How Much Would It Cost To Buy Congress Back From Special Interests? (June 30, 2011)

Here’s a thought: let’s buy our Congress back from the special interests who now own it.We all know special interests own the U.S. Congress and the Federal machinery of governance (i.e. regulatory capture). How much would it cost the American citizenry to buy back their Congress? The goal in buying our Congress back from the banking cartel et al. would not be to compete with the special interests for congressional favors–it would be to elect a Congress which would eradicate their power and influence altogether.

A tall order, perhaps, but certainly not impossible, if we’re willing to spend the money to not just match special interest contributions to campaigns but steamroll them.

A seat in the U.S. Senate is a pricey little lever of power, so we better be ready to spend $50 million per seat. Seats in smaller states will be less, but seats in the big states will cost more, but this is a pretty good average.

That’s $5 billion to buy the Senate.

A seat in the House of Representatives is a lot cheaper to buy: $10 million is still considered a lot of money in this playground of power. But the special interests– you know the usual suspects, the banks, Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Tobacco, the military-industrial complex, Big Ag, public unions, the educrat complex, trial lawyers, foreign governments, and so on–will fight tooth and nail to maintain their control of the Federal machinery, so we better double that to $20 million per seat. Let’s see, $20 million times 435….

That’s $8.7 billion to buy the House of Representatives.

It seems we’re stuck with the corporate toadies on the Supreme Court, but the President could scotch the people’s plans to regain control of their government, so we better buy the office of the President, too.

It seems Obama’s purchase price was about $100 million, but the special interests will be desperate to have “their man or woman” with the veto power, so we better triple this to $300 million.

Add these up and it looks like we could buy back our government for the paltry sum of $14 billion. This is roughly .0037% of the Federal budget of $3.8 trillion, i.e. one-third of one percent. That is incredible leverage: $1 in campaign bribes controls $300 in annual spending–and a global empire.

Once we bought back our government, what would be the first items on the agenda? The first item would be to eradicate private bribes, a.k.a. private campaign contributions and lobbying.

If you allow $1 in campaign contributions, then you also allow $10 million. There is no way to finesse bribery, so it has to be cut and dried: no member of Congress can accept any gift or contribution of any nature, monetary or otherwise, and all campaigns will be publicly financed.

Is this system perfect? Of course not. There is no perfect system. But the point here is that a system which allows even a $1 private contribution to a campaign cannot be restricted; after the courts have their say, then all attempted limitations prove worthless.

So it’s really all or nothing: either we put our government up for auction to the highest bribe, or we ban all gifts and private campaign financing and go with public financing of all elections in the nation.

That is the only practical and sane solution. Any proposal that seeks to finesse bribery will fail, just like all previous attempts at campaign finance reform.

Any member of Congress who accepts a gift, trinket, meal, cash in an envelope, etc. will lose their seat upon conviction of accepting the gift. Once again, you can’t finesse bribery. It has to be all or nothing, and the only way to control bribery is to ban it outright.

As for lobbying, thanks to a Supreme Court dominated by corporate toadies, it will be difficult to ban lobbying outright. However, that doesn’t mean Congress shouldn’t try to force the toadies on the Supreme Court to make a distinction between a corporation with $100 billion in assets and billions to spend on bribes and a penniless citizen.

(Those two are not coincidental; in a nation run by and for corporations, the citizens all end up penniless unless they own or manage said corporations, or work for a Federal fiefdom which can stripmine the nation at will.)

Congress should pass a law banning paid-for lobbying. If a citizen wants to go to Congress and advocate a position, they are free to do so–but they can’t accept money to do so. If they receive any compensation from any agency, enterprise, foreign government, other citizen, you name it, from any source, then they will be sentenced to 10 years of fulltime community service in Washington D.C., picking up trash, etc.

If the Supreme Court toadies strike down that law, then here’s another approach:

Require all paid lobbyists to wear clown suits during their paid hours of work.

In addition, all lobbyists are required to wear three placards, each with text of at least two inches in height.

The first placard lists their total annual compensation as a lobbyist.

The second lists the special interest they work for.

The third lists the total amount of money that special interest spent the previous year on lobbying, regulatory capture, bribes to politicos and political parties, etc.

Every piece of paper issued by lobbyists must be stamped in large red letters, “This lobbying paid for by (special interest)”, and every video, Powerpoint presentation, etc. must also be stamped with the same message on every frame.

The second item on the agenda is a one-page tax form. The form looks like the current 1040 form except it stops at line 22: TOTAL INCOME. A progressive flat tax is then calculated from that line. Once again, you cannot finesse bribery or exemptions, exclusions, loopholes and exceptions. Once you allow exemptions, exclusions, loopholes and exceptions, then you’ve opened Pandora’s Box of gaming the system, and the financial Elites will soon plow holes in the tax code large enough to drive trucks through while John Q. Citizen will be paying full pop, just like now.

The entire charade of punishing and rewarding certain behaviors to pursue some policy has to end. Any deduction, such as interest on mortgages, ends up creating perverse incentives which can and will be gamed. It’s really that simple: you cannot finesse bribery or exemptions, exclusions and loopholes, because these are two sides of the same coin.

The tremendous inequality in income, wealth, power and opportunity which is distorting and destroying our nation all flow from the inequalities enabled by bribery and tax avoidance. The only way to fix the nation is to eliminate bribery (campaign contributions and lobbying) entirely, and eliminate tax avoidance entirely by eliminating all deductions, exemptions, loopholes, etc. State total income from all sources everywhere on the planet, calculate tax, done.

When you think about how tiny $14 billion is compared to the $3.8 trillion Federal budget and the $14.5 trillion U.S. economy, it makes you want to weep; how cheaply we have sold our government, and how much we suffer under the whip of those who bought it for a pittance.

Category: Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

14 Responses to “How Much Would It Cost To Buy Congress Back From Special Interests?”

  1. Hantra says:

    I can see it now on the 1040. A line that says:

    “Would you like to donate $100 to help buy your government back?” ____ YES ____ NO

  2. ByteMe says:

    Think again. You only need 60 votes to control the Senate and a simple majority to control the House provided you also control the President.

    However, the corporate toads have figured out that you really just need to purchase key individuals who can browbeat the backbenchers and newbies, so they get the levers of control for less.

  3. Apinak says:

    That is only $46 per person per year, a bargain compared to the current cost of legalized bribery. We spend $7500 per person per year for health care compared to the OECD average of about $3500. We spend $2000 per person per year on all military spending that includes lots of thousand dollar toilet seats. We spend billions in oil company and agribusiness subsidies. And we spend trillions letting the financial industry skim off 40% of corporate profits.

  4. ilsm says:

    Socialism is for blowing things up
    More than for the aged keeping up
    Tell us it is to keep Tojo or Imams away
    While the laborers are the ones to pay
    Have a boat the military trough is up

  5. not-affiliated-with-Wall Street says:

    Why can’t we vote them out without paying a nickel? The money is (mostly) spent to influence our votes.

    Because we are a country of idiots. That’s why.

    And now I feel even dumber for having read this post.

  6. dss says:

    We tried that the last time and we got a man who is still bought and paid for the financial, pharma and oil industries. Now we are going to “reform” Medicare and Social Security so that the wealthy will not have to sacrifice anything of their ill gotten gains.

  7. wally says:

    I’ve known people who worked for local Community Development Agency who would not even let somebody buy them a cup of coffee.
    I guess those people will never be in Congress.

  8. realgm says:

    I think Jim Rogers had proposed a more realistic and potentially workable solution.

    Keep the Congressmen/women and the House Representatives all at HOME!

    They shouldn’t spend time gathering in Washington most of the year. They should spend more time meeting the people in their states and overseeing the things that are happening to their home states.

    This would:
    1) Since all of them would stay at their home states, it would make it very difficult for lobbyists to meet them all and convinced them to make decisions in the lobbyists’ favors.
    2) The people in the home states can force the congressmen/women and representatives to vote with their best interests in mind by protesting right outside their offices when they vote.
    3) Save a lot of money to relocate the people and trips traveling between Washington and their home states.

    With current video conferencing, emailing, etc, a lot of things can be done online. Also, it would be more difficult for them to have behind the door meeting for some under the table deal as the gov’t can keep records of everything.

  9. KT9 says:

    How exactly would the money be used to buy them back? Would we have to increase their pay by said amounts or would sitting members get that money as campaign funds or perhaps it would it be a large bonus incentive at the end of their term rewarding them for moving on and letting new blood come in? In addition, these people get additional financial rewards from the corporations after leaving office in form of highly paid consulting contracts, board seats, etc. We would have to factor this in to the process of buying back our government as well. I’m all for buying back our government. Even though these fools would be way overpaid, at least they would be our fools. Buying them back would certainly be cheaper for each of us non-elites than the current situation.

  10. blackjaquekerouac says:

    bought and paid to do what exactly? i understand the cynicism but let us be honest as well: a trillion spent bailing out the banking system was catostrophic not just from an image point of you but from a far more important “functional” point of view as far as the blocking and tackling of government is concerned. i simply cannot believe the purpose of getting elected for any office is to “destroy government as we know it.” indeed i have no doubt newbie or veteran they both believe in the same thing: the more government i can get to my folks back home right now the better. obviuosly none of you have had to face “the folks” before or you would understand what i mean. of course you can always “rack up a body count” from the safety of your control room and see how the American people like it.

  11. Dennis954 says:

    Why spend $14 billion? There is a much simpler and less expensive solution. Call a constitutional convention and ammend the constitution:
    1) Term limits. Allow members of both houses only ONE term. Then they do not have to spend 80% of their time raising money for the next election.
    2) Campaign finance reform. The Supreme Court has already ruled that soft money is legal; a form of free speech. As such the constitution must be ammended limiting the amount of money individuals and corporations can contribute to election campaigns.
    3) Balanced budget ammendment. Since Congress refuses to balanced the budget, a balanced budget ammendment needs to be added to the constitution, with contingencies for borrowing money in times of war, or other national emergencies, which would be clearly spelled out, to prevent Congress from using a so called emergency to get around it. Should tax revenues fall short of expenditures, across the board cuts would go into effect to bring the budget back into balance.
    4) Declare Washington DC a lobby free zone, and shorten the time Congress is in session to 4 months of the year, unless there is an emergency. Members of Congress can spend the other 8 months of the year in their constituencies listening to the voters.
    5) Require all members of Congress to live by the laws they pass and expect the people to live by. Since they are limited to one term, pensions should be eliminated as well.

    The people have the power to call a constitutional convention. It can come from the grass roots; not just from the top down.

  12. victor says:

    @Dennis954: thanks, very succinct and right on. Item 4: I would reduce their DC time to less than 4 months, too generous, allows the Little Demons to get thru to them.

    Here’s another proposal: All Congress legislators should be paid minimum salary. Their staff should be all volunteers, 2 years of public service stints; in return they get VA like education/ benefits. One term only for the Prez.

  13. Domby says:

    Where do I sign up?

  14. mcbcon says:

    Trouble with the logic of this thesis is that if we start buying then market for congressmen will transform and become a sellers market.