Hey, Boeing, wanna buy my vote?
The first Nevada campaign finance reports are in for Election 2006, and they’re hardly surprising.
We’re not naïve. When Pauly Politician gets a fat stack of cash from development and construction firms, that’s money he needs. In Nevada, the candidate with the most money almost always wins. It takes money to tell voters how to vote.
It’s silly to think financial gifts won’t have an impact on how Pauly will vote when, say, development issues come up for the city council, county commission or state legislature.
Will Pauly sink his teeth into the paw that wrote the check? Doubtful, even if he tells reporters: “That money doesn’t buy me—it merely gives the donor an audience.”
This slight problem with democracy isn’t new. Founding fathers never intended to offer “liberty and the pursuit of happiness"—though it was a clever marketing slogan. More like happy liberty for white male landowners, specifically the 800,000 or so (out of 4 million) who could vote in the first U.S. elections, 230 years ago.
By the time laboring men could vote, sophisticated controls were in the experimental phase. Politicians and their parties owned or influenced partisan newspapers and, for the less educated, there was the sensationalistic Penny Press—the news values of which would make today’s National Enquirer seem like The New York Times.
Control money. Control media. Control the nation.
That’s democracy. The whole liberal-conservative thing is merely a shell game invented to stupefy.
To even try to challenge the system, one needs independent wealth. (And a penis.) Ross Perot financed his own campaign in 1992, as did Steve Forbes in 1996. Neither won.
Teddy Roosevelt fought against corporate influence while accepting its money to win his campaign. During a national outcry for reform, sparked by muckraking journalists who’d exposed corporate influence and vote-buying, Roosevelt signed anti-trust laws that broke up some of the biggest corporations.
He also called for publicly financed elections, though, which had problem-solving potential.
Think of it. Every candidate gets the same stack of money to spend. Money gone? Campaign over. No “This ad paid for by Friends of Pauly” (a group, perhaps, set up by a public relations guy from Exxon) or by “Citizens for Free Tobacco Use” (read: R.J. Reynolds).
Like that’s going to happen.
The Yes Men had the right idea in 2000 with VoteAuction.com, a system to sell votes directly to the highest bidder—an electoral eBay. I’ll bet we could turn a tidy personal profit, nowadays, on votes for U.S. president (especially in a swing state) and referendums on gay marriage. Thanks to our suffragette friends who won for women the right to vote in 1920, we girls could auction our votes too!
VoteAuction was a hoax. But it makes as much sense as the present mess—with increased transparency. If, say, Granite Investment Group (a large donor to County Commissioner Bonnie Weber’s reelection campaign) wanted me to vote for its slate of pro-development candidates, it could bid on my vote. If a well-funded populist group (purely hypothetical) wanted responsible growth, it could compete in this lucrative marketplace of ideas.
I wonder who’d win.
With vote auctioning, we’d actually get something. Money wouldn’t be wasted lining the pockets of media conglomerates and ad firms that profit when the Swiftboat Seniors for Absolutely No Taxes face off with Mommies for Better-Than-Half-Assed Education.
Would you vote Republican if weapons manufacturers paid you enough? Would you vote Democrat if labor unions offered a dollar more?
Why not? We could cash our VoteAuction checks and, as with our Nevada DMV rebates, head for the blackjack tables at the Atlantis, a generous political donor that’s already one of County Commissioner Pete Sferazza’s biggest.