Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chicago-Style Politics is America’s New Normal

More Hogs at the Trough--

Why ‘Chicago-Style Politics’ is America’s New Normal - In These Times: ". . . . In 2009, Chicago Alderwoman Arenda Troutman was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for tax and mail fraud. During her “five-year crime spree,” as the prosecution put it, she demanded payoffs for everything from zoning changes to land-use requests to alley access. “The thing is,” she once explained in a secretly taped conversation, “most aldermen, most politicians, are hos.”. . .  Corruption is no less a problem at the state level. You’ve heard of Rod Blagojevich? . . . What connects virtually all of the corruption cases in Chicago and Illinois is money – “the mother’s milk of politics,” as Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh famously put it. Politicians and government officials have the power to grant favors and tilt the playing field this way or that. . . . The more money in play, the more corruption there will be. It isn’t that complicated. . . . So it’s curious that, while Illinois has been embarrassed into action and is actually trying to reduce the influence of money in its politics, we’ve embarked as a nation on an experiment in virtually uncontrolled political spending. And the people who stand to benefit know a good investment when they see one. An analysis of the American Jobs Creation Act, passed in 2004, found that corporations saved $220 in taxes for every dollar they spent on lobbying for the bill. That return on investment may be exceptionally high, but there’s a good reason that the lobbying expenses of politically active organizations by one estimate from nearly $1.5 billion to nearly $3.5 . . . The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling takes that process of corruption to a whole new level. Unaccountable super PACs, funded largely by corporations and the wealthy, will invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the election process over the next several months. You can bet that the returns on their investments will be substantial. That’s what “Chicago-style politics at its worst” actually looks like. Except that in Chicago and Illinois, corruption is still illegal. People are actually put on trial and convicted for it. Then they go to prison. In Washington, D.C., the corruption is called free speech, and it’s business as usual. And business these days is very, very good."

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