Congress – cheaper than you thought

29Jul13

I don’t need to write extensively here about the dangers of regulatory capture by corporate interests. Larry Lessig already wrote ‘One Way Forward‘, and he does a far better job than I ever could. My friend Robert Dunne recently made an astute observation in the wake of the PRISM scandal:

rsdunne_capture

Access to material from the security services seems to be a feature of being part of the ‘ruling party’, which I’d add to what’s already been articulated by Charles Stross in ‘A Bad Dream – Is the United Kingdom a one party state?’ and Jon Evans with ‘Technology and the Ruling Party‘. I’d guess that access to intelligence reports is something like a drug for those in power[1]. It’s a hard habit to kick, but last week the US Congress had a try at putting the Obama regime on cold turkey with the Amash defence bill amendment.

The vote was pretty close at 217:205, and crossed party lines, which has inspired some deeper digging. It turns out that pro-NSA Congressional voters got twice the defense industry campaign contributions:

So if we accept that the votes were bought then it was remarkably cheap – 217 x ($41,635-$18,765) = $4.963m. Considering what the NSA is throwing around each year that seems like a total bargain – less than $5m in political contributions gets the Beltway bandits a Mulligan any time that they need one.

I’d like to see a more detailed analysis of the Congresscritters involved. Defence contributions is likely just another part of the ‘ruling party’ syndrome. My guess would be that the 217 cross party lines and get greater defence contributions because they’re time seasoned politicos who’ve had plenty of time (and money) to be coaxed away from any ideals they might have once held dear.

Of course things were different on Jimmy Carter’s watch. The US had functioning democracy then and FISA was brought in to protect citizens (without it seems much thought for those to whom the 4th amendment doesn’t apply – of course that was before the US hosted most of the entire planet’s communication infrastructure). What a shame Carter didn’t shore things up with some solid legislation to limit the effects of corporate contributions in politics.

On the bright side the perception of corruption in the US (and UK) is low. That’s what you get when the mass media is bought and paid for by the same people who own the ruling party.

Notes

[1] For a good account of how the SIGINT agency tail started to wag the foreign policy dog I can highly recommend ‘GCHQ‘ by Richard Aldrich.



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