Legislators who raise money rise to the top. Those who can't, fall farther and farther behind. Money is the yardstick for success in conservative government. Performance is irrelevant. Tom Delay’s notorious K Street Project was all about using government money to reward campaign contributors in a mutually rewarding quest for power—leaving the public behind.
Disdain for Government > Pay-To-Play
What could better demonstrate conservative contempt for government than their literal attempt to institutionalize the power of a single political party? As Nick Confessore wrote in the Washington Monthly in 2003:
When presidents pick someone to fill a job in the government, it's typically a very public affair. The White House circulates press releases and background materials. Congress holds a hearing, where some members will pepper the nominee with questions and others will shower him or her with praise. If the person in question is controversial or up for an important position, they'll rate a profile or two in the papers. But there's one confirmation hearing you won't hear much about. It's convened every Tuesday morning by Rick Santorum, the junior senator from Pennsylvania, in the privacy of a Capitol Hill conference room, for a handpicked group of two dozen or so Republican lobbyists. Occasionally, one or two other senators or a representative from the White House will attend. Democrats are not invited, and neither is the press.
The chief purpose of these gatherings is to discuss jobs—specifically, the top one or two positions at the biggest and most important industry trade associations and corporate offices centered around Washington's K Street. This canyon of nondescript office buildings a few blocks north of the White House is to influence peddling what Wall Street is to finance. In the past, those people were about as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, a practice that ensured K Street firms would have clout no matter which party was in power. But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street.
That's the world of pay-for-play politics that conservative control has ushered in—a political machine as notorious as anything Boss Tweed could have dreamed up in 19th- century New York. San Diego congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham literally drew up a "bribe menu" specifying the amount it would take to get him to put earmarks into bills. Cunningham ended up in jail. Other malefactors have simply lost their jobs. But pay-for-play politics won't be going away until conservatives give up their addiction to money and their contempt for government—and that's not going to happen any time soon.
Free Market Fundamentalism> Pay-To-Play
Incredible as it may seem, conservatives don't consider such corruption incidental to their governing project. They see it as crucial. With their contempt for the idea of a disinterested civil service, they look at corporate influence peddling as a normal part of the operations of the free market. There's even a highly developed sub-discipline of economics, called "public choice," which argues that civil servants, with their salary and their conscience and their bureaucracies as their only incentive to do a good job, can't possibly do a good job. Only someone with "skin in the game" is supposed to be motivated to work for the public—by working, of course, for their own self-interest. It's the only kind of interests conservatives can grasp.
Deliberately and with malice aforethought, conservatives have been dismantling the checks, balances and transparency that made our country great. From legal campaign contributions to illegal junkets, government now serves the wealthy few, not the American people as a whole.
How Conservatism Caused This Failure...
Why not condone buying your way into government when your official ideology is that you don't even respect government in the first place? read more »
Crazy as it seems, conservatives can justify pay-to-play politics for ideological reasons—because it helps discredit government, and that's the end they're after. read more »
Since conservatives miscast anything having to do with business as part of the free market, it's easy for them to excuse the actual harm to freedom brought by pay-to-play politics. read more »
When government's for sale, what corporation wouldn't demand, from the politicians they've bought and paid for, special favors out of the public purse? read more »
In order to pay to play, the big boys have to let you step up to the window in the first place. It's not just money that buys access in conservative government, it's who you know. read more»
When removing one tiny line in a massive federal statute can mean millions more profit for your company, is it any wonder business tries to buy access? read more