WANTED: Money-minded, corporate big shots to fill cushy foreign-service jobs in beautiful locations. Openings include Paris, London, Rome and Vienna. Perks include free residence, diplomatic immunity and ability to represent the United States. The best applicant will have aggressively raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican Party, be excessively rich themselves, have a long-standing personal relationship with the President of the United States and little or no foreign experience. Please submit resume (noting dollar amounts raised for GOP), bank statement and size of stock portfolio to: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C. This ad apparently appeared in every conservative magazine”s want ads in recent weeks, as applications for these positions are flooding the White House.
It”s time to appoint some ambassadors, so the White House, as has been the case for years, is opening its file of friendly donors and beginning to pay them back. So goes the system of “democracy” practiced in the United States today. Money buys access. Money buys influence. Money buys appointments.
The New York Times, in a story yesterday headlined “A Mad Scramble by Donors for Plum Ambassadorships,” reported that major fundraisers and donors to the campaign to elect George W. Bush are engaged in fierce lobbying efforts to receive jobs everywhere from Dublin to Paris to Vienna.
This group”s membership, composed largely of men who donated the maximum amount allowed to the Bush-Cheney 2001 Presidential Inaugural Committee and raised huge sums for the campaign effort, holds titles that certainly qualify them to represent America on foreign soil, one would think. But those titles listed in the Times were, in no particular order: agricultural business investment banker, horse breeder, major league baseball team owner and prominent Washington soft-money donor. With these men in positions overseas, we may see quality intramural polo and baseball teams and perhaps some increases in French farm production, but that”s about it.
To me, it seems two qualifiers should be placed in front of the name of each of these Ambassadors-to-be: long-time Bush friend and very, very rich. Its odd that this jockeying for position occurs just as the Senate is poised to take up again the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. This legislation, blocked for years by a small but powerful group of Republicans, seems more necessary than ever right now. This campaign cycle saw soft money donations the unrestricted dollars given to political parties reach unthinkable heights. All tolled, $500 million in soft money alone was raised for this cycle every cent of which would be banned under the proposed new law.
Some opponents say this bill would have little effect on the system. Other opponents cite their ability to read the Supreme Court”s mind and say the bill is unconstitutional. Still other opponents say the millions of dollars poured into the system by corporations, unions and wealthy individuals actually benefit the public. And not surprisingly, these people are the same people who benefit the most from giving the money: The donors on one hand and the politicians who reap the rewards on the other. This is not a partisan epidemic, as the parties raised similar amounts of soft money this year. This is a national problem, one that disenfranchises the masses by giving great power to the few. Candidates take money, use it to influence the people and then reward those who gave by making their vote (read: money) more important during their term in office. People who think campaign finance reform isn”t necessary need look no further than the patronage system of ambassadorships to see that money in the system hurts our democracy. If the measure is unconstitutional, let the Supreme Court at it and we”ll end the debate on this issue. If millionaires are upset that they may lose influence, tough luck.
Try living with the plebes for a few years and you”ll see why the system as it is today is unfair. The Senate is debating this measure as you read this column. This year”s presidential election proved that on Election Day every vote matters (whether it counts is still debatable). By passing campaign finance reform, we”ll have a system in which every vote counts after Election Day as well.
Mike Spahn”s column runs every other Monday. Give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.