Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Crooked Fast Track

"Why is it that corporations give millions of
dollars to elected officials? Do you think
it's simply public-spirited behavior?"
  ~Walter E. Williams
In the spring of '15, the Senate voted on Fast Track, aka the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  It's a controversial bill giving the president power to negotiate trade treaties and limiting Congressional ability to interfere. 

The first round began in May when TPA was blocked. Most Democrats voted against TPA from even being debated. However, 48 hours later, the TPA bill passed cloture. What happened that changed the minds of those opponents?

Corporate members of the U.S. Business Coalition for TPP handed out money for "yea" votes. A total of $1,148,971 dollars went to Senators for "yea" votes.
  • Out of the total $1,148,971 given, an average of $17,676.48 was donated to each of the 65 "yea" votes.
  • The average Republican member received $19,673.28 from corporate TPP supporters.
  • The average Democrat received $9,689.23 from those same donors.  The corporations were not supporting the senator, they were purchasing the legislation.
For individual Senators:
  • Bennet, Murray, and Wyden -- all running for re-election in 2016 -- received $105,900 among the three of them.
  • Senator Rob Portman of Ohio received $119,700 from 14 different corporations
  • Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia received $102,500 in corporate contributions.
  • Arizona senator and former presidential candidate John McCain received $51,700 in the first quarter of 2015.
In the run up to the Senate vote, there had been an impressively financed battle in the House of Representatives totalling $197,869,145 given to Representatives for a yes vote and $23,065,231 given in opposition.
  • John Boehner (R-OH) received $5.3 million for a "yea" vote and was the highest paid legislator.
  • Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) received $2.4 million for his "yea" vote.
  • Paul Ryan (R-WI) received $2.4 million for a "yea" vote and came in at the third highest paid legislator.
  • Pat Tiberi (R-OH) follows Paul Ryan, coming in the fourth spot having received $1.6 million for his "yea" vote.
  • The fifth highest paid legislator is somewhat of a "hero" in comparison to others. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) received $1.6 million for a yes vote and only $282,710 for a no vote. Despite the contributions from those in favor of TPA, he still voted no.
  • Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) received $541,746 for a "yea" vote and no money at all for a "nay" vote and he still voted "nay!"
  • Andy Harris (R-MD) received $254,803 for a "yea" vote and no money at all for a "nay" vote and he still voted "nay".
(Many think our government is for sale. At the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and associated monitoring sites, you can see how it works. See S.995HR1890 & HR1394)

Whether you are for or against this particular legislation, you'll notice the process.  We are past the point of needing campaign finance reform.  We've reached the point of corrupt influence that is indistinguishable from bribery.

Corporations exercise inordinate influence over government policy, and legislation generally favors the most generous; not perfectly, but it usually works that way.  Do your own research.  Although perhaps legal, this is corruption and an abuse of power.  

Here's the TED talk on how it works and what comes next.

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