Posts Tagged ‘politics’

capitol investment

We’ve been presenting Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s argument about “politics as organized combat” in their 2010 book, Winner-Take-All Politics, in our Tale of Two Depressions course.

Lee Drutman explains that, while the Citizens United decision opened the door for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections (as a form of free speech), they’ve actually mostly declined the offer. Instead, they continue to spend their money the old-fashioned way: on corporate lobbying.

From 1998 onward, as far back as there is good data, corporations have consistently spent about 13 times more on lobbying than they have on campaign contributions. That’s not to say they don’t spend on campaigns. In the 2013-14 cycle, corporations, trade associations and business associations spent a combined $381 million through their political action committees. But that’s small potatoes compared with the giant $5.2 billion pot roast of reported corporate lobbying expenses over this period. And about half of lobbying doesn’t even get reported.

Lobbying offers a much better return than election spending because real power lies in influencing how policymakers think about the world, not in getting them elected. Lawmakers’ staffers, who are the key policymakers in most offices, are smart but young. They are often inexperienced and stretched far too thin, trying to understand many complicated subjects with limited time. Large corporations that hire many lobbyists can overwhelm offices by “helping” them make sense of the issues.

Staffers may know that the information is biased, but they just don’t have the time do additional homework. And besides, if there were another view out there, wouldn’t those advocates send in their lobbyists, too? On many issues, though, there is no other side — or at least no other side with anywhere near the same resources as big corporations. By my count, corporations and their associations spend $34 on lobbying for every $1 that labor unions and groups representing diffuse interests, such as citizens and consumers, spend combined. That ratio is up from 22 to 1 in 1998.


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The hustler

Posted: 25 February 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


The goal of a politician like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is first to get elected (which he did in 2011, with 55 percent of the vote), and then to get reelected (which he didn’t yesterday, even with a $15-million campaign war chest). He now faces a runoff in April against second-place finisher Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.


It’s no surprise that “Mayor 1%” lost his initial bid for reelection: he has faced scathing criticism, especially outside the city center and away from the north shore, for his decision to close 50 city schools, his showdown with the teachers’ union, and for generally neglecting the many neighborhoods where murders shot up to more than 500 in 2012. That’s exactly the argument made by Garcia, that Emanuel has paid more attention to the city’s upper class and downtown than to the poor and communities outside the commercial center.

As Nelson Algren explained back in 1951, Chicago has long been a city of hustlers, who have managed to rig the game.

Not that there’s been any lack of honest men and women sweating out Jane Addams’ hopes here—but they get only two outs to the inning while the hustlers are taking four. When Big Bill Thompson put in the fix for Capone he tied the town to the rackets for keeps.

So that when the reform mayor who followed him attempted to enforce the prohibition laws, he wakened such warfare on the streets that the Do-Gooders themselves put Thompson back at the wheel, realizing that henceforward nobody but an outlaw could maintain a semblance of law and order on the common highway. Big Bill greeted his fellow citizens correctly then with a cheery, “Fellow hoodlums!”

The best any mayor can do with the city since is just to keep it in repair.

Yet the Do-Gooders still go doggedly forward, making the hustlers struggle for their gold week in and week out, year after year, once or twice a decade tossing an unholy fright into the boys. And since it’s a ninth-inning town, the ball game never being over till the last man is out, it remains Jane Addams’ town as well as Big Bill’s. The ball game isn’t over yet.

But it’s a rigged ball game.

Feed the Birds

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