The Varieties of Corruption

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This Mark Schmitt post brings up a good point. Yesterday I posted on how the defense appropriations process was heavily swayed by the $40 million spent on lobbying each year. Not that I know personally; most of that comes from reading Wastrels of Defense, by Winslow Wheeler, the former national security staffer for Pete Domenici. He’s in the know, and if he’s saying there’s a ton of “legal corruption” going on, there probably is. (Plus, he makes a good case.)

Still, in theory it’s possible that some lobbying dollars are much less insidious. In the case Schmitt mentions, Byron Dorgan (D-ND) wrote a letter requesting funds for a school desired by a Louisiana Indian tribe, and two weeks later Jack Abramoff told the tribe, a client of his, to send Dorgan $5,000 in campaign contributions. That could be corruption—i.e., Dorgan was paid to write the letter—but it might just be that Dorgan was going to write the letter anyway, seeing as how he’s always done a lot of work for Native Americans, and Abramoff knew this, and so he had the tribe send some money to make it look like his lobbying efforts were worthwhile, even though Abramoff had done nothing. I guess it’s inevitable that the people who hire lobbyists will be the ones getting ripped off now and again. But that doesn’t mean all campaign contributions are innocent, either.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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