Refuse Corporate Donations: It is What Must be Done

Something must be done to cleanse the American political system and instill some degree of integrity in the nation’s democratic institutions.

As fraudsters and hustlers from Bernard Madoff to Rod Blagojevich fall like dominoes, in the footsteps of Bernie Ebbers, Kenneth Lay and Dan Rostenkowski, one can say that confidence in the good old American way is beginning to wane. While apathy towards politics has been a mainstay of the American consciousness for decades, the overall sense of despair in the air is probably at record highs.

Those who believed in the American political system framed this a fall of hope, but unfortunately winter arrived early and relentlessly. In Chicago, multiple snow and ice storms coupled with vicious winds brought the mid-western metropolis its most unbearable December in recent memory. When winter officially began on Sunday, wind chills dipped as low as –30 F: that brand of cold that is determined to slice through all defenses you throw at it. Meanwhile, the Blago circus came to town: the over-charismatic executive, teetering through the worst approval rating in Illinois gubernatorial history, failed to heed warnings of when enough was enough.

Reports indicate that he thought $1.5 million was a just price for Obama’s senate seat: a relative bargain in these days of neo-liberal hegemony. One could hardly get elected to the U.S. House with that kind of cash. In fact, the seat that used to be Blago’s, currently occupied by incoming Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, could very well cost around $1.5 million for the Chicago machinist most intent on calling it theirs. Emanuel himself spent $1.88 million getting re-elected this last time around, despite the lack of any viable opposition in either round.

In the coming special election, still yet to be officially announced because Emanuel hasn’t resigned, the total number of announced candidates is 18 and climbing. Every interested state rep, senator and alderman in the Chicago area has begun flexing their muscle, organizing their political apparatus, and using corporate press clout to promote their candidacies. The talk around town is not where the candidates stand on the issues, or where they lie along the political spectrum, but rather who’s got the goods to win the race.

And last I checked it isn’t only in Chicago where political livelihood is entirely dependent on support from corporate crooks. Despite all of the euphoria of early November, Obama is a prime representation of the fact that one can never win the White House by challenging the reprehensible actions of the nation’s largest banks, investors and lenders. Instead you have to allow them to donate generously to your campaign and then to dictate your economic policies.

While Obama was giving his spiel about hope and change repeatedly for two years, he was concurrently amassing an unprecedented war chest, thrust along by at least $2 million from entities directly involved in the sub-prime swindle: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS and Lehman Brothers. Despite Obama framing his candidacy as the one closer to the interests of the people, his rake from all of the above was considerably greater than McCain’s.

Corporate America realized early that Obama was the likely victor and that they had to move to ensure that he was thoroughly corrupted, and wouldn’t use the economic malaise as an excuse to begin regulating the financial sector. In following Obama’s purse strings, it is clear that he will likely do nothing to protect Americans from crony Capitalism. Citibank, currently under investigation for its involvement in derivative fraud and managing to make $1.2 trillion disappear from its balance sheets, was one of Obama’s biggest donors: with nearly $400,000 being given from its employees to the Senator in the first half of 2008 alone.

At just the time when the country needs to forcibly remove these crooked corporations from the political arena, they are as deeply ingrained as ever. Just when the congress must absolutely restore monetary sanity by re-instituting the Glass-Steagall act and reversing decades of rampant deregulation and privatization, the president will be doing the bidding of the same investment banks that gave us the housing bubble. And just as the American public begins to digest the enormity of said bubble, “our president” will assuredly be another loyal servant of Wall Street.

The foundations will only tremble when Americans pledge to support no candidate who accepts donations of any kind from corporations. When we can be sure that our public servants are clean of the crud of monied interests, we can then begin to have a grand discourse about hope and change.

The place to begin is right in Blago’s backyard, where the governor’s godchildren are busily positioning themselves to be the chosen successor to the seat once held by the man himself. This post won’t be sold, surely enough, but it probably will be bought. Given the district’s history of electing illicit political criminals, there’s no reason to think that the hounds won’t be let loose on the candidates.

Will any of them pledge to refuse corporate donations this time around? Will they rise above the easy route of accepting large sums of money from those interests intent on preying on the poor, de-unionizing workers, and instituting a perpetual culture of indebtedness?

I hereby demand it of them. I demand that each of the candidates sign onto this pledge to refuse all corporate donations. I ask that they run on the issues, and win by talking to constituents about their concerns, desires and wishes. In so doing, I dream that the victor will be “our congressperson” and not another soul-less pawn of big business.

I have thrown my hat into the ring of candidates because I would like to see my dream of a clean political system become reality. I have grown frustrated over years of dwindling social movements and increased state coercion of civil society. The dictatorship of corporate America, which is currently in shambles, must be swept away and replaced by a respectful liberal democracy. The first step is getting the fraudsters and hustlers out of politics, and replacing them with public servants who pledge to represent the interest of the working majority.

Will any of the other candidates in this special election rise to the occasion and work with me towards creating a more just nation?

For the health of our democracy, it is what must be done.

Matt Reichel is a freelance writer and PhD student at Rutgers University. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Matt, or visit Matt's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on December 24th, 2008 at 9:17am #

    Instead you have to allow them to donate generously to your campaign and then to dictate your economic policies.

    I wonder Matt if President Obama or any of his people read DV because in just a few months if these new people do business as usually or try to spin change and still do BAU or we see cap and trade that is greenwash well all I can say is he was the one who wanted to be President this time and if you think Bush’s approval ratings were bad how about 2 million to start in front of his office with change on there mind.

  2. bozh said on December 24th, 2008 at 10:59am #

    matt touches on just one matter: people’s greed and dishonesty.
    but, how is one not to expect all kinds of deceptions in one party system?
    will this party work against own interests? as perceived by one party?
    doesn’t US defend its interests? and as it sees them?
    so, what’s new? hadn’t that been going on for millennia? and is going to stop tomorrow? or continue, but better hidden? of course! thnx

  3. Vote Green said on December 26th, 2008 at 10:10am #

    D’oh! Where you been all this time Matt?! Seems like you’re taking a page from the Green Party, which never accepted corporate or lobbyist donations. Ever.

    I like what you’re saying about the corruption in the Democratic party, and how far it has strayed from what people believe (or used to believe) the party stood for.

    All Green Party candidates refuse corporate donations. They don’t have to pledge anything, or change anything, because it’s the way it always was. Check it out. and look at the Ten Key Values.

    Green Party candidates do not have the conflict of interest that the usual suspects from the Democrats and Republicans face. That is, they don’t have to decide whether to do what’s best for their constituents, or what’s best for their own careers and their biggest donors. Green Party candidates have never been forced to choose because they don’t take corporate money and cannot be bought, like Obama and all the other Dems in the chain of command.

    So, are you really running as yet another Democrat? How long will that last in the Chicago-controlled Illinois Democratic machine? You will either have to play ball with Madigan-Jones-Daley, or you’ll be ousted and pay the price. You know that, right?

    So, why not take a look at the Green Party? It’s the best choice for regular, living, breathing people who actually want to be represented in government.

  4. margo said on January 8th, 2009 at 5:30am #

    matt! what you are saying is righteous! i was intrigued by the whole article! obama is “the establishment’s candidate” (coined by Matt Gonzales), and the public is totally duped by him, thinking that he is their trustworthy leader. alas. but, i have to agree with Vote Green’s comment… and i expressed this to you before… why are you running as dem and not green? are you doing it cause you think that you wouldnt be able to get in there as a green, and you potentially can as a dem? what about representing the party which stands for your ideals? what about encouraging this nation to adopt a multi-party system? i’d like to know what you think. but anyways, keep up the good work… i’m glad youre out there representin’!

  5. rex kendall said on January 17th, 2009 at 12:17pm #

    I gotta believe Obama’s 4 steps ahead on this 2 – The repigs aren’t going to let up, the least we aggressive progressives can do is at least let him get into his Office before we burn him down – I’m still in shock he’s there at all – rex