporations and the wealthy throw in large sums of money towards their candidate’s election. It actually becomes a race of who has the most money, in a sense. Interestingly, however, the general U.S. population is very non-participative. First, often only about 12% of Americans, on average, vote. The percentage that contributes any money to the proposed candidates (notice the use of the word ‘proposed’ instead of chosen, because the public often have nothing to do with choosing the proposed candidates) is even smaller, as this data shows:
Total US Population (Nov 13, 2002)
Total US adult population (age 18+)
% of US population giving $200+
% of US population giving $1,000+
% of US adult population giving $200+

 % of US adult population giving $1,000+ 0.12%


Political parties: How much they collect every election:

It is not only candidates that can collect donations for elections. Political parties also collect money every election cycle - from individuals, lobby groups and corporations. Here are the amounts collected for the 2001-2002 period for the parties only (without counting the presidential candidates amounts):
Democratic Party
Republican Party

This is over $1 billion in total.

When a congressman or woman retires, their political campaign funds are not taxed.

The Network:

An examination of past U.S. president’s election funding reveals how the system works from a certain perspective. George Bush raised $191 million in campaign funds in his last election in 2000, followed by Al Gore with $133 million, with the remaining candidates trailing far behind. Bush was the major recipient of all campaign funds from the oil and gas industry, receiving more money from that industry in that year alone than any other federal candidate in the last decade. The biggest companies in that industries to contribute in terms of dollar value were Texas-based, the biggest being, Enron. Interestingly, other energy industries also spent heavily on Bush, beating all their election-spending records by huge leaps. The electric and coal industries all spent heavily on the elections and on Bush in particular (the coal  industry spent 3 times what it spent the last elections before that). Bush was also the top recipient of the nuclear power industry’s generous contributions. In this same election, as you may expect, the alternative energy industry (wind, geothermal and solar energy) backed Al Gore, although their funds were dwarfed by those of the oil, coal and electricity industries. Now let us see what Bush’s administration looked like. One would expect that in a democracy, you would tend to find the most suitable people, from all walks of life, leading a country. You would expect to find teachers, doctors, artists, musicians – and so on. After all, each major group would tend to elect its representatives. So you would expect to find representatives from various groups (not just business groups). Let’s see how Bush’s administration measured up. As you will see, by some ‘coincidence’, there is little randomness in it. Most of Bush’s past administrations, the people who ran America, have three things in common: (1) almost all of them have extensive corporate connections; (2) some are the exact same ones that were there when his father was president (3) most of them have been friends for a very long time and done business together. Completely lacking representatives of other occupations and lifestyles that normally compose the public of America). Out of a population of almost 300 million Americans, in a democratic society where you might expect some randomness is the backgrounds of the top leadership, how ‘coincidental’ is it that only a group of old friends who happen to be well connected in big business and intelligence/military (and hardly from any of the other thousands of lifestyles) has been ‘elected and appointed to represent the people’?

President George Bush's Incoming Cabinet:
Cabinet Position
Cabinet Official
Corporate Connections
Agriculture Secretary
Ann Veneman
Monsanto, Pharmacia, Calgene
Attorney General
John Ashcroft
AT&T, Monsanto, Microsoft, Enterprise
Rent-A-Car, Schering-Plough
Commerce Secretary
Don Evans
Tom Brown Inc. (oil & gas),
TMBR/Sharp Drilling
Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld
Pharmacia, Motorola, Sears, G.D.
Searle, newspaper giant Tribune Company
(L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune), Amylin
Pharmaceuticals, Kellogg, Asea Borwn
Boveri, Allstate, Gulfstream Aerospace

Energy Secretary
 Spencer Abraham
GM, Ford, Lear
Health and Human Services

Tommy Thompson
Amtrak, Philip Morris, GE, Merck, Abbott
Interior Secretary
Gale Norton
Brownstein Hyatt & Farber, Delta
Petroleum, NL Industries, BP Amoco, Ford
Motor Company
Labor Secretary
Elaine Chao
Northwest Airlines, Clorox, C.R. Bard,
HCA-The Healthcare Company, Dole Food,
Bank of America
Secretary of State
Transportation Secretary
Colin Powell
Gulfstream, America Online
Lockheed Martin; Northwest Airlines;
Greyhound; United Airlines; Union Pacific;
Treasury Secretary
Paul O'Neill
Alcoa, International Paper, Lucent
Anthony Principi
Federal Network, QTC Medical
Affairs Secretary

Services, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft,

Schering-Plough Corp., Ford Motor
Company, Qualcomm Inc.

It is interesting to see how many conflicts of interest existed in these cabinet posts. Normally, you would expect that the best person for agriculture would run agriculture; the best for commerce would get that job, and so on. But it is nothing like that. For example, the Health and Human Services Secretary is meant to represent the people’s health for betterment, yet he has a vested interest in Philip Morris, a company that profits hugely from making and selling products that reduce health. The Agriculture Secretary is meant to look after the well-being of American agriculture and the food of the people, yet she has a vested interest in Monsanto and Pharmacia. Monsanto was one of the most controversial multinational, in Europe and Japan for its forceful attempt to bring in genetically modified foods that aren’t fully tested and causing U.S. grain to be rejected from those continents. The Commerce Secretary, was Don Evans, is also in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which puts him in direct control over the country’s oceans areas, where 25% of U.S. domestic oil and 26% of its natural gas come from. Don Evans actually ran his campaign-funding vehicle. His connection with Texas oil businesses is substantial. The Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, was the single biggest recipient of campaign funds from the automotive industry (received over $700,000) and the lobby group that opposes setting fuel economy regulations. Colin Powell served on the boards of Gulfstream (Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are major markets for this company) and AOL. His AOL shares rose $4 million on its merger with Time Warner. Interestingly, his son Michael Powell was the only FCC commissioner who voted to have the AOL-Time Warner merger go through without review. Michael Power was  appointed by George Bush as the FCC chairperson. The Treasury Secretary was heavily funded and worked in the largest transport companies. I like to point out there is nothing wrong with corporations, but keeping in mind that corporations are always trying to maximize shareholder value, control more market share and make more money, it is hard to see sometimes how the interests of the public would be considered paramount and transparently with the way current government elections are structured. Paul O'Neill, the Treasury Secretary, was Alcoa’s CEO and Chairman. Alcoa’s lobbyist, the Texas law firm Vinson & Elkins, was George Bush’s number 3 contributor. While Bush was Texas’ governor, Alcoa secured a legal loophole that allowed it to dump 60,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air annually, making it one of the state’s top polluters.
President Bush's Advisors:

Corporate Connections
White House 
Chief of Staff
Andrew Card

Director of the Office of Management and Budget     
Mitch Daniels
Eli Lilly, Citigroup, General Electric, Merck

National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice
Chevron (Chevron

 actually named a 130,000­
ton oil tanker after her),
Charles Schwab,

Was oil and finance companies influencing national security policies? The point of this is not to say that all corporations are ‘bad’. (Not at all) They have an interest in expansion and profit. But the point here is that it is, in many people’s opinions, not a good idea to have corporations and only corporations be the main controllers of government ideas with such powerful force. The people are so supposed to be represented at all levels in government, but they cannot because of the way things have been set up.

(The best positions, for years, have not gone to who is best for the job, but to who gave money during the campaign – hardly a model for efficiency and transparent functionality. Notice that the list hardly has positions filled by people who didn’t contribute. Instead of ambassadorial jobs going to people who have proven their diplomacy and world cooperativeness, the best ones of them go to whoever gave money.) Lets take a look at President Bush’s past ambassadorships.

To All
To All
Only to Bush
J. Thomas Schieffer

W.L. Lyons Brown

Richard Blankenship

Stephen Brauer

Russell Freeman

Clark Randt, Jr.

John Danilovich

Craig Stapleton

Stuart Bernstein

Hans Hertell

Bonnie McElveen-Hunter

Howard Leach

Daniel Coats

Nancy Brinker

Robert Blackwill

Richard J. Egan

Melvin Sembler

Sue Cobb

Howard Baker

Peter Terpeluk

Anthony Gioia

John Price

Margaret Tutwiler

Clifford Sobel

Charles J. Swindells

John Ong

John Palmer

Robert W. Jordan

Frank Lavin

Ronald Weiser

George Argyros

Charles Heimbold

Mercer Reynolds

Robert Royall

William S. Farish


By December 2003, President Bush had raised over $100 million, a few times more than his closest rival had, and all from just over 300 individuals bundling contributions together for him. These individuals include people such as Thomas Nassif of the Western Growers Association, lobbyists Charles and Judy Black, William McGuire who is CEO of United Health Care Group, and Warren Staley who is CEO of the agribusiness giant Cargill Inc.. Bush was able to raise such record-braking amounts from a small group of people because it was shown that he was willing to get their needs taken care of. Because the elections have become almost entirely won based on money expenditure (statistically speaking), these people insured by their dollars that he was elected. The industries that benefited most from Bush’s re-election, due to changes in the law that he proposed, was the pharmaceutical industry (no limits on drug costs for the Medicare system so the companies can charge as they wish), agribusiness (genetically-modified foods, subsidies, etc), and energy industries (repeal or lessen pollution restrictions). In this system, you have a government we have now seen how it becomes elected, and how the results are shaped. This is not an attempt to point to any one conspiracy or anything like that. This is not I repeat a conspiracy theory far from. And it certainly not condemnation of any one political party. But the facts as they are show us that there are people who are aware and those who are not. And those who are aware have goals, some with very large global goals, which they pursue. Some goals may be noble and some not. And nothing is impossible. What is amazing about the education system is that everybody knows that it trains people to know certain facts but leaves them wholly unprepared for the world as it functions today. It has always been one thing that differentiated the masses under control with the controllers and that was a lack of awareness and a withholding of knowledge.